JEFFERSON has long asserted its dominance in the state and in the southeast throughout its storied wrestling history.
Now it can add national success to its résumé.
Jefferson, taking a 1,000-mile trip north to Rochester, Minn., finished 4-2 at The Clash National Duals to place 10th at the prestigious, 32-team tournament.
“It was absolutely awesome,” coach Doug Thurmond said of the experience.
Jefferson (20-2) beat Hastings (Minn.), Atwater-Cosmos-Grove City (Minn.), Kasson-Mantorville (Minn.) and Colonial Forge (Va.) while losing to national power St. Edward (Ohio) and Forest Lake (Minn.).
“As far as a Georgia team, I don’t know if a Georgia team has finished any higher at The Clash than 10th,” Thurmond said. “I know they haven’t in the past six or seven years.”
Jefferson saw the best of the best during its stay.
St. Edward, a private school in Ohio that draws wrestlers from all over the nation, is ranked no. 2 nationally and has won 11 national high school championships. Two of Jefferson’s victories came over teams ranked in the top 30 nationally — Kasson-Mantorville and Colonial Forge.
Based off this performance, Jefferson may soon garner a national ranking.
“In the next three weeks, I would say we may,” Thurmond said.
Jefferson opened Friday with a 36-23 win over Hastings before losing to eventual champion St. Edward 58-0. That sent the Dragons to the losers’ bracket, where they beat Atwater-Cosmos-Grove City 36-32 to qualify for the third-tier bracket on Saturday.
In the round-robin format in the third-tier bracket, Jefferson beat Kasson-Mantorville 33-27 and Colonial Forge 32-30 and lost to Forest Lake on the eighth tiebreaker. The match was knotted at 27 when it ended. The eighth criteria was “first-points” which Jefferson lost 15-14. Had the Dragons won, they would have finished ninth.
“We were really, really happy to do as well as we did,” Thurmond said.
Thurmond even counted the 58-0 loss to St. Edward as one of the focal points of Jefferson’s tournament. The Dragons lost three overtime matches in that pairing.
“The score was not close at all, but the matches were close,” Thurmond said. “That’s what matters to me. When you’re going to something like that, that’s what you’re looking for. You’re looking at how well you competed.”
The coach noted that Forrest Przybysz lost 3-2 to the no. 2 ranked wrestler in 182-lb. class.
“There was some great wrestling going on,” Thurmond said. “I was extremely proud of how well we showed.”
Several Jefferson wrestlers had solid tournaments individually. None went unbeaten but four were 5-1: Forrest Przybysz, Tyler Marranelli, Isaac Kelly and Cain Finch.
As for the trip overall, Thurmond said about 10 parents were able to join the team. Some of the wresters flew for the first time.
“It was fun,” Thurmond said.
Jefferson managed to make an impression during their two-day stay in Minnesota as well. Thurmond said referees and parents of other teams praised the Dragons’ sportsmanship.
“It’s easy to have it (sportsmanship) when you win,” Thurmond said. “But when you’re losing and you’re in tight matches, can you still keep your head? As a coach, that’s something I’m really pleased with. I was really pleased with how our team acts.”
Now, Jefferson gets to see what it learned from its national experience as Dragons tend to matters stateside this week with the area duals. The state duals follow next week in Macon for the top two teams in each area.
“Wrestling in a tournament like that, it kind of shows you where your weaknesses are,” Thurmond said.