County wrestlers march on to sectionals
by Doug Gorman
East Coweta and Newnan wrestlers quickly made up for lost time by each qualifying 11 athletes for this week’s GHSA Class AAAAAA West Sectionals following Saturday’s Area 3-AAAAAA tournament at John Thrower Gym.
With just Monday’s practice to go on following four missed days of school due to the ice brought by Winter Storm Leon, the host Indians pulled through with a second-place team finish behind Douglas County with 190 points, but while eclipsing the Tigers among individual champions.
East Coweta led the way with six titles while dominating four of the five lowest weight classes with efforts from sophomore Dusty Nelson (106 pounds) and seniors Matthew Durham (113), Zack Gabriel (120) and Blake Green (132). The Indians’ foursome combined for a 6-0 record.
East Coweta’s two other individual champions came from juniors Kevin Lashley (160) and Dawson Ellis (285), each winning both of their matches.
Douglas County, which led team scores with 220 points, captured five of the remaining eight divisions while denying county wrestlers a title at 138, 145 and 152 pounds. East Coweta (190) was second and Newnan held on for third with 153 points led by an individual championship by junior Christian Shellabarger at 220 pounds.
Shellabarger earned revenge in his final match in a rematch of last year’s 220-pound championship against Douglas County’s Michael Paris after the Cougar junior placed second in 2013.
Putting the tournament together on the fly wasn’t an easy task for East Coweta, which hosted the six-team event after a week of bad weather and getting the go-ahead from Principal Evan Horton and Athletic Director Ken Kesselring.
“Evan Horton and Ken Kesserling stepped in and helped pull things together at the last minute, it was great to see everybody step up so we could pull this off,” said East Coweta wrestling head coach Josh Herring. “It’s kind of like rain on a football field, everybody has to deal with it,” he said. “I wish there could have been perfect conditions and we could have practiced all week, but it didn’t work that way.”
Herring could have been pleased to see his finalists go 4-2 against opponents from Douglas County in the finals.
Both Nelson (106) and Blake Green (132) repeated as area champions with wins over a pair of Tiger underclassmen. Nelson defeated freshman Juan Gonzalez in his only lightweight match while Green took care of sophomore Justin Collins.
Douglas County returned the favor at 138 pounds where junior Kalum Lo Vargas got the better of East Coweta freshman Garrett Klinger in a competitive weight class that also included Newnan’s David Cornelius, who went 2-1. At the 152 class, Tigers senior Josh Owens put together a win over Indian senior James Walker.
Both Lashley and Ellis added championships by defeating opponents from Douglas County. Lashley defeated Tiger senior Casey Vosselman while Ellis claimed the heavyweight title after fellow All-Region football lineman Quinzavious Sands was forced to retire with an injury.
Durham (113) and Gabriel (120), meanwhile, held off opponents from rival Newnan to capture their first area championships. Durham defeated Cougar Zack Stevenson while Gabriel outlasted Jacob Shea.
Along with second-place finishers Klinger and Walker, host East Coweta also had Dakota Beasley (170) and sophomore Nikk Pharr (182) qualify with fourth-place efforts.
“I feel like all my guys are gamers,” said Herring. “They came out and competed hard. That’s all I can ask for them to do. I proud of them.”
Along with Shellabarger, Newnan saw five of its wrestlers reach the finals. Along with Shea and Stevenson both Antonio Bandiera (126) and Jason Moore (145) also placed second, with Moore finishing 2-1 among three wrestlers with two wins in a highly competitive division led by Douglas County’s Solomon Greene.
Brady Smith (106), Chris Grier (132), David Cornelius (138), Devyn Villafane (160) and Nick Robinson (170) all finished third while Tre Goggins placed fourth at 195 pounds in coach Sean Hage’s first year as head coach with the Cougars.
“As a coach you are never totally happy,” Hage said. “There is always room for improvement, but I love my kids effort. Our goal even if we don’t win is to finish a match and not get pinned. I have told my kids that wrestling always demands everything. We want to try and be perfect, and I am going to ride them so we can try and get there. I want the best for them, but I expect the best from them.”
Shellabarger’s individual title show how much he has improved in a short time.
“He has come a long way, I would love to say that is on me,” Hage said. “He is just a great athlete. He’s got the athletic part figured out, we are still working on the wrestling part, but he is going to get there.”
Herring is ready to get back to a full week of practice in preparation for the Class AAAAAA West Sectionals, which begin Friday at Mill Creek.
“We are going to go hard and hope for good weather this week,” he said, “We need it, but we are ready to go.”
Douglas County 220 ½
East Coweta 190
(Top-4 Advance to State Sectionals)
1. Dusty Nelson East Coweta
2. Juan Gonzalez Douglas County
3. Brady Smith Newnan
1. Matthew Durham East Coweta
2. Zack Stevenson Newnan
3. Evan Doty Douglas County
1. Zack Gabriel East Coweta
2. Jacob Shea Newnan
3. Jeremy Rodgers Tri-Cities
4. Daquan Jones Hughes
1. Jamari Carter Westlake
2. Antonio Bandiera Newnan
3. Malik Andrey Douglas County
4. Leo Olivas East Coweta
1. Blake Green East Coweta
2. Justin Collins Douglas County
3. Chris Grier Newnan
4. Austin Armore Hughes
1. Kalum Lo Vargas Douglas County
2. Garrett Klinger East Coweta
3. David Cornelius Newnan
4. Shamar Mussenden Hughes
1. Solomon Greene Douglas County
2. Jason Moore Newnan
3. Stephen Jackson Westlake
4. Elliot Roby Tri-Cities
1. Josh Owens Douglas County
2. James Walker East Coweta
3. Joel Dalmida Westlake
4. Mikal Cherry Hughes
1. Kevin Lashley East Coweta
2. Casey Vosselman Douglas County
3. Devyn Villafane Newnan
4. Darrian Hinton Hughes
1. Tai-John Berry Westlake
2. Quincy Peagler Douglas County
3. Nick Robinson Newnan
4. Dakota Beasley East Coweta
1. Travis Beaird Douglas County
2. Tyler Garvin Hughes
3. Matt Sims Westlake
4. Nikk Pharr East Coweta
1. Desmond Wareham Douglas County
2. Michael Spencer Tri-Cities
3. Jamal Angrish Westlake
4. Joshua Smith Tri-Cities
1. Christian Shellabarger Newnan
2. Michael Parris Douglas County
3. Jarrod Jones Westlake
4. Joshua Smith Tri-Cities
1. Dawson Ellis East Coweta
2. Quinzavious Sands Douglas County
3. Isaiah Anderson Tri-Cities
4. Daniel Osifo Westlake