The Blue Devils’ nine trailed Holy Innocents’ with 12 and Gordon Lee with 10, as the trio of Class A powers should have a lot to say with who comes away with the team title in the Arena at Gwinnett Center come next Saturday evening. Of course, Bremen is going for its fourth consecutive traditional state championship, while the Golden Bears and Trojans finished 1-2, respectively, at the state duals in January.
Bremen had the most sectional champions of the three teams with its five, while Holy Innocents’ had four and Gordon Lee tallied three.
Still, Blue Devil coach Tony Armas said it will be an uphill climb at state with only nine qualifiers, but he said they’ll give it a go and see what happens.
“I don’t know how many everybody else got in, but I know we’re in a world of trouble with just nine. You know, we’ve just got to go with the nine that we have and see what we can get done. I’d feel a lot better if we had 10 or 11 or 14 going. But we don’t,” Armas said.
Along with Bremen’s nine, Bowdon and Mt. Zion also combined to qualify three grapplers locally, with the Red Devils getting two and the Eagles sending one to state.
Bremen’s sectional champions were Zach Young at 120 pounds, Corey Morgan (132), Ryne Eriquezzo (138), Kannon Madden (145) and Joe Bexley (hvy.), while Tristan Williams (113) and Brock Cooper (126) recorded runner-up finishes, Darron Boxley (170) came in third and Jacob Sudduth (182) placed fourth. Luke Campbell (106) and Victor Crews (152) took fifth for Bremen and will serve as alternates.
Bowdon is sending Saeje Brown (220) to Gwinnett after his second-place showing on Saturday, while Avery McWhorter (113) came in third place. Mt. Zion heavyweight Will Sizemore came in second place for the Eagles to earn a repeat trip to state. MZ also had Javier Martinez (126) come in fifth to serve as an alternate, while Fernando Valles (138) placed sixth for the Eagles.
While Armas was pleased with the nine that did qualify, the Blue Devil coach said he really felt for Williams at 106, who he believes is one of the top wrestlers in his weight class in Class A.
“It was just a bad situation with losing in the semis at 106. We dropped down to the [consolation] semis and the best kid in the state is sitting down there. That made for a real difficult pill to swallow. He defaulted his first match, so that ended up coming back to haunt us. You know, I think Luke Campbell is probably the fourth or fifth best 106 in the state and he’s not going to Gwinnett. The kid that we pinned in 30 seconds last week ended up finishing second in the sectional and we didn’t even get to wrestle him [Saturday],” Armas said. “But it’s just the way it is, you know?”
For Mt. Zion, Sizemore reached the finals at heavyweight, where he met up with Bexley once again following their 2-1, double-overtime match last Saturday at area. This time, Bexley won a tight, 4-2 match, but MZ coach Michael Cleek believes his heavyweight will have a good showing in Gwinnett.
“He had another tough match against a good wrestler from Bremen in Bexley. I’m real proud of Will. He works real hard. He’s an example to every kid at our school,” Cleek said.
Cleek was disheartened that Martinez, who has been a strong leader alongside Sizemore all season, just missed out on a trip to state. Martinez lost on a controversial scoring decision in the consolation round, where had he won he would have been wrestling for third or fourth place. Cleek argued his grappler’s case, but to no prevail.
“It was a judgment call, and it didn’t go our way. But I’m real proud of him, too. He’s the alternate. We’ll keep him in the room and see if something happens and he may get plugged in. But Javier’s had a great year,” Cleek said.
And while Sizemore and Martinez have led the way for MZ this season, Cleek noted that his entire squad — including all 10 he brought to Bremen on Saturday — have helped move the program in a positive direction this year.
“They’ve worked so hard. They came up here and we had some guys that were pretty banged up and didn’t have to go and they went because they had a little pride in themselves and that’s what we’re trying to build is that pride. Our kids, they left it all on the mat,” Cleek said.
Bowdon coach Craig McWhorter was happy to just be competing in Bremen on Saturday, and now that the Red Devils still have two wrestlers moving on, he’s even more tickled about the progress of his program.
“I want to brag on all those kids this year. You know, the whole room has had a good attitude, good kids. I said I was excited about coming to Bremen, but I’m just really excited about what we’ve got going. I think this will be a big step for next year. The kids see that we can compete, we can do some good things. I’m just real excited and real proud of the boys,” Craig McWhorter said.
The Red Devil coach noted that both Brown and Avery McWhorter performed well against some of the state’s top competition Saturday.
“[Brown] came out and wrestled good early. He beat a good Holy Innocents’ kid in the second match and just gave us a great effort all day,” Craig McWhorter said.
“Avery came out and wrestled Holy Innocents’ early and won a close match. I was real, real proud of him. Then he lost to a Gordon Lee kid that was a tough kid. Then he beat a Pace [Academy] kid who we had on our radar and we’ve been watching. I was proud of that one. Then we had the Holy Innocents’ kid again that gave us a whole different look and he had a good takedown in overtime.”
And once again, the entire production ran smoothly at Bremen, with a handful of volunteers on board to get the event wrapped up by mid-afternoon without any hiccups.
“Yeah, I think we did a pretty good job. Did a real good job of getting everything organized and keeping things rocking and rolling. It turned out to be about seven hours to get it done, so that was good,” Armas said.