THE JACKSON County wrestling team can consider itself in good company following its first major event of the season.
The host Panthers placed fifth out of 20 teams at the Panther Invitational, led by a second-place finish from Tre Velasquez in the 195-lb. class. With four wrestlers placing, the Panthers tallied 102.5 points to finish behind champion Jefferson (236.5), Gilmer County (152), North Gwinnett (140) and Locust Grove (133.5).
“As a team, I am very pleased with our fifth place finish,” coach Jason Powers said. “The teams that finished ahead of us are very good teams that will finish very high in their perspective classifications as a team. I knew at the beginning of the season we would have a better individual team than a dual team and that is showing to be true.”
Other Panther wrestlers placing in addition to Velasquez were Daivon Ledford (third, 170-lb.), Zach Moore (third, 120-lb.) and Byran Burnette (fourth, 145-lb.).
“All four of these individuals had great tournaments,” Powers said. “I think if we were seeded a little differently in a couple of weight classes, there is a possibility that we could have moved up a little further on the podium.”
Powers noted that his team was a little shorthanded after a pair of injuries at a dual match last week.
“I am not sure if we will have a full team the rest of the year due to possibly two season ending injuries we suffered in our loss to Flowery Branch,” he said. “However, I have no doubt that our team will figure out how to overcome these injuries and succeed.”
This was the 18th Panther Invitational hosted by Jackson County. Powers said things ran smoothly.
“I think that 20 teams is about the right number for the size of facility that we have,” he said. “We were out at reasonable times on both Friday and Saturday. The quarter finals on had some great match-ups again this year and the finals were exciting in most weight classes. It is extremely hard to seed a tough tournament like this early in the year, but I think most weight classes came out OK with a few exceptions.”
LAST TUESDAY: Jackson County (7-3) won one of three matches Nov. 29 at a quad match at Greater Atlanta Christian, beating Meadow Creek but losing to GAC and Flowery Branch.
Powers noted some important individual wins. Against GAC, Daivon Ledford defeated the returning state runner-up in his weight class, while Bryan Burnette also picked up a big victory against the Spartans.
It was also a costly evening as well with Jackson County sustaining injuries in its close loss to Flowery Branch, some of which “could knock some of our wrestlers out of the line-up for the rest of the season,” Powers said.
“It is always difficult to lose a close match, but you definitely do not want to take major injuries this early in the season,” he said.
JACKSON COUNTY JUNIOR VARSITY: The Panther junior varsity finished fifth in the Winder Barrow Invitational Saturday with Anthony Allen (120-lb.) and Colton Springer (132-lb.) winning their divisions.
Second-place finishers were Chris Puckett (120-lb.) and Tyler Henderson (132-lb.). Zach Anderson (106-lb.) and Trey Evans (120-lb). both finished fourth.