State wrestling tourney quickly becomes battle for survival for county hopefuls

by Chris Goltermann

State wrestling tourney quickly becomes battle for survival for county hopefuls


The first of two days of the Georgia High School Association's Traditional State Wrestling Championships quickly emerged as a battle for survival.

Five standouts from East Coweta and a pair from Northgate went separate ways to respective Class AAAAAA and AAAAA events, but each found themselves staring down elimination..

Sophomore Dusty Nelson and seniors Matthew Durham and Zack Gabriel each went 1-1 during Friday's opening two rounds and remain alive for finishes as high as third place in respective Class AAAAAA weight classes for the Indians in action at Chattahoochee High School.

Nelson, who finished fifth at 106 pounds in the AAAAAA West Sectionals for East Coweta, advanced past Chase Tenety of North Forsyth (43-19) before running headlong into East Sectional champion, unbeaten Lambert star Matthew Sheetz (46-0) in a shutout loss.

The Indians lightweight, who improved his record to 43-6, next faces Woodstock's Alex Gomez (32-20) in the wrestlebacks, with a potential loss ending the season early.

In their final varsity competitions on the high school mat, Durham and Gabriel also managed to pick up victories for East Coweta to stay in contention.

At 113 pounds, Durham got past the East's sixth-place finisher Jordan Rosales (37-10) with an 11-7 decision before falling to West runner-up Aslan Kilic of Wheeler (38-1) on points 15-7.

The East Coweta senior, who was coming off a third-place finish in the West Sectionals and improved his record to 29-5, will next wrestle Woodstock's Tristan Watson (28-18) in the wrestlebacks.

Gabriel reached the state tournament despite placing ninth at the West Sectionals as an alternate, but made the most of an opportunity to compete due to an injury default.

The Indians' 120-pounder improved his record to 38-15 after defeating Jenani Miller of Marietta 8-4 in the wrestlebacks following a first-round loss in 3:59 to North Carolina signee Denver Stonecheek of West Forysth High.

East Coweta juniors Kevin Lashley (160) and Dawson Ellis (285) were also facing elimination in the wrestlebacks Friday, each after losing first matches.

Lashley, who battled back on day two of the West Sectionals for four consecutive wins and a third-place finish, dropped a 4-0 decision to South Forsyth's Bryan Troye (43-20). The Indians 160-pounder, who fell to 27-11, was set to face Rockdale County's Sean Mer.

Ellis, meanwhile, battled into the second period against East Sectional champion MJ Couzan of Archer, who entered the final weekend of the season at 37-1.

Following a loss by pin in 2:26, Ellis was set to wrestle Daniel Benitez of Woodstock (29-13) in the wrestlebacks.

Northgate's two Class AAAAA state qualifiers at Loganville High also were trying to fend off elimination in the wrestlebacks late Friday after being forced to open the state tournament against East Sectional champions.

At 120 pounds, Viking Ryan McNeal dropped an 11-3 decision to Cambridge standout J.R. Salemi, who was last year's 113-pound state champion. He was set to face Harris County's Heath Suich in the first round of wrestlebacks.

Northgate 220-pound standout Michael Martin was pinned by Apalachee's Matthew Moore in his first-round match. He was scheduled to battle Thomas County Central's Neil Williams (29-6).

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