SEEKING TO atone for a third-place finish at the area duals in January, Jackson County wrestlers made sure they were well-represented on the podium at the area individual meet.
The Panthers boasted nine top-four finishers – including two individual area champions, Ryan Shekey (130-lb.) and Justin Brewer (140-lb.) – in a second-place finish over the weekend. These nine Jackson County wrestlers will represent the Panthers at this weekend’s state sectionals in Dublin.
“It was a great weekend for us,” Powers said. “We wrestled probably the best that we’ve wrestled all year. That’s kind of what you’re looking for this time of year. We’ve just got to continue to focus over the next two weeks and look at this as a stepping stone to get us where we want to be two weeks from now in the Gwinnett Arena.”
Jackson County racked up 194 points, behind only host Jefferson (309.5), in the Friday-Saturday tournament.
The team’s finish at the traditional area tournament was bolstered by three others who placed as runners-up — Zach Moore (112-lb.), Daivon Ledord (171-lb.) and Austin McDonald (215-lb.). Others qualifying for state were Jamie Stapler (third, 103-lb.), Conner Andreason (fourth, 119-lb.), Bryan Burnette (fourth, 125-lb.) and Tre Velasquez (fourth, 285-lb.). Velasquez started the tournament as no. 8 seed.
Powers called the team’s second-place showing “huge.”
“When I first looked at the tournament, just as far as seeds were concerned, it was about a one-point thing between us and Banks County,” he said. “And we had some kids step up big. Tre Velasquez as the no. eight seed, pins the first seed and ends up finishing fourth. We had a fifth seed end up finishing fourth. We had a lot of kids step up.”
Jackson County ended up putting five wrestlers in the finals “in a really tough area,” Powers noted.
“I’m thrilled about this weekend,” the coach said. “I’m just hoping we can do this well the next two weekends.”
Those Panthers placing in the top eight in their weight classes at sectionals will move on to the state tournament/championships at the Gwinnett Arena Feb. 17-19.
The goal is to advance all nine of Jackson County’s wrestlers to that venue.
“Get nine through,” Powers said. “That’s always the goal. We have a couple of champions. We have a couple of second-places. All those are sitting really, really good to go all the way through. Obviously, the goal is to get nine through, but then to get as many in the finals as possible. If you can come out of sectionals one or two, you’re really sitting great going into the state tournament.”