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Chee wrestling sends five to state meet at Loganville

Stately Wildcats

POSTED: February 22, 2014 12:00 p.m.
Adam Wynn/Barrow County News

Apalachee’s Matthew Moore wrestles with Creekview’s Christian Saragusa during Friday’s quarterfinals for the traditional state wrestling tournament for Class AAAAA at Loganville.

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Apalachee’s Wildcats were one of the best represented teams at the GHSA Class AAAAA traditional wrestling state tournament Friday night with five wrestlers participating.

Of the 55 schools who competed in the Class AAAAA state tournament, hosted by Loganville High School, only 17 brought more athletes than the Wildcats’ five. At the end of Friday’s bouts, Apalachee was the highest scoring school with five competitors, placing 13 overall with 20 points.

"We didn’t look too bad," Apalachee varsity wrestling coach Graham Burns commented Friday night. "Even the guys who lost in the first round did really well."

In the first day of competition, the Wrestle Cats combined for a 4-3 record in seven bouts.

The first day of competition held no real surprises for Apalachee, as the two higher seeded wrestlers won while the three underdogs lost their first bouts of the tournament to state title contenders.

One such underdog, Dylan Staples, pushed Union Groves’ Tyson Patterson to the last minute of the third round before he took a fall.

"He pushed him. He got pinned, but he pushed him," Burns noted.

At several moments throughout the bout between Staples, the bottom seed in the 138 weight division, and Patterson, the top seed in the same division, Staples held his own and nearly took Patterson. Even so, Staples would end up falling to Patterson and was relegated to the wrestle-backs that took place Saturday morning.

Staples was set to face Southwest Dekalb’s Cameron Strickland in his first bout Saturday morning. The winner advanced to meet Jake Gourley of Ware County, who lost to state favorite Jake Adcock of Pope in the quarterfinals.

Justin Skinner, Apalachee’s representative in the 160 weight class, fell in the second round of his opening bout with Alex Walker of Whitewater High School. As with Staples, Skinner needed to win his first bout Saturday morning to keep going in the state tournament, which was set against Jaquan Barefield of Ware County.

"Skinner just got caught," Burns pointed out, referencing how Skinner spent most of the 2013-14 season on the sidelines with an injury. "He’s been out half the year, so he hasn’t been practicing."

The winner of Skinner and Barefield advanced to see Josh Williams of Clarke Central. Barefield lost to Northside’s Noah Forehand in the opening round of the tournament, and Williams lost to Kell’s Calvin Irby in the quarterfinals after defeating Justin Merriwether of Lithia Springs to start the tournament.

Apalachee’s first-year senior, Keyvontrael Jefferson, drew a difficult match with Brandon Ballard of Paulding County. Ballard took Jefferson in a fall towards the end of their first round, putting Jefferson down to the wrestle-backs against Loganville’s Hunter Whitley. Whitley, who lost to Starr’s Mill’s Alex Ashley, faced Jefferson in the second scheduled bout of Saturday morning.

"Keyvontrael had a tough kid," Burns acknowledged. "He was a two-seed from the other side."

The winner of their match advanced to face Dakota York of Ware County, who put out North Atlanta’s Joel Maldonado before losing to Cambridge’s Malik McNeil in the quarterfinals.

"They held their own against them," Burns said of his underdogs in the opening round of the tournament. "Hopefully they can come back through the other rounds."

The only Wildcats to see two rounds of competition on Friday, Matthew Moore and Kevin Bindschusz, both came up 2-0 winners on their way to Saturday’s semifinals.

"Hopefully they’ll come in ready and focused," Burns also said of his top two in Bindschusz and Moore.

Bindschusz, wrestling at 170, defeated Whitewater’s Barrett Martin in a 4-2 decision before defeating Clarke Central’s Owen Graham by virtue of a medical forfeit.

The stars did not favor Bindschusz’s semifinals match-up, though, as he drew Elijah Kerr-Brown of Rome, one of the favorites to win the state title at the 170 weight class.

"Bindschusz got a tough one," Burns confessed. "That’s going to be a tough one. There’s going to be two more tough ones for him if he gets through."

The winner of that semifinals match went on to face the winner of the Hunter Smith from Creekview and Jacob Sledge from South Paulding, the results of which were not available at press time.

Matthew Moore, Apalachee’s returning state champion and odds-on favorite to win again in the 220 division, won both of his Friday matches by fall. Moore defeated Northgate’s Michael Martin in 1:52 and then defeated quarterfinalist Christian Saragusa from Creekview at 1:36 of the second round.

Moore’s first bout of Saturday came against South Paulding’s Casey Cobb to determine who from the top half of the bracket would wrestle for the state title. The other half of the equation was decided by Cory Carter of Starr’s Mill and Arius Ofum of Rome High School.

"Matt, if he keeps doing what he’s doing, he’ll be fine," Burns said hopefully.

Moore was a state champion in his sophomore season, but lost out in the 2012-13 tournament in the finals. The University of North Carolina signee has high hopes of repeating his sophomore season’s result, though, and going out on top.

Win or lose, though, Burns had nothing but good things to say about his team after their showing at Friday’s bouts.

"Some of those kids, like Keyvontrael who’s a first year guy was wrestling someone who’s probably been wrestling for a very long time," Burns noted. "I’m just proud of their effort."

The state tournament was originally schedule for last weekend, where all six classifications were supposed to compete simultaneously at The Arena at Gwinnett Center, but the universally awful weather postponed the tournament and forced the change in venue so that all six classifications were to host their own individual state tournaments.

"Everybody’s a little bit antsy to get out here," Burns admitted. "With a two-week span in between, I think everyone’s a little bit rusty, but after that first match, it’s pretty much gone."

The Class AAAAA tournament finished up Saturday morning with the crowning of state champions in all 14 weight classes, the results of which were not available at press time but will be made available in Wednesday’s issue of the Barrow County News.



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