Prep Wrestling: Sectionals await local state qualifiers
By CHRIS GOLTERMANN
There’s a reason East Coweta head wrestling coach Josh Herring’s face remains unshaven these days.
“The guys talked me into growing it out as long as we come back from a tournament with a placer,” he said after his team produced nine during last weekend’s second-place effort at its host Area 3-AAAAAA tournament.
East Coweta, Newnan and Northgate all send representatives to this weekend’s GHSA state sectional round at separate sites in Cobb County, which will determine the eight advancers from the West at next week’s championships in Macon.
“The sectionals is always where things really get tough,” said Newnan head coach Tom Everett. “It’s a bear.”
Along with the Indians’ qualifiers, which include four No. 1 seeds from area champions Dusty Nelson (106), Leo Olivas (126), Blake Green (132) and Drew Higgins (138), Newnan had all 14 of its tournament entries advance to sectionals.
Herring — who was also talked into wearing lucky “Sock Monkey” socks by his wrestlers —called a lineup with 11 underclassmen one of the hardest working groups he’s had since becoming head coach at East Coweta.
Meanwhile, the Class AAAAAA West Sectional is set to begin today at Kennesaw Mountain while Northgate has four qualifiers — led by unbeaten senior Tyler Askey — advancing to the AAAAA West tournament at Allatoona.
Askey continues his search of a fourth consecutive GHSA championship while looking to become just the third Georgia varsity wrestler to complete his career with a perfect record. He’ll be one of four No. 1 seeds in the 170-pound division, joining Wes Varnum of Harris County, Darion Perry of Stephenson and Jacob Sledge of South Paulding.
He entered his senior year with 11 victories over returning state champions — more than any Georgia varsity wrestler in history.
Along with Askey, Michael Geres (106), Ethan Bellora (126) and Tristan Parker (152) will try to advance to next week’s Class AAAAA State Tournament. Geres enters as a No. 2 seed in the lightweight division and faces Villa Rica’s Michael Hurley.
Bellora faces Area 5-AAAAA champion Logan Southard from host Allatoona in a tough opening match. Parker also opens with a immediate challenge while facing Lee County senior Chris Rapley in the first round.
East Coweta and Newnan combined for six No. 1 seeds entering today’s Class AAAAAA West Sectional. In addition to the Indians’ four area champions, the Cougars had seniors Andrew Sowerbrower (120) and Max Davis (145) finish unbeaten last weekend.
Indians freshman Dusty Nelson is one of four top seeds at 106 pounds and will open against Lasstier senior Winston Troughton. Newnan’s Trevor Roberts faces Area 5-AAAAAA champion Brennan Nisesling of Roswell, who enters with a 42-3 record with 23 pins.
In the 113 pound class, East Coweta sophomore Matthew Durham enters as a No. 2 seed and faces Daniel Garcia of Kennesaw Mountain to open today’s competition. Newnan’s Andy Callaway will face Area 4-AAAAAA champion Carlin Powell, a freshman.
With a first-round victory at 120 pounds, Sowerbrower will likely face Collins Hill standout Ryan Millhoff, last year’s 113-pound state champion. Both wrestlers competed at 113 pounds last year, with Sowerbrower placing sixth overall.
East Coweta’s Zach Gabriel, a No. 2 seed, opens against Peachtree Ridge sophomore Adam Lloyd. In addition to Sowerbrower and Milhoff, top seeds at 120 include Hillgrove’s Cameron Westerman and Etowah’s Joey Payton.
Olivas, a newcomer for the Indians varsity, is one of four top seeds at 126 pounds and would likely face undefeated Milton senior Phillip Anderson, who is 52-0 with 33 pins, in the third round should both advance. Anderson opens against Newnan qualifier Xavier McCrary.
Indian Blake Green is among the four No. 1 seeds in the 132 pound division, and could also wind up facing another No. 1, Collins Hill junior Griffin Riley (24-9), in the third round. Walton’s Jacob Murphy and Meadowcreak’s Rene Deluna are the other area champions entered.
Newnan senior Nathan McGaha faces North Gwinnett’s Donovan Haynes while entering as a No. 2 seed.
In his final season on the mat, East Coweta’s Drew Higgins is hoping to advance to Macon as one of four top seeds at 138 pounds. He joins Wheeler’s Aaron McGilvery, Rudy Guillen of Norcross and Augusto Paes of Kennesaw Mountain. Newnan’s Jason Moore, a No. 3 seed faces Roswell’s Charles Routt.
The top seeds at 145 pounds are Newnan’s Davis, Karar Alasady of Peachtree Ridge, Jeremy Tuzizlla of Campbell and Chris Nani of Woodstock in what could be a wide-open division in the West.
Newnan’s David Cornelius is the lone local entry at 152 pounds and the Cougar wil open against Harrison veteran Anthony Fiacco, who placed fourth in last year’s Class AAAAA tournament.
At 160 pounds, East Coweta senior Jamaal Ragland enters as a No. 2 seed while Newnan’s Mike McCoy faces Area 5-AAAAAA champion Charles Robinson of Campbell.
Tyler Vermilya of Newnan and East Coweta’s Kevin Lashley represent the county at 170 pounds. Vermilya is a No. 2 seed and opens against Roswell sophomore Tylor Johnson (25-15), who has 21 pins this year. Lashley draws Lassiter sophomore Connor Shields, a runner up in 5-AAAAA.
Newnan’s David Quesinberry faces a tough opening match at 182 pounds, facing Area 7-AAAAAA champion Tim Aknniranye.
At 195 pounds, East Coweta first-year varsity wrestler Tristan Mann, a sophomore, opens as a No. 2 seed against Alex Byrd of Peachtree Ridge in a matchup of football defenders. Newnan’s Nick Robinson faces Mill Creek’s Ardy Velez, the No. 2 seed from Area 7-AAAAAA.
Newnan sophomore Christian Shellenbarger is also a No. 2 seed for Newnan at 220 pounds. The first-year varsity starter faces Etowah’s Brad Morgan in today’s first round. Cougar heavyweight Joshua Coffman takes on Hillgrove’s Jaylan Reid while entering as a No. 3 seed.