There were 55 wrestlers from Bartow County vying to qualify for sectionals on Saturday at various region tournaments across western Georgia. By the end of the day, 45 of them were in prime position to move one step closer to advancing to the state tournament.
A dozen grapplers apiece from Woodland and Adairsville qualified for sectionals, while 11 from Cass and 10 from Cartersville achieved the same goal. The Wildcats had the top team performance, winning the Region 7-AAAAA crown behind eight individual champions, but all four programs finished in the top three.
The Tigers and Canes, who each had a pair of first-place winners, finished runners-up in Region 6-AAA and Region 5-AAAA, respectively. Meanwhile, the Colonels returned from Hiram with three No. 1 seeds for sectionals and a third-place team finish.
Despite the overall result, which included easily outpacing second-place Kell by a 282-199.5 margin, Woodland head coach Adrian Tramutola was pretty disappointed by the overall team performance on Saturday.
“I’m not real happy with our performance at all,” Tramutola said. “I don’t really judge it by wins and losses. It doesn’t necessarily mean you got better because you won. We had several matches where we were up by eight or nine points, and we give up a takedown at the end to give up a major. That doesn’t matter in a region tournament when there’s nine teams and you’re up a hundred [points], but it matters in the overall. It will matter two weekends from now in the state tournament. It just comes back to get you I think.
“A couple of guys did not perform well. Did we win matches? Yes, but we didn’t wrestle to the bar that we had set coming in.”
Given that the Wildcats won the team duals state title just weeks ago ? the program’s first since 2011 ? it’s possible Tramutola’s wrestlers are suffering through a championship-winning hangover. An extremely motivated group throughout the duals process, Woodland’s toughest matchup moving forward in hopes of winning another state title might just be a bout against complacency.
“We’re a little bit past wake-up calls,” Tramutola said. “There’s two tournaments left, you know what I mean? We’ve lost two of [the weight classes], so we’re down to 12. It’s up to them what they want to do. For the most part, we don’t need a wake-up call. We’re way past that. We need guys to do what they’re supposed to do and show up every day, not when it’s a big match or convenient.
“We’re still intact with everybody that we need. We need them all, but we still have enough to do what we need to do in two weeks. But we still need to continue to get better.”
As was to be expected, even in a grueling region, there were several prominent meetings between wrestlers from Cass and Woodland. Five of those matchups came in the finals with the Colonels emerging victorious in three of them.
For Cass, Bryce Kresho earned a hard-fought 7-5 victory over Colton Bishop for the 113 title; Kendall Arnold shut out Caleb Jones for a 4-0 triumph at 152; and Noah Hoffmeier picked up a win at 182, albeit due to an unfortunate elbow injury suffered by Bryce Shedd.
“They did very good,” Cass assistant coach Jason Arnold said of the Colonels’ trio of champions. “Bryce came back an avenged a loss from region duals. Kendall had lost to the kid he wrestled, but he beat him last time. He’s 2-1 against him, and that’s a tough kid he beat. Of course, Noah beat Bryce Shedd, who was a key factor in their state championship. All those kids are tough, and I’m glad we could pull three of them out.”
Caleb Henson (126 pounds) and Tommy Duke (160) returned the favor, defeating Ben Mills and Alex Depasquale, respectively. Woodland might have finished 2-3 against Cass in the finals, but the Wildcats went 6-0 against all other challengers in the championship round.
Junior Rosati dominated his way to the 106 crown. Three-time state champion Kyle Gollhofer pinned his way through the 120 bracket. Defending champion Caden McCrary wasn’t at his best in the 132 finals, but he still cruised to a major decision.
Cole Cochran picked up a decision win over the No. 1 seed for the 138 title. Jaxon Smith routed Carrollton’s 145-pound wrestler, who seemed more interested in fighting Tramutola than Smith. Demarcus Williams capped his stellar day with a stop-and-start win over Rome’s 195-pound representative, who had a nose bleed the entire match.
Tramutola made sure to give credit to his kids who did meet or exceed expectations Saturday, singling out Rosati, Gollhofer and Smith. Although, he saved his highest praise for Williams.
“[T]o me, Demarcus Williams’ tournament was probably the best one,” Tramutola said. “He came in seeded third, and he won the whole thing. None of them were even close.
“He’s kind of separated himself a little bit and put his name out there. He’s going to be one to deal with in two weeks. That was the toughest weight class in the tournament ? by far. I think you had five returning state qualifiers. He did a great job.”
Outside of the aforementioned finalists, Woodland will be sending just Beau Jernigan, who finished fourth at 285, to sectionals at Union Grove. Cass will have Kailey Rees (fourth, 106), Hunter Rees (third, 120), Nick Mills (third, 132), Kameron Depasquale (fourth, 138), Cameran Hill (fourth, 170) and Reed Davis (fourth, 195) also vying for a spot at state, which includes the top eight individuals in each weight class from both sectionals in a given classification.
“Cameran Hill won a big match against Woodland to get him going to sectionals, most people would probably call that an upset,” Arnold said. “I thought Kameron Depasquale and Alex Depasquale both wrestled very well. Alex getting to the finals and almost pulled it out there in the finals. The Mills did what they were expected to do. They’re solid all the time; they’ll be in the second and third places all the time.
