Photo by Heather Middleton
By Brian Paglia
Considering that when Joey Di Nino built the Union Grove wrestling program from scratch 11 years ago it took three seasons for the Wolverines to win an area title, he seems ahead of schedule in his first year at Ola.
The Mustangs shocked two ranked teams to win the Area 3-AAAA traditional tournament Saturday with 194 points, ahead of sixth-ranked Whitewater (186.5) and second-ranked Union Grove (172).
Ola had seven wrestlers advance to the GHSA Class AAAA Traditional Wrestling Sectionals on Friday, where the top eight wrestlers in each weight class advance to the Traditional Wrestling State Tournament at the Gwinnett Arena on Feb. 17-19.
"This is huge for the Ola community," Di Nino said. "This area is one of the toughest in Class AAAA. To win this tournament is a great tribute to the hard work these kids have put in. Normally it takes a few years to get a program where you want it. I told these guys, 'Why wait? Why not now? We have the tools and the system to win now.'"
Ola had four area champions. Junior Peyton Durflinger won his second area title with a pin at 112 pounds. Senior Billy Abrahamsen improved his record to 35-0 this season on the way to winning the area title at 119 pounds. Zac Bennett (140) and sophomore Jimmy Carman (171) also won area titles.
But it was the Mustangs' depth that catapulted them to the area title. Brent Paul (130) lost in the finals to finish second, Dylan Parker (160) placed third and Jason Albers (285) placed fourth. Five other Mustangs came within a round of placing.
"Had we not done that we would have ended up fourth or fifth," Di Nino said.
Union Grove had four area champions in Griffin Higginbotham (103), Jared Vinson (145), Hunter Gamble (160) and Tyler Buhse (215).
Six wrestlers from Woodland made sectionals, including Justin Kerce (125) and Omar Waller (189), who both won area titles.
Lovejoy had nearly its entire lineup qualify for sectionals, as the Wildcats dominated Saturday at Jonesboro to win the Area 4-AAAA title with 239.5 points, ahead of Mundy's Mill (170) and Forest Park (153).
The Wildcats had five wrestlers capture area titles: Michael Whitney (112), Xavier Hutchinson (125), Derek Holmes (135), Giovante Ortiz (140) and Corey Alexander (145).
In all, 12 wrestlers from Lovejoy qualified for sectionals.
Mundy's Mill qualified nine wrestlers for sectionals, Morrow qualified eight, Forest Park qualified seven, Jonesboro qualified six, Mt. Zion qualified three and Riverdale qualified two.
Henry County sweeps Area 4-AAA titles
Henry County held on to its wrestling dominance with a close win over Locust Grove in the Area 4-AAA traditional tournament Saturday. The Warhawks finished with 218 team points to Locust Grove's 205 points.
The schools combined to send 25 wrestlers to Friday's Class AAA sectionals at Locust Grove. Henry County qualified 13, while Locust Grove qualified 12.
Five wrestlers won area titles for Henry County: Bruce James (112), Brett Yarbrough (119), Jake Orozco (135), Telly Sloan (215) and Dalvin Tomlinson (285).
Locust Grove had six wrestlers capture area titles: Jared Benefield (130), Zack Brown (140), Chaz Brown (145), Bryan Sorrows (152), Blake Sorrows (160) and Tyler Rapes (189).
Zack Brown's area title was the third of the senior's high school career, and second with Locust Grove.
Stockbridge qualified five for sectionals, Drew qualified four and Eagle's Landing qualified two.
Eagle's Landing Christian will be sending the bulk of its team to sectionals Friday after nine Chargers qualified at the Area 4-A meet Saturday at Landmark Christian.
The Chargers finished third with 125 points. Reigning state champion Bremen won the area title handily with 294 points.