The Georgia High School Association held its team duals wrestling state championships at the Macon Centreplex in Macon Jan. 16 through 18, with Woodward leading a group of four local teams competing.
Woodward won its second consecutive Class 4A championship. The War Eagles started the tournament with a 55-24 win over West Laurens and a 45-30 victory against Cartersville to reach the semifinals. Woodward proceeded to defeat Blessed Trinity 50-28 and faced Gilmer in the finals. The War Eagles secured the title with a 44-24 win.
“We are are so proud of the team effort our wrestlers showed,” Woodward coach Jeff Ragan said. “In the hardest draw of the tournament for any division at the state duals, we had to take on a top-five West Laurens in the first round followed by the eighth seed, Cartersville, in the second round. We also had to beat third seed Blessed Trinity before taking on Gilmer in the finals.”
Nick Masters, Michael Kilic, Vincent Mannella, Mccoy Paden, Matthew Singleton and Malachi Wiley each went undefeated in their individual matches for the War Eagles.
“What really won the duals for us is some of our younger guys stepping up huge in big matches and getting big falls and wins when we needed it most,” Ragan said. “Guys such as juniors Robert Joseph and Michael Rinker, sophomores Colby McBride, Connor Phillips, Ben Valdes and Jaylin Tate as well as freshman Keith Turner. With five seniors graduating, we’re going to be looking to these younger guys to carry the load next season. So it was great to see many of them step up big during certain matches when we really needed them.”
Holy Innocents’ placed third in the Class A division. The Golden Bears received a first-round bye and defeated Mount Zion 49-27 to reach the semifinals. Holy Innocents’ dropped its next match to Commerce 43-19 and entered the consolation bracket. The Golden Bears rebounded with wins over Landmark Christian (54-22) and Mount Pisgah (34-33) to conclude the competition.
Jake Swink and Art Martinez won all four of their individual matches for Holy Innocents’. The Golden Bears also saw Michael Cox, Charlie King, Tyler White and Conor Swennumson each go 3-1 in their matches.
Lovett participated in the Class 3A event. The Lions won their first-round match against Brantley County 54-27 before dropping their next contest to Sonoraville 48-18 in the second round. Lovett bounced back and earned wins over Pierce County (51-27) and Stone Mountain (41-29) before falling to Jackson County 39-30 to conclude its competition.
Riverwood was in the Class 5A competition. The Raiders dropped their first-round match to Harris County 72-12 and concluded the event with a defeat against South Effingham 54-23 in the consolation bracket.
Other Fulton County programs of interest competed in the event, including Cambridge, which placed fourth in the Class 6A competition. The Bears defeated Lanier 57-24 in the first round followed by a 33-28 win against Alexander in the second round. Cambridge fell to Richmond Hill 43-21 in the semifinals and entered the consolation bracket. The Bears rebounded with a 41-24 win against Brunswick before dropping its match against Creekview 35-30 to conclude the tournament.
It’s the first time in program history Cambridge has placed at the state duals meet. Kyle Romano, Gavin Kane and Evan Kurtz each finished undefeated individually at the competition.
“The team has made big strides in the last year,” Bears coach Don St. James said. “We defeated both teams who defeated us last season during the state duals. We saw some real good competition and won a lot of matches that should give us a competitive edge leading into the traditional tournaments.”
Mount Pisgah Christian placed fourth in the Class A competition. The Patriots received a first-round bye and defeated Turner County 49-21 in the second round. Mount Pisgah dropped its semifinals contest against Trion 42-22 and entered the consolation bracket. The Patriots defeated Athens Christian 60-15 before falling to Holy Innocents’ 34-33 for a fourth-place team finish.
Blessed Trinity was third in the Class 4A competition. The Titans started the event with a 58-21 victory over Madison County in the first round. Blessed Trinity defeated Northwest Whitfield 44-30 before falling to eventual state champion Woodward 50-28 in the semifinals. The Titans rebounded with wins over West Laurens (48-13) and Northwest Whitfield (46-21) in the consolation bracket to finish third.
The teams will now resume their seasons with the traditional state championships taking place in Macon Feb. 13 through 15.
“We are just going to continue to train and get better and learn from our mistakes until our last matches of the season to help our kids reach their full potential and realize their goals,” Ragan said.