FOREST PARK - Forest Park didn’t clinch a state dual tournament berth, but Panthers coach Don Williams was certainly pleased with his growing team’s effort.
“Henry County and Fayette County schools have the great programs and whenever you can win against these programs, you know that you are on the right path,” Williams said. “We only have a few seniors, so we feel that we are a dedicated summer away from being a very good program.”
Ola won the area tournament with a 40-29 win over Whitewater. McIntosh finished third while the Panthers took fourth in one of the state’s toughest areas.
Only the top two teams from each area advanced to state dual tournament at Macon Coliseum starting on Thursday. For the Panthers, it will be time to get back to work in preparation for the Clayton County Championships, which they will host on January 17-18.
Last season, Forest Park won its second consecutive county title. Prior to taking over the Panthers program, Williams helped Lovejoy to consecutive county championships during his two-year tenure.
“We are going for five in a row,” he said.
Forest Park was defeated in the first round 37-36 to McIntosh, which came into the one-day tournament seeded fifth, a spot behind the Panthers. With the loss, Forest Park went to the consolation bracket where it defeated Northgate 49-24 in the quarterfinals.
Ola won the area tournament with Whitewater placing second. Both teams advance to the Class AAAAA Duals at the Macon Coliseum, which starts Thursday. Last season, Whitewater placed third at the state dual meet while Ola was third at the sate traditional meet.
The Panthers pulled off an upset in the consolation semifinals with a 42-36 win over Union Grove, which entered the tournament as the No. 3 seed in the area. It was an especially big win for Williams, who coached Union Grove coach Matt Ferrari during his tenure at Eagle’s Landing High.
“I thought it was a great day for us on the mat,” Williams said. “Coming into the tournament, we thought we had a chance to get into state, but I’m pleased with our effort. The win over Union Grove was huge. It is such a confidence builder for our program. I think our wrestlers are starting to get notice.”
McIntosh defeated Forest Park 45-27 in the consolations finals.
“By the end of the day, we were a little tired, but our guys give a good effort,” Williams said. “We wrestled McIntosh a lot closer the first time. They are a little similar to our team.”
Williams praised his team and individual wrestlers for their effort at the area dual match. Blake Kennedy (160-pound division), Anthony Vasta (113), Devonte Nance (285) and Cameron Greir (195) all went through the dual tournament with a perfect 4-0 record.
Tavarez Clark (145), Khawhyn Johnson (138) and Jessie Cross (152) finished with 3-1 reconds on the weekend.
“I had a lot of coaches come up to me after the tournament to compliment my wrestlers,” Williams said. “We have that in your face style of wrestling. My kids don’t back down from anyone.”