PERENNIAL state champion Jefferson began its wrestling season in routine fashion: winning convincingly.
The Dragons produced five individual champions, two runners-up and 11 placers to win the Panther Invitational hosted by Jackson County Comprehensive High School Friday and Saturday.
Jefferson finished with 236.5 points.
“I was really pleased with the kids,” coach Doug Thurmond said. “A lot of them did great for our first tournament, getting back going. The competition was very good.”
Chase Piperato (106-lb.), Josh Harris (120-lb.), Tyler Marranelli (126-lb.), Cain Finch (152-lb.) and Forrest Przybysz (182-lb.) all won their divisions as the 11-time defending traditional state champions picked up from where they left off last year.
Jake Sherman (160-lb.) and Clay Richardson (145-lb.) both finished second in their weight classes, while Kyle Kashuba (113-lb.), Isaac Kelly (132-lb.), Jack Dollar (138-lb.) and Aaron Anderson (220-lb.) all took third in their divisions.
“I was proud of all of our kids,” Thurmond said. “I really was. They did very well.”
Perhaps the most unlikely of Jefferson’s five winners was Marranelli, who wasn’t even seeded in the 126-lb. class. He went 4-0 in the tournament, beating the no. 6, no. 3, no. 2 and no. 1 seeds to take the title.
“He did very, very well,” Thurmond said.
The Dragons beat second-place Gilmer County, last year’s state champions in Class AAA, by 84.5 points.
“It gave us some good points to work on,” Thurmond said of the tournament. “We’ve got a lot of things we need to be working on to get where we want to be. But I was very pleased with how they did.”
Jefferson begins its dual season today with a quad match at Woodward Academy.
“That will be a good test for us,” Thurmond said. “Woodward has some very good wrestlers.”
The Dragons continue dual action this weekend at the Sawnee Duals at Forsyth Central, which will feature a lot of Class AAAA and AAAAA schools. Thurmond pointed specifically to North Gwinnett, North Forsyth, Cass and Milton.
“Those top four right there are going to be tough,” Thurmond said, adding that several other teams will be formidable as well.