“Overall, I think most of the kids did what they were supposed to do or better.”
Even though she ended up wrestling slightly below her No. 3 seed, Kailey Rees showed her prowess. The freshman won two wrestle-offs with teammates to secure the 106 spot for the region tournament, and followed it up with a 2-2 showing to qualify for sectionals.
“Going into today she was 19-8 against boys, and some of them were at 113 and some were at 106,” Cass head coach D.L. Koontz said. “She’s put a lot of work in over the summer and her years of wrestling. She just had to come out and wrestle like she knows how to.”
Rees and the rest of the wrestlers from Cass and Woodland will have their hands full next week competing against the likes of Veterans, Ola, Locust Grove and host Union Grove. Cass’ coaches have already started approaching sectionals as if it were the state tournament.
“Unfortunately, our sectional is just like the state tournament,” Arnold said. “Everyone is there, except for Buford, so we’ll wrestle two state tournaments in a row. The good thing is our kids who placed high will match up with some regions’ lower-placers, but by the time the second round gets here next week, it’s going to be just like the medal rounds of the state tournament. You’re going to see some great quarterfinal matches.”
Because of that, Arnold believes the Colonels will be best served spending the week actively working to improve instead of resting on its laurels for health reasons.
“We saw what we needed to improve on, and we’re going to go back to work and try to get better,” Arnold said. “… We’re going to continue to grind and try to get better, because I think there’s a lot of improvement we can do in the next two weeks before the state tournament.”
Suffice it to say, Woodland will have a similar approach.
“We’ve wrestled in tournaments that are way tougher than that sectional tournament,” Tramutola said. “Does it give the other side an advantage? Sure, I guess. I don’t know. …
“There’s nobody who’s going to be crying about the sectionals from our point of view, because it’s what we have to wrestle. We’ll go out there, get a good week of training, get our weight down and hopefully, have a better weekend of wrestling than we did today.”
Canes match duals performance with runner-up finish
Cartersville followed up its second-place showing in the region duals tournament and first-ever trip to state with another runner-up finish at the traditional tourney at Central-Carroll, which finished 100 points ahead of Cartersville (235.5-135.5). While not as significant of a result for the program, it might have made more of a statement for the Canes.
“Overall, I was really, really pleased,” Cartersville head coach Brooks Gayton said. “After the duals performance, I felt like that was kind of where we expected to finish as a team in the runner-up position. But the traditional is scored differently than the duals. … It doesn’t always turn out the same way, the duals-style and traditional-style tournaments.
“We came out in the same position, so we didn’t fall off. Maybe it goes to show the rest of our region. Maybe some of them thought it was a fluke that we were able to beat Troup, beat LaGrange, go to state, place eighth and maybe we got a lucky draw. There was a lot of skepticism, as to whether we were actually a legitimate team or not. To be able to go in there again and everybody had their second shot, without us sneaking up on them, as they may think. We had the exact same result that was very satisfying for us.”
Of Cartersville’s two individual winners, one was not a shock whatsoever, as undisputed top seed Jabril Williams cruised at 160.
“He didn’t leave any doubt,” Gayton said of Williams. “He pinned all of his guys.”
The other was a pleasant surprise with Tyler Earick defeating a wrestler he had lost to in the duals tournament to earn first at 106.
“It was a great match,” Gayton said. “A last-second takedown to win in regulation. He had to cut him and let him up and get him down again in like 12 seconds, and he did it. It was very exciting to watch that match. He was so pumped. …
“To come back and avenge that loss and win the region title in the same match is going to give him a real good draw at sectionals and set him up to be a high seed at the state tournament.”
Giles Turner at 113, Shadre Hurst at 170, Rashun Hurst at 195 and Collin Buffaloe at 220 were all second-place finishers. The Canes’ other individual qualifiers for sectionals at West Laurens were Joshua Alvarez (third, 120), Kentral Freeman (third, 152), Eoin Neal (fourth, 126) and Desmond Winters (third, 182).
“I expect to get all 10 of our guys through to state, to be honest with you,” Gayton said, believing his team got the preferred sectional draw. “We may not be in the top three or four, but they take the top eight to state. Going down my list, I expect all of these guys to qualify to go to state in that sectional we’re in. We’re going to have to upset some region runners-up and region champs to do that, but I think we’re capable of doing that.
Adairsville finishes 2nd, sends 12 to sectionals
While the rest of the county headed south on Saturday, Adairsville went north, practically to the Tennessee state line, to Lakeview-Fort Oglethorpe for its region tournament. The Tigers finished with 216 points, comfortably between champion Sonoraville (271.5) and third-place Calhoun (143).
Adairsville will have a pair of No. 1 seeds in next week’s sectionals at Jefferson in Angel Banda (113) and Nic Jackson (170). Banda pinned both of his opponents en route to a first-place showing. Dalton Cornett and Austin Jackson will be No. 2 seeds after finishing as runners-up at 160 and 220, respectively.
Other Tigers to qualify for state were Jaxson Owens (fourth, 106), Austin Dudley (third, 120), James Standridge (third, 126), Joseph Pacheco (third, 132), Joey Sutton (fourth, 145), Tristen Gardner (fourth, 182), James Jolley (fourth, 195) and Luke Story (fourth, 285).