ELLIJAY, Ga. — The weather outside Gilmer County High School was frigid Saturday, but the action inside the gym was anything but that during the Area 7-AAAA traditional wrestling tournament. Host Gilmer County lived up to expectations with a dominating performance and set itself up well to add to its state title hardware.
The Bobcats had five individual champions, won the team title with 232.5 points and qualified 12 of their 14 wrestlers for next week's sectional round.
"I thought we wrestled well," Gilmer coach Sam Snider said. "We had a couple of No. 4 seeds that made it to the finals, so that was nice. We lost our 160-pounder with a shoulder injury that he came in with, but overall we did about what I thought we would.
"I tell you, though, a team that impressed me was LaFayette. It seemed in the finals and consolation finals we kept running into them."
LaFayette had two champions, qualified eight for the next round and finished second with 160 points, while Southeast Whitfield had three champions and qualified six in finishing third with 147. Following fourth-place Cass were Heritage and Northwest Whitfield, each of which qualified five for the sectionals.
"We're real pleased," LaFayette coach Keith Mariakis said. "Our kids did what we talked about all year. It's why we've taken them to some tough tournaments, and today it paid off. We had a couple of kids who lost early and last year would have been finished, but today they fought back."
Gilmer's individual champions were Marcelino Lopez (106 pounds), Cameron Perry (126), Johnie Flakes (138), Jared Sweat (170) and J.P. Pritchett (285), while Caleb Mariakis (113) and Sam Lemons (132) claimed titles for LaFayette. Jesus Dominguez (120), Lester Paucay (152) and Carlos Fraire (220) were champions for Southeast.
Other area titlists were Northwest's Alex Reynolds at 145 and Dalton's Sydney Wheeler at 182 in addition to Cedartown's Jonas Ritter (160) and Jordan Watkins (195).
Though Gilmer is the only area team with any realistic state title hopes left, others, like up-and-coming Southeast Whitfield, left Ellijay pleased with the proceedings.
"I thought we had a great showing, especially after not having a champion last year," Southeast coach Michael Herndon said. "We were shooting for second place but came up just short, but it was a good tournament for us. Jesus Dominguez is a great example. He came in as a four seed but beat the top seed in the semis and the No. 2 seed in the finals."
n Gordon Lee qualified all 14 of its wrestlers at the Area 3-A tournament at Mount Zion in Carroll. The Trojans had eight individual champions and four runners-up in accumulating 266.5 points, nearly 100 more points than runner-up Mount Zion. Gordon Lee champs were Phil Lance (106), Johnny Ragsdale (113), Blake Clayton (120), Dylan Skipper (132), Will Jacks (145), Shane Farmer (182), Corey Jewell (195) and Dallas Goodlet (220).
Trion, which finished fourth with 126 points and had an individual champion in Chandler Latham at 160 pounds, qualified nine for the sectional round.
n At the Area 2-AAA tournament at Centrall-Carrollton, Sonoraville claimed four individual titles in winning the team championship over Rockmart and Ringgold. The Firebirds, who will take 11 wrestlers to the sectional round, had champions in Kyle Chastain (113), Matt Charles (132), Cody Kuhn (152) and Abel Diaz (182).
Ringgold qualified seven and had an individual champion in Sam Shepard at 120 pounds, while Lakeview-Fort Oglethorpe's Nate Long was the champion at 195.
n At the Area 3-AA tournament at Murray County, Lovett won the team title with 271 points, with Calhoun and Chattooga finishing second and third with 203 and 141.
Calhoun had individual champions in Donnell Anthony (160) and Cameron East (285) and will take nine wrestlers to the sectionals, while Chattooga will take six to the sectionals and had champions in Brandon Brown (120), J.J. Blankenship (126) and Hayden Burdick (132).
Lindsey Young is a sports writer at the Chattanooga Times Free Press who started work at the Chattanooga News-Free Press 24 years ago. He covers the Northwest Georgia prep beat and NASCAR. Lindsey’s hometown is Ringgold, Ga., and he graduated from Lakeview-Fort Oglethorpe High School. He received an associate’s degree from Dalton Junior College (now Dalton State) and a bachelor’s degree in communications from UTC. He has won several writing awards, including two Tennessee Sports ...