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Clayton wrestlers battle for county pride at state tournament

DULUTH - Last season Quinten KcKee of Lovejoy High School held the sole distinction of being the only placer in the state wrestling tournament from Clayton County.

Just one year later, Clayton had four young grapplers walk away from the tournament with state credentials.

After coming one victory short of placing at state last year while wrestling North Clayton, Jonesboro's Michael Carlisle (215) was the most successful Clayton wrestler at the tournament.

After three days of grueling competition, Carlisle battled into the finals match where he met Fayette County's Patrick Blankenbeker.

Blankenbeker scored early with a takedown and a reversal in the first period. Following a scoreless second period, Carlisle found himself in need of six points for the win with 2:00 left on the clock.

The period started rough for Carlisle when what he believed to be a takedown was ruled an illegal slam.

From there Carlisle struggled to take the offensive, ultimately losing the match to Blankenbeker 13-0.

After having to spend last season's state tournament on the sidelines, Lovejoy's Tobias Harris came to Gwinnett looking for retribution.

Carlisle was not the only representative from Jonesboro at the state tournament.

Sophomore Giovonte Ortiz (130) made his first state appearance.

After taking a loss in the opening round, Ortiz was in the unfortunate position of having to wrestle back if he had any hopes of placing.

Ortiz persevered, successfully fighting his way through four rounds to earn a spot in the consolation finals.

Ultimatley, Ortiz placed fourth.

"I planned to go to state, I just didn't expect to get into the top five," said Ortiz. "It feels good."

Senior Octavian Stephens (145) also wrestled in the Cardinals' black and red.

After placing eight at the sectional tournament, Stephens was in a tough position on the bracket.

Although he was unable to place, Stephens continued to provide leadership to his fellow Jonesboro grapplers.

"It's been way better than I could have expected," said Jonesboro coach Gene Johnson. "I got two state placers tonight. I couldn't be happier."

Michael Faison (285), of Mt. Zion, also competed at the state tournament, but was unable to place.

After having to spend last year's state tournament on sidelines due to a disqualification in the region tournament, Tobias Harris (160) came to Gwinnett looking for redemption.

The Lovejoy senior battled into the semi-finals where he met Taylor Knapp of Collins Hill.

After taking a loss to Knapp, Harris was sent to the consolation bracket.

Harris did not take a second loss in the tournament, earning a bronze medal with a third-place finish.

"He had some tough matches against some tough kids," said Lovejoy coach Kevin Jones. "He wasn't predicted to be in the top three of the medal stand. He managed to fight his way through."

Tony Grisby (125) also battled for Lovejoy's honor but was unable to place.

"This is probably one of the most satisfying years for me," said Jones. "At the beginning of the season I didn't we were going to be that good. I would have to say as far as total team effort and where they were when they started, this is probably the best team I've had."

Taylor Smith (215) of Morrow was unable to place. Courtney Freeman of Mundy's Mill competed in the same bracket.

Freeman battled into the semi-finals where he took a loss to eventual state champ Allen Scruggs of Valdosta.

In the consolation bracket, Freeman regain his momentum captured a win for third place in the consolation finals.

Irving Turner (145) of Mundy's Mill also competed but was unable to place.