High School Wrestling
EC’s Nelson leads first day at GHSA sectionals
by Chris Goltermann
Survival was the key word during the opening day of the Georgia High School Association State Wrestling Sectionals as just less than half of the county’s 27 area qualifiers had their 2013-14 seasons come to a close.
Yet 14 remain today with a chance to continue on to next week’s GHSA State Tournament.
East Coweta sophomore lightweight Dusty Nelson has already guaranteed himself a berth among the final 16 at 106 pounds in Class AAAAAA after finishing 2-0 on Friday to reach the winner’s bracket semifinals at the West Sectionals held at Mill Creek High School.
Among its 11 qualifiers, Nelson leads eight Indians that remain alive for the top-8 berths from the West in Class AAAAAA. The Sectional features qualifiers from top programs in both Cobb and Gwinnett.
They also include Indians Matthew Durham (113), Zack Gabriel (120), Leo Olivas (126), Blake Green (132), James Walker (152), Kevin Lashley (160) and Dawson Ellis (285), all of whom went 1-1 over their first two matches. East Coweta had 29 points on day one to rank 13th among 32 schools with wrestlers in contention.
Newnan, meanwhile, saw Antonio Bandiera (126) and Christian Shellabarger (220) stay alive among 11 Cougars that qualified out of Area 3-AAAAAA. Both finished 1-1 in respective weight classes.
At the Class AAAAA West Sectionals at Allatoona, four of Northgate’s five area qualifiers remain in contention to reach the state tournament. Area 4-AAAAA champion Michael Martin (220) went 1-1 as did Ryan McNeal (120), Michael Geres (113) and Ramsey Rutherford (285).
All but one of the county’s 14 remaining hopefuls will start today in the loser’s bracket.
Nelson put himself in the Class AAAAAA state tournament for East Coweta with back-to-back wins, pinning Edy Padilla of Meadowbrook in 3:57 before defeating Walton’s Chandler Deaver with a 3-0 decision. He’ll now face Habersham’s Andrew Burpee as the lone wrestler from Area 3-AAAAAA in the winner’s bracket semifinals.
Two other Indians won their opening matches before being sent to the loser’s bracket. At 120 pounds, Gabriel defeated Patrick Hester of South Cobb 9-5 before dropping a tech fall to Roswell’s John Bazemore.
In the heavyweight class, Dawson Ellis started for East Coweta with a quick 36 second pin of Peachtree Ridge’s Matt Bell before dropping a tough 5-2 decision to McEachern standout Uche Nkadi.
Five other Indians won matches while facing elimination on Friday. At 113 pounds, Durham needed just 30 seconds for a pin of South Cobb’s Zaetwan Martin while advancing to face Etowah’s Josh Thomas.
Olivas held off Campbell’s Watson Delinor in a 4-3 decision at 126 pounds after losing 9-5 to Wheeler’s Randolph Rich. He now faces Cobb wrestler Tate Wells of Harrison.
Similarly, Green battled back at 132 pound for East Coweta following a loss by pin. He needed 46 seconds to pin Reed Lewis of Roswell and will open today against Garrick Faide of Harrison.
Walker and Lashley equally bounced back after dropping pins to open respective efforts. At 152, Walker pinned McEachern’s Ashton Waites in 2:46 while Lashley knocked out Mill Creek’s Matthew Felbaum with tight 4-3 decision.
For Newnan, Bandiera and Shellabarger each won their first matches before being sent to the loser’s bracket. At 126 pounds, Bandiera quickly moved past Lee Hands of Cherokee with a 30 second pin before falling 14-9 to Alex Noble of McEachern.
Shellabarger pinned Isaiah Francois of Norcross in 4:17 before falling in 3:41 to Marietta’s Brandon Hill. He’ll now face Area 3-AAAAAA rival Michael Parris of Douglas County to open today’s final day of competition.
At the Class AAAAA West Sectional, McNeal faces the same scenario for Northgate at 120 pounds. Following a 9-4 loss and an 8-0 win over Stephenson’s Xavier James, the Viking faces fellow 4-AAAAA finalist Gabe Hecht of Ola in the loser’s bracket today.
Martin, an area champion at 220 pounds, advanced with a 10-5 win over MLK’s Brian Wilson before falling in the second round.
At 113 pounds, Geres bounced back from a first-round loss by pin to pick up one of his own against Allatoona’s Letrell Harris in 4:02.
Rutherford followed the same path among heavyweights, with the Viking picking up a pin in 26 seconds over Joel Maldanado in the loser’s bracket to advance.