Two Commerce wrestlers topped the high school field on Saturday, winning individual state titles at the GHSA Class A Traditional Tournament and fueling the Tigers to a fourth-place finish overall.
Senior Cody Legg and sophomore Chance McClure each jumped into their fathers’ arms after winning championship matches in convincing fashion at the Arena at Gwinnett Center.
McClure earned a major decision victory in the 220-weight class to complete his undefeated season (47-0) and win his second straight title.
Legg (42-6) pinned his opponent about a minute into the second period to capture the crown for his 113-weight class. His championship came after three straight years of placing fifth or better at the state final tournament, including a runner-up finish last year.
“It feels a lot better winning,” Legg said, smiling as friends and family surrounded him moments after his triumph.
His teammate, Trent Reddish, ended his tournament run in second place, after dropping his finals match to four-time state champion Spencer Jones of Darlington.
Additionally, Commerce’s Thomas Sweeney (35-13) and Brian Whitfield (26-16) each placed fourth in their respective weight classes, 170 and 195.
All the wrestlers’ scores boosted Commerce’s cumulative total to 87, moving the
Tigers to fourth behind title-winning Bremen (154), Gordon Lee (138.5) and Holy Innocents (122.50).
“I’m proud of them,” coach Kendall Love said, “seeing their faces after they win, them hugging their fathers … they worked hard all year, it’s nice to see that hard work pay off.”
The journey was not an easy one for the Commerce elite, however.
Legg’s tournament hopes were nearly stalled in his first match of the state meet on Friday. Holy Innocents’ sophomore Ross Waters (27-18) pushed Legg to overtime, which Legg won 5-3 by decision.
“It was close, stopped all of our hearts, I believe,” Love said. “But once he got the first one behind him, the nerves behind him, he turned it up and wrestled really well.”
A more comfortable win by decision (5-1) set up Legg’s final bout against Bowdon freshman Avery McWhorter (36-18).
The Commerce athlete followed through on his strategy “to get the first takedown and to score that first point.” He dominated the match, pinned his younger opponent in the second period, a finish that resulted in Legg’s broad smile and quick dash to dad Travis Legg.
“Cody owned it all season,” Legg’s teammate Reddish said. “He deserves it.”
While one of his coach’s favorites to advance to the finals, Reddish knew once he landed there he’d be up against history.
Reddish (42-8) readily defeated his first two opponents from Gordon Lee and Towns County with a major decision and pin. Then came Spencer Jones. The Darlington senior became only the 24th wrestler in state history to win a title four years in a row when he pinned Reddish in the second period.
“He is a freshman. Just to make it is an accomplishment,” Love said, before acknowledging Jones and his remarkable feat. “Trent had his hands full. I’m proud of the way he competed.”
The Commerce athlete bowed his head toward the mat after his loss. He then knelt and signaled thanks to God for a great season, Reddish explained later.
“I’m thankful to God for all of it,” he said. “My opponent, he’s a great wrestler. I have no shame in losing to him at all.”
One of the tournament’s marquis match-ups overall involved McClure and his finals competitor, St. Francis’ Mark Mongell (41-2). Mongell won the state title in the 215-weight class last year as McClure toppled the 189-pound division.
Facing each other as 220s on Saturday, they two battled evenly for a short time.
McClure started scoring points early as he mostly steered clear of his opponent’s strengths.
“It makes you real nervous (when you’re in a bad position). Because at any second something could happen,” McClure said, of Mongell’s maneuvers. “He’s known for his headlock. I just tried to stay tight with him, I took my shots, hoped for the best and that nothing bad happened.”
The match lasted the full six minutes as McClure won by major decision, 11-2.
Exhausted and drenched in sweat, he ran first to his father Chip McClure and then ventured into the middle of the mat, where the referee raised the athlete’s arm to signal the victor.
“It doesn’t matter how you win it,” McClure said, adding that his title win Saturday rivaled his first championship last season. “Two is always better than one.”
McClure, who finished the season 47-0, has not lost a match since his first high school tournament at the beginning of the 2010-2011 season. He recalls opening that meet with four pins and then losing two in a row — to an eventual state champion and state runner-up.
“He told me after that tournament, those would be the last two matches he lost,” Love said. “So far, he’s holding up to the deal.”