WHILE there were positives to take from this past weekend’s area duals, Jackson County wishes it could have re-written the ending.
The Panthers (22-5) lost their final match to Banks County to finish fourth-place.
Had Jackson County won, it would have wrestled Elbert County for second place and the chance to go to state.
“To fall in at fourth, that wasn’t our goal coming into this weekend … I was completely happy with the performance up until the last match as a team,” coach Jason Powers said.
Jackson County, the no. 4 seed entering the tournament, earned a first-round bye and opened the area duals with a 46-33 victory over Dawson County to advance to the semifinals against Jefferson.
“We wrestled Dawson very well,” Powers said. “We wrestled as individuals and the team pulled through. Whenever you wrestle tough as an individual that helps your whole team. That’s exactly what needed to happen.”
In the semifinals, the Panthers were bounced to the consolation bracket with a 62-3 loss to Jefferson.
“Jefferson has got an extremely tough program,” Powers said. “The scoreboard was bad but as individuals, we had a lot of close matches. We lost a lot of one-point, two-point, three-point matches. I’m proud of them about that. I’m proud that we fought as hard we did there.”
Jackson County rebounded with a 58-22 win over East Hall, setting up a consolation finals match with Banks County, which the Panthers lost 42-33. While there were some impressive individual victories, Powers said, Jackson County didn’t get all the wins it needed at key spots.
“I’m very disappointed in that match,” Powers said. “That’s a match that we definitely should have had. I don’t mind losing matches that were a hard-fought match and things just didn’t fall our way. But when you lose a match because a couple individuals didn’t pull their part as far as the team is concerned, that hurts.”
Jackson County also lost to Banks County last year at the area duals.
“Last year, they just beat us,” Power said. “They were a better team than us. I can’t say that they were a better team than us today (Saturday). We gave them a win today (Saturday). But, hey, they earned it. They did exactly what they needed to do.”
Jackson County — which wrestled both North Hall and Mill Creek Tuesday — will shift its focus to toward strengthening its traditional tournament lineup. The Panthers have two traditional tournaments this month to prep for the Feb. 3-4 area duals at Elbert County. The state sectionals are Feb. 10-11 in Dublin while the state tournament is Feb. 16-18 at Gwinnett Arena.
“Our goal is to get the individuals in the right weight classes, to get some seeding criteria,” Powers said. “But going into individual area, it’s definitely going to be our goal to be in the top two after seeing what’s here and seeing what we can do. I really feel that’s an achievable goal — to be in the top two after everything is said and done.”
Powers added that he hopes the team can place several wrestlers in the state sectionals and advance them onto state “because we have a tough team.”