MACON, Ga. — On the surface, wrestling is a sport that is all about the one-on-one matchups, but in dual-meet matches there is quite a bit more involved.
Gordon Lee found that out the hard way Friday at the GHSA State Duals Championships as upstart Athens Christian used a solid team strategy to upset the two-time defending champions in the Class A semifinals, 37-33. Athens Christian coach Steve Mason said he knew the Trojans were too stout in a few weight classes, so he used a strategy that played up his team's strengths.
Mason bumped up three wrestlers to attack what he thought was the only vulnerable area of the Gordon Lee lineup, most notably electing to avoid 152-pound defending state champion Will Jacks. While Jacks was able to get the expected pin to pull the Trojans within three points with five bouts left, the Eagles won the next three matchups to clinch the huge upset.
"We felt like they weren't as strong in the upper weights from 160 to 182, and we knew they had Jacks and felt we would get beat there anyway, so we rolled the dice and bumped some of our guys up," Mason said. "That was the biggest thing. We knew going in that Jacks was the guy we were basing our whole game plan on; whatever he did, we were going around it."
The turning point of the match came at 138 pounds when Athens Christian's Zach Wolf avoided getting pinned after twice being on his back against Gordon Lee's Chase Wood. Then down 12-3, Wolf surprised Wood with a quick move and was rewarded with a pin that Trojans coach Brent Raby was a bit surprised to see.
"Down 12-3 they catch us after we had the kid on his back the entire match and couldn't get a pin," Raby said. "He gets us on our back and gets a pin right away. That one hurt, and it's not an excuse: If you don't get on your back, you don't get pinned. They outwrestled us and they outcoached us, and if there is any blame on that it's on me."
With his team then ahead 21-15, Zane Wolf pulled out a 6-4 decision over Dylan Skipper, which allowed the Eagles to survive Jacks' ensuing pin. Three bouts later Joseph Ruggiers ended Gordon Lee's three-peat hopes with a second-period pin.
"I was worried about this one," Raby said. "I feel we have the best traditional team in the state. The duals I wasn't so sure about. We tried to fill some holes, but it just didn't work out. I hope [the Trojans] build a little fire, because their prize right now is to get third in this tournament and then their prize is to win the traditional state tournament."
Gordon Lee, which will wrestle this morning against Strong Rock Christian in the consolation semifinals, built an early 15-6 lead on consecutive pins from 106-pounder Zach Murdock and Johnny Ragsdale and a 6-4 decision from Nick Wilson before the Eagles began their rally.
The Trojans earlier Friday defeated Treutlen County, 61-18, behind pins from Murdock, Ragsdale, Stihl Lance, Hunter Freeman, Sydny Rhinehart and Dallas Goodlet.
Contact Lindsey Young at firstname.lastname@example.org or at 423-757-6296.
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 ...