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Union Grove, Henry, Lovejoy capture area titles

By Brian Paglia

bpaglia@news-daily.com

The highly-anticipated Henry County-Locust Grove finals match happened, but it was more one-sided than expected.

Henry County asserted itself over upstart Locust Grove, defeating the Wildcats, 45-19, in the Area 4-AAA duals championship Saturday at home for its ninth title in 10 seasons.

"It was pretty intense," Hutsell said. "It was a good dual. We knew how tough they were and we knew had important that match was. I was pleased."

That match earned the Warhawks a fourth-seed at Friday's GHSA Team Duals Wrestling State Tournament at the Macon Centreplex and a meeting with 13th-seed Westside-Macon.

Henry County has finished in the top four at state the past four seasons. Hutsell hopes the Warhawks' strong performance Saturday is sign they can maintain their place among the state's elite.

"If we can do that this weekend at state, I think definitely we could be in the top four," Hutsell said. "We're capable of winning it, and we're capable of not placing.

"Sometimes they're kind of a Jekyll and Hyde team. They're unpredictable. We've got a lot of talent on this team, but sometimes we don't want to seem to show up."

Lovejoy wins Area 4-AAAA title

Coach Kevin Jones knew his Wildcats squad had been steadily improving entering the Area 4-AAAA duals meet Friday and Saturday, but he expected his team to be tested.

It turned out Lovejoy was better than even he expected.

Lovejoy cruised to its second area title in three seasons, defeating Mundy's Mill, 52-27, in the finals Saturday on the Tigers' home mats.

"We hit another gear," Jones said. "I think it was very impressive how we were able to handle Mundy's Mill. They've got some good wrestlers, but I could just see some of the hard matches that we've wrestled this season have really sharpened us."

For their dominant performance Saturday, the Wildcats earned a formidable challenge - taking on Alexander, last season's Class AAAA traditional champion. Lovejoy will face the 10th-seeded Cougars at 9 a.m., Friday in the GHSA Team Duals Wrestling State Tournament at the Macon Centreplex.

It will be the second meeting between the two teams, but under much different circumstances. When Lovejoy lost to Alexander in early December, 52-18, the Wildcats were without six starters and forced to forfeit those matches.

When the Wildcats and Cougars face off Friday, Lovejoy will have a full team that Jones said is hitting on all cylinders.

"They won't see the same team they saw in early December," Jones said. "The team they're going to see Friday morning is totally different.

"I certainly feel like we're not going down there to show up. We're going down there to shock the world and show people that we do wrestle in Clayton County. There are a lot of folks in the surrounding counties that just don't believe that we wrestle in Clayton County. So we've got a little chip on our shoulders that we're going down there with."

Streak continues for Union Grove

The Union Grove Wolverines have built a bit of a dynasty on the wrestling mats, especially at the area duals.

Nothing changed on Saturday as Union Grove wrestled its way to its eighth consecutive area duals title.

Now, the Wolverines move on to the Class AAAA state duals next Friday in Macon.

Union Grove finished the area with a perfect 7-0 record, beating Whitewater in the championship round.

Whitewater was 6-1, beating Ola early in the tournament.

That lost gave Ola third place and knocked them out of next week's state duals tournament.

"We have been working really hard since the summer, and that was our goal, to get to state," First-year Union Grove head coach Kevin McGonigle said minutes after his team claimed the first-place trophy. I am pretty excited about the opporunties we will have next week."

The Wolverines are getting solid production out a group of veteran wretlers, including Griffin Higginbotham, Alex Lazor and Jared Vinson, Hunter Gamble."

The Union Grove wrestling program was built from the ground up by former coach Joey DiNino, who was ran the program from the time the school opened until last season.

DiNino is now the head coach at Ola.

His Mustang squad held its own during the event losing only to Union Grove and Whitewater.

For DiNino and Ola it could just be a matter of time.

"We are young, we have a lot of freshman in the program and those kids have really come along way," he said.

--Doug Gorman contributed to this story