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Apalachee's Moore a champ

POSTED: February 26, 2014 12:00 p.m.
Adam Wynn/Barrow County News

Wrestle Cat Matthew Moore, who would eventually win the Class AAAAA state title for the 220 weight class, wrestles with Creekview’s Christian Saragusa during Friday night’s quarterfinals. Moore would win by fall.

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The Apalachee Wrestle Cats celebrated a state championship Saturday night, as Matthew Moore earned his second state title in Class AAAAA wrestling.

Moore pinned Arius Ofum of Rome in the first round of the championship bout to capture the 220 weight class title, finishing this weekend’s competition a perfect 4-0.

"It was real exciting, especially after last year with him having such a great year and what happened to him in the finals," Apalachee varsity wrestling coach Graham Burns said of Moore. "He just kind of flips a switch. It was good to see."

In the 2013 finals, Moore lost to Pope’s Joey Tabachino in a 5-4 decision. Tabachino took an early 5-0 lead by putting Moore on the mat, although he was in no danger of being pinned. Moore fought back to a 5-4 deficit, but he ran out of time to finish the comeback.

To make matters worse, Moore had actually defeated Tabachino at a number of national tournaments, but the stars were not in his favor at that particular match.

"He just had a bad day," Burns said of Moore’s 2013 finals.

"He wrestled about as perfectly as he possibly could this weekend."

Moore defeated South Paulding’s Casey Cobb in this year’s semifinals by a technical fall (17-2) in order to advance Saturday morning. He had defeated two other 220 class wrestlers the night before in order to reach the semifinals.

Moore’s teammate Kevin Bindschusz placed fourth in his weight class at 170, losing to South Paulding’s Jacob Sledge by a minor decision (5-2) in Saturday evening’s third place match. Bindschusz finished Friday 2-0, but he lost by a major decision to Elijah Kerr-Brown of Rome who would go on to win the state title.

Bindschusz wrestled back against Hardaway’s Xavier Woods in the consolation semifinals, winning by a fall in the second round to advance to the third place match.

"He came back and wrestled real well in the consolation semis to get into the three-four match, but then he just caught another tough kid," Burns admitted. "That bracket was pretty loaded. That 170 weight had a lot of good wrestlers in it.

"He could’ve competed with any of them, he just caught the one who won it," Burns added.

"Any of those four who placed top four could’ve won it. He was just on the wrong end of it, but he wrestled real well all weekend. There’s nothing to be ashamed of."

The two state-placed wrestlers were joined at the weekend state tournament by three teammates who also wrestled well at Loganville High School.

Dylan Staples, who entered the state tournament at one of the lowest seeds, pushed eventual sixth-place finisher Tyson Patterson to the final minute of the third round before falling in a pin. Staples then bounced back and defeated Southwest Dekalb’s Cameron Strickland in a Saturday morning elimination bout by a 14-11 decision.

"It kind of surprised me a little bit, but he did some things we’ve been aiming for him to do all year with that in-match way he approached it," Burns explained.

Staples would lose to Ware County’s Jake Gourley, who eventually finished fourth, in a quick first round pin. Even still, Staples finished 1-2 with his only losses coming against wrestlers who ended up placing.

"He just went out there and got after it, and he grew up a lot this past weekend," Burns went on to say. "He didn’t go out there timid at all. He just went out there and wrestled like he really could, and it was good to see."

Wrestle Cats Justin Skinner and Keyvontrael Jefferson both lost their Saturday morning elimination bouts to end their stint at the tournament 0-2. Skinner, the Apalachee representative in the 160 weight class, who battled an injury for most of the season and missed many weeks of practice, fell in the second round of his opening bout with Alex Walker of Whitewater. Skinner then lost to Ware County’s Jaquan Barefield Saturday morning.

Walker, Skinner’s first opponent of the day, ended the tournament in fourth place while Barefield lost in the next round to the fifth place finisher, Josh Williams of Clarke Central.

Jefferson, the first-year senior wrestler for Apalachee wrestling in the 285 division, took a pin against Paulding County’s Brandon Ballard in the opening bout before losing to home-town Hunter Whitley of Loganville in a frustratingly close 2-1 decision. Ballard finished the day in fourth place while Whitley would lose the next round to Dakota York of Ware County. York did not place.

Apalachee finished the tournament with 46.5 points and placed 13 in team scoring. The Wrestle Cats were the highest ranked team with just five wrestlers, as each of the schools above them had at least six and as many as 10 participants.

"You get a lot of points through the wrestle backs…and we quite possibly could have jumped to twelfth. We had a one-point loss in Keyvontrael’s match," Burns acknowledged. "He had a lead towards the end, but the other guy took him down at the end. There was nothing he could do. Just sort of an it happens kind of thing."

Out of the teams from Region 8-AAAAA competing at the state tournament, the only one to finish above Apalachee in the team standings was Flowery Branch at 11.

"In a big tournament like that, it’s good to see," Burns pointed out.

The Apalachee Wildcats averaged 9.3 points per wrestler, giving them the eleventh highest points per wrestler in the top 25. Of the 12 teams ranked higher than the Wrestle Cats, Apalachee’s 9.3 points per wrestler ranked in the top eight.

"Hopefully it gives the younger kids something to work towards, and they see how hard he worked," Burns mentioned, referencing Moore and his graduating teammates. "Maybe they’ll want to reach that goal, too."

As young as this year’s Apalachee team was, the Wildcats will lose four of their state qualifiers to graduation, with Staples being the sole returner as a sophomore in 2013-14.

"It’s real fun to coach, because you get to see a lot of them come along," Burns acknowledged. "It’s really just a different approach when you go into it in the next year. You’re trying to get them over the hump, and it’s fun to do."



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