Area Wrestling Runner-Up
East Coweta earns return trip to state duals
by Doug Gorman
DOUGLASVILLE - East Coweta head wrestling coach Josh Herring didn't sound like a coach who just watched his team finish as Area 3-AAAAAA runner up at Saturday's duals tournament to host Douglas County.
His voice hinted of plenty of optimism, especially after the Indians earned a return trip to this week's GHSA State Duals in Macon.
'I don't have a whole lot of complaints,' he said following a 42-30 loss to the Tigers for the area crown. 'I was very proud of our guys. Everybody chipped in, whether it was not giving up bonus points or getting bonus (points).'
East Coweta finished 4-1, rolling past Langston Hughes, Tri-Cities and Westlake before defeating Newnan by more than 10 points in the second meeting between county rivals so far this season.
The Indians gave up points throughout the day at 182 and 195 pounds but still managed to reach the finals against Douglas County while led by sophomore captain Dusty Nelson, who went undefeated at 106 pounds. The team also got a boost from Matthew Durham making weight for the first time this season at 113 pounds to strengthen East Coweta's lighter classes which include fellow standouts in seniors Zach Gabriel and Blake Green (138).
Juniors Kevin Lashley and Dawson Ellis, at heavyweight, put together solid efforts to pace the team to another trip to the state duals. 'For a lot of these guys, this is their second trip,' Herring said. 'It's definitely a building block for next year.'
Newnan, meanwhile, didn't go down without a fight while winning matches against Langston Hughes (84-0) and Tri-Cities (78-3) while giving East Coweta a much tougher match than the first meeting between rivals.
The Cougars led both Douglas County (38-29) and East Coweta going into the final three matches before coming up short.
'Newnan gave us a run,' Herring said.
Christian Shellabarger (220) and Antonio Bandiera (126) both finished undefeated at 5-0 while Chris Grier was 4-1 at 132 pounds.
'We are building a foundation,' Cougars first-year coach Sean Hage said. 'We are continuing to work on our technique.'
Hage knows there is plenty of wrestling left before the end of the year as his team gears up for the traditional state tournament.
Despite finishing third at Saturday's event, Newnan has shown signs of buying into what Hage is trying to teach.
Last week, the squad won a six-team dual tournament at Troup County High School.
Hage know wants his team to build on the first half of the season.
'I would love each of my wrestlers to win a state title, but realistically I want them to come into their own,' he said.