Forest Park had four county champions to help led the team to its third straight Clayton County title over the weekend. Pictured with coach Don Williams were county champions (L-R) Anthony Vasta, Daniel Malone, Jessie Cross and Blake Kennedy. (Staff Photo: Derrick Mahone)
FOREST PARK — After a strong showing in one of the state’s most competitive area dual tournaments, there were good indications that Forest Park would be the team to beat at the annual Clayton County Traditional Wrestling Championships.
The Panthers had already secured the county dual titles, so there was no disputing that the team had momentum coming into the traditional meet over the weekend.
Forest Park dominated the meet with four champions and six runner-up finishes to win its third straight title. For coach Don Williams, it was the fifth time he had led a team to the county title. He was part of two titles at Lovejoy prior to taking over the job at Forest Park.
“I’m very pleased with this title,” Forest Park wrestler Blake Kennedy said. “It just showed that our hard work paid off.”
The Panthers put 10 wrestlers in the finals, with four emerging as champions. The other six wrestlers were runners-up in their respective weight class.
“Yes, I would liked to have had more, but I’m pretty pleased with the guys effort,” Williams said. “We are definitely not the same team as we were at the beginning of the season. We have finally gotten all our guys in their weight classes. Everybody has bought into what we are doing, and it is paying off.”
Winning county championships for the Panthers were Anthony Vasta at 113-pound division, Daniel Malone (132), Jessie Cross (152) and Blake Kennedy (160).
Forest Park’s confidence for the county tournament started building after a fourth-place finish at the Area 4-AAAAA Duals earlier this month at McIntosh High in Peachtree City. The Panthers gave host McIntosh all it could handle in an earlier meeting in the tournament, losing by one point.
The highlight of the one-day tournament came when the Panthers defeated Union Grove for the first time in school history.
And the Panthers would show no letup in the county championship.
The Panthers led Morrow 117-88.5 going into the championship round. With 10 wrestlers in the finals, a title was within the team’s reach. Four wrestlers emerged as champions with the other six taking second-place finishes in the one-day meet.
“Ten wrestlers in the semifinals is phenomenal; I don’t care if you are at county or area, that is a big accomplishment,” Williams said. “It just shows we are doing something right, and that we are moving in the right direction.”
Morrow also had four county champions and finished four wrestlers to take second in their weight class. The Mustangs dominated the heavyweight division with Orlando Kinsey winning at 195, Zavion Williams at 220 and Talon Person taking the 285-pound class. The other county champion for Morrow as Rydell Tomas at 138.
“All I can say is that we just have to get better and work harder,” Morrow coach Maso Moon said. “This was just another tune-up as we get ready for the area tournament. It is only going to get harder from here. We will have some kids that have a shot of qualifying for the big dance. I’m happy for my kids to get second, because they responded well.”
Lovejoy sophomore Queryachi Taylor run his season record to 28-0 with his second straight county title.
“I’m just working to get better every day to come out on top,” he said. “There was some real good competition out here. It is real special to win my second title and to have an undefeated record on the season.”