Prep Wrestling: Shellabarger, Askey clinch state berths

KENNESAW — Not too far from the area's Civil War battlegrounds, wrestlers from East Coweta and Newnan went through a conflict of their own against some of the state’s toughest competition during the first day of the Class AAAAAA West Wrestling Sectionals at Kennesaw Mountain High School in Cobb.
But despite taking heavy casualties among 23 combined qualifiers from last weekend’s Area 3-AAAAAA tournament, the Indians and Cougars begin today with a chance to advance to the GHSA State Championships in Macon.
One of the largest already has survived the brunt of this weekend’s challenge.
Newnan 220-pound sophomore Christian Shellabarger remains the county’s lone unbeaten wrestler in AAAAAA action after clinching a trip to Macon with a pair of victories on Friday. The Cougar, who entered as a No. 2 seed, defeated Etowah’s Brad Morgan before adding a second win to reach today’s winner-bracket semifinals.
Only Shellabarger and 132-pound senior Nathan McGaha remain among Newnan’s 14 entries, which included senior standouts Andrew Sowerbrower and Max Davis, neither of which unable to survive and were eliminated on Friday.

Both Sowerbrower and East Coweta’s Zach Gabriel — who finished first and second at 120 pounds — couldn’t survive a ruthless bracket that included Collins Hill’s Ryan Milhoff. Along with Region 3, qualifiers included those from Cobb, Cherokee and Gwinnett counties — with arguably the best overall talent in the state.

McGaha needs a victory to open today’s wrestlebacks to stay in contention among the top-eight in his weight class.

Five of East Coweta’s nine sectional qualifiers are in the same situation to open today’s final day of competition. They include freshman lightweight Dusty Nelson (106), Matthew Durham (113), Blake Green (132), senior Drew Higgins (138) and Kevin Lashley. All need wins to avoid elimination.

Entering Friday at 35-0 this year and 187-0 for his career, Northgate senior Tyler Askey needed a combined 86 seconds to advance to today’s 170-pound semifinals at the Class AAAAA West Sectionals, hosted by Allatoona High in Cobb.

Askey pinned his first-round opponent in 1:12 of the first period and then needed 14 seconds to defeat Hardaway’s Justin Richardson while clinching a fourth consecutive trip to the GHSA Championships.

All four No. 1 seeds advanced including Askey, who will face South Paulding’s Jacob Sledge in the semifinals. Harris County’s Wes Varnum and Stephenson’s Darion Perry vie in the other semifinal.

Viking lightweight Michael Geres remains in contention for a state berth at 106 while battling in the wrestlebacks. Geres defeated Villa Rica’s Michael Hurley 19-3 on a technical fall before being pinned by Harris County’s Chris Drake.

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