By Brian Pagla
By the barest of margins, the Union Grove wrestling team comprised mainly of underclassmen defeated a Henry County team with a similar profile for its second straight All-County title at Stockbridge this past Saturday. The Wolverines overcame a nearly 30-point deficit thanks to critical wins in several finals matches.
Union Grove got first-place finishes from Griffin Higginbotham (103), Tyson Krantz (125), Alex Lazor (130) and Hunter Gamble (152). The Wolverines got runner-up finishes from Zach Duncan (112) and Jared Vinson (140). They had Tyler Buhse place third, and Leon Williams and Tyler Vaughn (145) place fourth, respectively.
The Wolverines did it, therefore, with a lineup far different than in years past. A year ago, Union Grove had one of its strongest rosters with state-ranked wrestlers like Joey Lazor, Jack Roberts, Justin Crozier, Ryan DeVita and Wesley Mena. Together they combined for four individual state titles, placed at state 12 times and hold four of the top five spots for most career wins in school history.
Yet two weeks ago, Union Grove won its seventh area duals title in eight years.
Maybe no other team at the county championships understands Union Grove's predicament this season better than Henry County.
The Warhawks lost the bulk of a team last season that featured state champions Evan Warrington and Anthony Fretwell, now a wrestler at Indiana University in the Big 10 Conference.
Yet the Warhawks finished third at the state duals meet in Macon and have been ranked as high as No. 2 in Class AA.
Naturally, it came down to these two. Higginbotham defeated Henry County's Bruce James for the 103 crown. Lazor took down the Warhawks' Jack Orozzo in 130. Krantz took down Henry County's Shaydarious Slaughter in 125.
Henry County got the best of Union Grove in the 112 finals with Brett Yarborough defeating the Wolverines' Zach Duncan. Rodney Mason defeated Union Grove's Jared Vinson in 140. Warhawks sophomore Dalvin Tomlinson (285) and Darold Alexander (145) also placed first in their respective weight classes.
Tomlinson ran his duals record to 42-1 on the season and defeated Ola senior Joey Carman in his finals match. Henry County's Brian Thomas fell to Ola's Dillon Moore in the finals of the 160 class.
Indeed, Ola had a strong showing in its renewed quest to finish well at the state traditional meet in Gwinnett in mid-February after being disqualified from the state duals meet for improperly weighing in two wrestlers at the Area 4-AAAA duals meet.
The Mustangs finished fourth behind Stockbridge. Ola senior Tim Feltman (189) and Moore each placed first.
Mustangs wrestlers Peyton Durflinger (112), Charlie Smith (119), Zack Bennett (140), Jimmy Carman (152) and Glen Knutt (215) placed third in their respective weight classes.
Other Henry County wrestlers that placed: Kevon Sadler (119), second; and Giovanni Alonzo (152) and Jason Davis (189) fourth.
Now, it's on to area traditional tournament, the first leg toward the state traditional tournament.