Fifteen local wrestlers still have hope for title

DULUTH - Forty local wrestlers went to the traditional state meet with aspirations of becoming state champion. That number dwindled to 15 after the first day of wrestling Thursday at The Arena at Gwinnett Center.

Eastside, which went to the tournament with 10 wrestlers, still has seven going for gold.

"To come out with seven in the quarterfinals, that's awesome," said Eastside coach Brandon Blakeman. "Last year when we finished runner-up, I don't think we had seven in the quarters."

Still in the championship bracket for Eastside are Jamarkus Griggs (112 pounds), defending state champion Joel Stafford (119), Trevor Bailey (135), David Bender (152), Jon Palmer (171), Ardest Carter (189) and Karl Williams (215).

"If we can come out of the quarters with four or five, that would be fantastic. But you just can never tell," Blakeman said. "There are a few matchups that look interesting - Jon Palmer has Jacob Williamson from Whitewater. That's one that we'll have to work on."

Rockdale entered the tournament with five and still have Jacob Morris (103), Luis Ponce (125) and John Collins (140) in the title hunt. Alcovy and Salem each have two, followed by Heritage's one.

Wrestling for Alcovy, which started with six like Heritage, are Adam Pollard (130) and Malachi Outlaw (160). Salem has both of its entries in two-time state champion Peter Yates (145) and Sam Ahonen (152). John Wigington (160) remains for the Patriots.

In the consolation bracket, Eastside's Cody Durden (103), Michael Green (125) and Brandon Cole (130) are hoping to take third at state.

"I think that all three of them are in a position to go deeper (in the bracket). They're all talented," Blakeman said.

Winning their first match of the day before dropping to the consolation bracket were Alcovy's Jon Seymore (103) and Travis Knight (135) and Heritage's Steven Crawley (119).

Eastside also is on track for the Class AAAA traditional championship, trailing Northwest Whitfield by less than two points.

"We're in second by a point and a half," Blakeman said. "Considering that we brought 10, and to have teams that brought more than that behind us, is a testament of how well we've been doing."

Newton started the Class AAAAA tournament with 11 wrestlers in its lineup. Unfortunately for the Rams, they were unable to keep anyone in the top bracket.

However, Newton still has at least four wrestlers in contention for third in the state. Still wrestling are Corey Ware (119), Joey Joseph (140), Josea Hines (171) and Michael Fellows (285).

Competition in classes AAAAA and AAAA was still going on at press time.

Manny Fils can be reached at manny.fils@newtoncitizen.com.