Third place in the South Metro tournament was reason to smile for Forest Park’s Tyrik Ball (left) in the 160-pound class and Leon Butts at 195.
It may be too early to start thinking of the wrestling state championship two months away. But the South Metro tournament this past weekend at Union Grove featured names likely to be seen again when the most coveted trophies are on the line.
With only 13 points separating the winning team from fourth place, Locust Grove and Ola showed why they likely will be contenders in Classes AAA and AAAA, respectively.
In the South’s oldest wrestling tournament — it has been held every year since 1968 — Class AAA’s Locust Grove missed beating Class AAAA’s Rockdale County by one match and finished second to the Bulldogs. Two Class AAAA teams followed, with Ola third, just ahead of Whitewater.
“This was one of the closest races in recent years in the South Metro,” said Ola coach Joey DiNino, whose team had three individual champions — the most of any school — and five placers.
Jimmy Carman (195 pounds), Dylan Parker (182) and Peyton Durflinger (126) led Ola and seemed to get stronger as they went deeper in their brackets. Carman was voted most outstanding heavyweight.
“All three had dominating performances,” DiNino said. “We’re a relatively young team. Though we finished third, there’s a lot of room for improvement, which is a good thing early on. We made a lot of careless mistakes in the early going.”
Locust Grove coach Nick Fordham expressed similar sentiments about his team’s performance, which featured two indiidual champions — Chaz Brown at 152 and Jarred Benefield at 138 — and six placers.
“It’s still early December and everybody is shooting for February at the state tournament,” Fordham said. “We’ve identified a lot of areas that need improvement. You’re able to identify them when you see better competition. Hopefully, we’ll be clicking on all cylinders by February.
Also placing for Ola were Omar McFarlane (fifth at 113) and Hunter Hogan (fifth at 120). Also placing for Locust Grove were Dillon Palmer (fourth at 132), Emilio Conde (fourth at 160), Joseph Ferrell (sixth at 182) and Tyler Rapes (second at 220).
Other tournament highlights included Stockbridge’s Shakeno Jenkins (145) being voted most outstanding lightweight and Union Grove’s Griffin Higginbotham defeating Tyler Bailey of Eastside at 120 in what was touted as the tournament’s most outstanding match.
South Metro Wrestling Tournament
Locust Grove 201.00
Union Grove 147.00
Woodward Academy 125.00
Eagle's Landing 118.00
Forest Park 82.50
(tie)Henry County 82.50
Wrestler School Class
Griffin Higginbotham Union Grove 120
Peyton Durflinger Ola 126
Jarred Benefield Locust Grove 138
Chaz Brown Locust Grove 152
Hunter Gamble Union Grove 160
Dylan Parker Ola 182