Bulldogs finish in 3rd place at state duals
Wrestlers come back from early 16-0 hole

MACON - Wins by Hylan Taylor and Luis Ponce in the final two matches of the Class AAAA state dual consolation finals gave Rockdale the late push to take third place over Effingham County on Saturday at the Macon Centreplex.

The Bulldogs won the match 41-30 over the Rebels.

"I knew we had a special group that if they got focused, worked hard and jelled as a team they could do something," Rockdale coach Craig Hargrove said.

Rockdale put itself in a hole, losing the first three matches to trail 16-0.

But a first period pin by Muhamad Bois (145 pounds) closed the gap to 16-5 after Rockdale lost a team point for a violation in an earlier match.

A forfeit win by Kafuba Donzon at 152 made it 16-11 before Effingham County extended its lead to 19-11 after winning at 160 in double overtime.

Lloyd Martell made it 19-17 with a second period pin over Casey Herrington at 171.

However, the Rebels were able to extend their lead from two points to 11 after getting a win by disqualification and having three team points deducted to make it 25-14 with six matches left.

"It is a championship third-place round, and a lot of emotions are involved," Hargrove said. "But we have to get more disciplined."

The Bulldogs overcame the 11-point deficit with pins by James Toole (215), Grady Jarrett (285) and Jake Morris (103) to take a 32-25 lead.

A technical pin by Effingham County's Josh Barnhill, who is ranked No. 7 in Class AAAA at 112, closed the gap to 32-30.

A 7-2 win by Taylor at 119 put the Bulldogs in a position where only a pin would have kept them from winning.

In the final match, Ponce, who is the top-ranked wrestler at 125 in Class AAAA with an overall record of 45-1, was able to add another pin to his accomplishments this year.

"When we were starting at 130, I figured we would save Ponce for last and leave him at 125 and move Jose (Robledo) up," Hargrove said. "If you want to put that type of pressure on anybody Luis Ponce is the one, he can handle it."

In the match to determine Rockdale's opponent, Effingham County beat Loganville by one point after the sixth tie breaker criteria.

"That Loganville match would've been another good one," Hargrove said. "I think we would've come out on top."

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