By Brian Paglia
When the area traditional wrestling meets were done Saturday, two teams extended runs of dominance and one made history.
In total, three teams from the Southern Crescent won area titles and nearly 100 wrestlers qualified for the state sectionals, which begin this Friday.
The top eight wrestlers from each weight class advance to the state tournament Feb. 18-20 at the Arena at Gwinnett Center.
Here's a look at how Southern Crescent teams performed:
After a string of seven consecutive area titles, Union Grove felt vulnerable going into this past weekend's tournament.
But it was more of the same. The Wolverines had 12 state qualifiers, led by Alex Lazor at 130 pounds, and Union Grove finished first in the team standings for its eighth consecutive Area 2-AAAAA traditional title. Luella qualified four wrestlers.
"We felt like with the young team we have this year that we were vulnerable," Union Grove coach Joey DiNino said. "Our kids really stepped up. Our younger kids really wrestled well."
Indeed, five Wolverines underclassmen qualified for the state sectionals, and none put on a more compelling performance than Austin Monroe at 125 pounds.
Union Grove's starter at 125 pounds was sidelined by an illness. In stepped Monroe, a freshman and first-year wrestler. He advanced to the title match and overcame a seven-point deficit to win.
"He was kind of amazing," DiNino said. "That was really exciting."
Lazor's area title was his third straight, and three others joined him and Monroe. Jared Vinson won at 140 pounds, his brother, Joseph, won at 145 pounds and sophomore Hunter Gamble won at 152 pounds.
Next for Union Grove will be the Class AAAAA East State Sectionals, which the Wolverines host Friday and Saturday, and this weekend's area title was a nice boost of momentum going into the tournament.
"The guys are really excited. They're loose," DiNino said. "I think they know that when they're wrestling well, we can compete with just about anybody."
Lovejoy shares a similiar belief in itself. But the Wildcats had added motivation going into the Area 4-AAAAA traditional meet at East Coweta this past weekend. At the area duals meet at Lovejoy a week ago, East Coweta defeated the Wildcats to spoil Lovejoy's goal of repeating as area champs.
Payback was foremost in Lovejoy's mind, and the Wildcats got it, finishing first in the team standings to capture the program's first area traditional championship in school history.
"It was sweet," Lovejoy coach Kevin Jones. "I wasn't able to sleep well until we were able to pay the favor back to (East Coweta). In the spirit of competition, it's just a great rivalry we have going."
Lovejoy qualified 11 wrestlers for the Class AAAAA West Sectionals at Tift County this weekend. Derek Holmes, Giovante Ortiz and Colin Mack were individual champs.
Mundy's Mill had seven state sectional qualifiers, Morrow had four and Riverdale had one.
Mundy's Mill finished third behind East Coweta in the team standings.
Alcovy crashed the Southern Crescent party, capturing the Area 4-AAAA traditional title.
Ola finished second in the teams standings, followed by Stockbridge and Dutchtown.
The Mustangs qualified 11 for the state sectionals, led by Peyton Durflinger, Charlie Smith, Tim Feltman and Joey Carman who were area champs.
Stockbridge qualified 10 for the state sectionals, Dutchtown qualified eight, Forest Park qualified six, Jonesboro qualified three, North Clayton qualified two and Mt. Zion qualified one.
Next for the teams from area 4-AAAA is the Class AAAA sectionals at Upson-Lee.
Henry County wrestling coach Marty Hutsell isn't shy about his assessment of a young team.
"We're overachievers. Trust me, this team's overachieving right now," Hutsell said. "Maybe we can do it for another two weeks."
Maybe it can. Even after losing three state champions from its roster, Henry County is proving anything is possible.
The Warhawks followed up a top-3 finish at the Class AAA duals tournament with its seventh consecutive Area 4-AA traditional title on Saturday.
Henry County qualified wrestlers in all 14 weight classes and had nine individuals champions.
But now, the Warhawks understand its next challenge: Take on Jefferson, the nine-time traditional state champion, who hosts the Class AA East Sectionals this weekend.
"We're just going to try to ride the coat tails of Jefferson," Henry County coach Marty Hutsell said. "We're just going to have to match them man for man if we're going to stay with them."