High School Wrestling

Qualifiers have chance to make noise at sectionals

by Chris Goltermann

When it comes to making a case for wrestling talent in this county, Josh Herring may be at the top of the list of advocates in Coweta County.

“Over the last 10 years when it comes to producing wrestlers who’ve won championships, you know who’s second to Gwinnett,” asked East Coweta’s head varsity coach recently. “Coweta. The only thing we don’t have that they do now is a feeder program in the schools.”

Today, however, more than two dozen county wrestlers from East Coweta, Newnan and Northgate get a chance to put that reputation on the line for the start of the GHSA West State Wrestling Sectionals as a field of 16 in each weight class gets cut in half by the end of the weekend.

The top eight finishers in both the Class AAAAAA tournament at Mill Creek and the Class AAAAA event at Allatoona advance to next week’s GHSA State Tournament at the Arena at Gwinnett starting Thursday.

First, they’ll have to get past a double-elimination format today and Saturday to advance.

Both East Coweta and Newnan have 11 entries in the AAAAAA West Sectionals following respective second and third-place finishers at last Saturday’s 3-AAAAAA tournament.

Six Indians enter as No. 1 seeds after winning individual titles. Dusty Nelson (106), Matthew Durham (113), Zack Gabriel (120), Blake Green (132), Kevin Lashley (160) and Dawson Ellis (285) open with matches against fourth-seeded opponents.

Newnan junior Christian Shellabarger (220) holds a No. 1 seed after giving the Cougars an individual title in 3-AAAAAA.

Also qualifying from East Coweta were Leo Olivas (4th, 126), Garrett Klinger (2nd, 138), James Walker (2nd, 152), Dakota Beasley (4th, 170) and Nikk Pharr (4th, 182). Newnan representatives include Brady Smith (3rd, 106), Zack Stevenson (2nd, 113), Jacob Shea (2nd, 120), Antonio Bandiera (2nd, 126), Chris Grier (3rd, 132), David Cornelius (3rd, 138), Jason Moore (2nd, 145), Devyn Villafane (3rd, 160) and Nick Robinson (3rd, 170).

Northgate qualified five of its wrestlers out of a tough 11-team Area 4-AAAAA tournament led by Nick Martin, a No. 1 seed at 220 pounds following an individual area title last Saturday.

Ryan McNeal enters as a No. 2 seed at 120 pounds for the Vikings and Michael Geres is among four No. 3 seeds in the 113 weight class. Both Angel Fuentes (132) and Ramsey Rutherford (285) will open the sectionals against top-seeded opponents after finishing fourth in 4-AAAAA in respective divisions.

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