JEFFERSON HIGH School continued its domination on the wrestling mat last weekend as the Dragons advanced 13 wrestlers to the AA East Sectionals and took home the Area 4-AA overall championship.
Jefferson scored 286 points at the area tournament hosted at Greater Atlanta Christian School, to propel the Dragons to victory over Social Circle (240) and GAC (216).
Price Joiner (113 pounds), Tradd Porter (182) and Deshaun Lester (195) won area finals in their respective weight classes by pin. Chase Piperato (126), Tyler Marinelli (138), Jack Dollar (145), Bam Little (160) and Michael Paolozzi (220) also won area titles. Ben Kelly (120), Tanner Thurmond (132) and Zach Rhymer (170) finished as are runner-up champions, while Zack Boobas (152) and Jackson Bowen (285) both finished third.
“I was happy with what we did,” said Jefferson head coach Doug Thurmond. “When you have eight champions, three seconds and two thirds, that gives them a good chance this week. We just have to get them qualified for state.”
Jefferson qualified a wrestler for sectionals in every weight class except the 106-pound class. Mitchell McGhee, who was undefeated on the year (42-0), previously filled that spot for the Dragons. But according to Thurmond, McGhee was unable to compete at area due to a bulging disc injury.
“It hurts us,” added Thurmond. “He’s already beaten most of the top guys in his weight class. We really hate it for him that he isn’t going to be able to compete and we will miss him as well. He’s a big part of our wrestling team.”
The Dragons may be a man down heading into sectionals, but at this point in the season, they are accustomed to it. After all, Jefferson has been dealing with injuries all season long. But for the most part, the Dragon squad is relatively healthy.
“Some of them are banged up,” said Thurmond. “We haven’t had a full, healthy group any this year. I don’t care if it was a dual meet or tournament – we haven’t had our starting lineup all year. We were hoping that we were going to have that up until about a week ago when Mitchell got hurt.”
Thurmond believes his Dragons have a good shot at a state championship if they can get all 13 wrestlers through sectionals, but he doesn’t expect that to be an easy task.
Three of the top four teams at the state duals (Jefferson, Social Circle and Toombs County) this season will be competing at the East Sectionals. Only Bremen will compete in the West Sectionals, which could provide the Blue Devils with a slight advantage.
“Toombs County throws another wrench in there with us,” said Thurmond. “Of course, everybody else does too. You’ve got teams like East Laurens, GAC, Jeff Davis and lots of other really good teams. A lot of our guys could knock each other out. When you’re only qualifying four guys per weight class, you really have to work hard to get all your kids qualified.”
When the Dragons arrive at Dublin this weekend for the Class AA East Sectional tournament, they will do so with a roster with experience and veteran leadership. But for some of the Jefferson wrestlers, it will be their first chance to qualify for the individual state finals.
“We’ve got four or five guys that have never been to sectionals – or area for that matter,” Thurmond said. “This is all new to them.”
While stepping up on the big stage may be a challenge, Thurmond feels that preparation and the experience his young wrestlers gained at the state duals will ultimately work in their favor.
“That does help,” he added. “And it will help even more next week if we can get them (to state).”