MCDONOUGH - For the Newton County wrestling team, the task was clear: Perform well in the Area 2-AAAAA tournament and place as many wrestlers into the state tournament as possible. Mission accomplished.
The Rams earned a second-place team finish Saturday at Union Grove High School and qualified 11 wrestlers for the state tournament, which begins Thursday at the Arena at Gwinnett Center.
"Overall, we're pleased with what we saw," said Newton coach Chris Andrews. "Eleven guys aren't too shabby out of 14 weight classes. I think we're going to have a challenge at state, but the kids really showed that they really want it, and hopefully we'll do really well next week."
Union Grove placed first in the tournament with 265 points and corralled 11 individual wins.
Newton actually tied for second with Redan at 132 points, but they took the runner-up position based on the tiebreaker, which was total number of pins. Newton had 11 to Redan's 10.
The Newton team started the day well, positioning six wrestlers in the area finals. But unfortunately for Andrews' team, they had to tangle with Union Grove, which was considered the strongest team coming into the tournament.
Corey Ware (119-pound weight class), Aaron Reynolds (130), Daniel Mendoza (135), Joey Joseph (140), Hosea Hines (171) and Mike Fellows (285) all took home second-place medals for the Rams.
"I think everything turned out fairly well, how we thought it would be. There were no big surprises today," Andrews said.
The Rams performed particularly well in the third-place matches as Ryan Mitchell (112), Carl Collins (125) and Allen Amancio (215) all pinned their opponents to pick up third-place finishes.
Despite placing nearly his entire squad in the state tournament, Andrews knows his team has work to do if they are to bring home the hardware next week.
"We only have two days left of practice, so the kids are really going to have to step up," Andrews said. "They're going to have to go out there with a positive attitude and really just go out and want to win. What it comes down to is wanting to win at this point."