High School Wrestling
Durham, Lashley lead locals for state tournament
When push came to shove, East Coweta wrestlers made sure to finish the Class AAAAAA West Wrestling Sectionals Saturday on a high note.
Capping off four consecutive victories on the final day of competition, senior Matthew Durham and junior Kevin Lashley led four Indians who qualified for this week’s AAAAAA state tournament with a pair of third-place finishes in respective weight divisions.
Each finished the two-day event with 5-1 records.
After losing his opening match on Friday to a pin, Durham battled back with five straight victories while eventually avenging his only defeat in Saturdays’ third-place match against Robert Woolley.
Durham capped off four consecutive decisions by defeating Woolley 11-4 in the rematch. He opened Saturday with victories over Etowah’s Josh Thomas (8-3) and Meadowbrook’s Malik Sanders (14-3) before adding another 7-3 decision to reach the third-place match.
Lashley also bounced back from an opening loss in the tournament to Lassiter’s Marshall Liss to reel off five consecutive victories, the last four coming on Saturday.
He opened the final day with a 4-3 decision over Collins Hill standout Andres Parra, then pinned Wheeler opponent JeQuan Adams in 3:10. Lashley capped off the third-place finish at 160 pounds by defeating Marietta’s Anthony Neary in 1:59 and pulling out an 8-6 win over North Gwinnett’s Tyler O’Rear.
Also advancing to the Class AAAAAA tournament starting Thursday at the Gwinnett Arena from East Coweta were sophomore lightweight Dusty Nelson, who placed fifth at 106 pounds, and heavyweight Dawson Ellis, who placed eighth.
Nelson, who reached the winner’s bracket semifinals, had to bounce back from two consecutive losses to open Saturday before defeating Roswell’s Landon Ninesling 6-2 in the fifth-place match.
The top eight finishers from both East and West Sectionals advance to the final round of 16 this week in Gwinnett.
Getting there was no easy task.
Northgate saw two of its five qualifiers for the Class AAAAA West Sectionals at Allatoona High survive, with Ryan McNeal and Michael Martin both holding on for eighth-place finishes respectively at 120 and 220 pounds.
Martin lost two tough decisions, falling to Rome’s Arius Ofum 6-2 and then 3-1 in overtime to Area 4-AAAAA rival Cory Carter of Starr’s Mill in the seventh-place match.
McNeal also lost a two-point decision in the battle for seventh at 120 pounds, falling to Will Moon of South Paulding 5-3.
Michael Geres (113), Angel Fuentes (132) and Ramsey Rutherford (285) were unable to continue seasons for the Vikings.
Three county wrestlers finished in ninth-place as alternates with a chance to enter this week’s state tournament barring an injury. They included Newnan wrestlers Antonio Bandiera (126) and junior Christian Shellabarger (220), each of whom ran into tough competition on the final day of the Class AAAAAA West Sectionals. Shellabarger went 2-1, but a loss to Area 3-AAAAAA rival Michael Parris of Douglas County threw the Cougar off course for a chance to advance to the state tournament. He defeated Westlake’s Jarrod Jones with a pin in 1:54 and added a 17-6 victory over Norcross wrestler Isaiah Francis to end the tournament.
Bandiera followed the same pattern at 126 pounds, dropping a tough 6-5 loss to Hillgrove’s Jacob Willis to open Saturday, but bouncing back to beat opponents from Wheeler and Westlake to place ninth.
Also finishing ninth overall at 120 pounds was East Coweta’s Zack Gabriel, wrapping up the event with a pin in 3:44 over Wheeler’s Sergie Killic after dropping a slim 5-4 decisino to Jarrod Slade of Habersham.