Jeff Hurndon Photography
Locust Grove wrestling coach Nick Fordham was encouraged by the performance of his underclassmen at state duals and says now that they’ve “been in the spotlight,” they’ll carry valuable experience if they return to the competition next year.
Locust Grove made good on coach Nick Fordham’s goal of “bringing home some hardware,” finishing fourth out of 16 Class AAA teams in the team duals state wrestling tournament this past weekend in Macon.
While other Southern Crescent teams struggled — Forest Park, Lovejoy and Ola — the Wildcats finished only four points out of third place after losing to West Laurens in their final match. Perhaps the most encouraging sign Fordham left Macon with was the performance of his underclassmen.
“To be honest, our freshmen did well,” Fordham said.
Andrew Turner, a freshman, won all four of his matches in the 220-pound division.
The Wildcats earned victories against Westside-Augusta, Woodward Academy before falling to top-seeded Heritage-Catoosa. That sent them to a match against Chestatee, which they dominated, before narrowly falling short in the match against West Laurens. The Wildcats led 30-6 in the final match, but West Laurens’ heavy hitters were all that remained. The Raiders rallied in the final matches, with Anthony Wesley’s 6-5 decision against Locust Grove’s Peter Baus at 126 pounds clinching a 39-35 victory.
“A lot of our younger guys grew up,” Fordham said.
Only Jarred Benefield and Dillon Palmer graduate from this team, leaving Fordham optimistic about the Wildcats’ chances about this time next year.
Gilmer won the Class AAA championship for the third straight year, narrowly edging Heritage-Catoosa 29-27.
The other Southern Crescent teams competed in Class AAAA, where Pope eventually won the championship.
Forest Park won its opening match against Southwest DeKalb 43-33, rallying from a 15-point deficit for the victory.
The rally started with a pin by Devontae Carter (138), a last-second, come-from-behind 5-4 win by Jesse Cross (145), a major decision by Kyle Nelson (152), pins by Tyrik Ball (160), Blake Kennedy (170) and Leon Butts (182) to seal the win.
Forest Park coach Don Williams called it “a historic moment” because it was the school’s first state-duals victory. The Panthers went looking for more, but didn’t find it as Loganville and Marist beat them decisively to eliminate them.
Ola won its opening match against Lee County, but wasn’t able to overcome Woodland-Cartersville or Clarke Central.
Clarke Central proved troublesome, because the Gladiators also eliminated Lovejoy, which came away from the tournament empty-handed after losing its opening match to Ware County.
The teams now turn their attention to tuning up for the traditional state championship at the beginning of February. Locust Grove and Ola will compete today in a match that includes McIntosh.
Forest Park will compete Wednesday at Meadowcreek, in a tri-match that includes Shiloh. The significance of that is that it will pit Forest Park assistant coach Daniel Helena against his father, Jose, the Shiloh coach, for the first time.
How they did at state duals
Locust Grove (3-2 in Class AAA): Defeated Westside-Augusta 48-24, defeated Woodward Academy 37-28, lost to Heritage-Catoosa 53-16, defeated Chestatee 56-14, lost to West Laurens 39-35 in third/fourth match.
Forest Park (1-2 in Class AAAA): Defeated Southwest DeKalb 43-33, lost to Loganville 61-15, lost to Marist 54-21
Ola (1-2 in AAAA): Defeated Lee County 42-24, lost to Woodland-Cartersville 45-22, lost to Clarke Central 41-30.
Lovejoy (0-2 in AAAA): Lost to Ware County 51-25, lost to Clarke Central 60-12.