The Woodland wrestling team's quest to follow up its Class 5A state duals title with a traditional championship moved one step closer to reality on Saturday, as the Wildcats produced five individual first-place finishers at sectionals and will send a total of 10 wrestlers to state.
Even with a handful of No. 1 seeds and several other grapplers who should finish as a state-placer, Woodland will face stiff competition at next week's state meet in Macon. The Wildcats' chief rival during the Wednesday-Saturday tournament will be Buford, which sends representatives in all 14 categories and nine champions from the other, weaker sectional.
As they have all season and really for the past several years, Woodland dominated the lower-half of the weight classes in the sectional meet at Union Grove. Of the seven lowest divisions, the Wildcats finished with five first-place winners, one third-place finish and one fifth-place showing.
Woodland's Colton Bishop (113 pounds), Kyle Gollhofer (120), Caleb Henson (126), Caden McCrary (132) and Jaxon Smith (145) will all be top seeds in the state tournament, meaning they will face the No. 8 seeds from the other sectional in the first round. Cass had one sectional champion among its nine state-qualifiers, with Noah Hoffmeier following up his Region 7-AAAAA title with a first-place finish at 182 pounds.
Woodland's Bryce Shedd finished second to Hoffmeier in the division, while Cass Bryce Kresho placed second at 113. Each program had a third-place finisher in Wildcat Cole Cochran (138) and Colonel Kendall Arnold (152).
Woodland's 195-pound wrestler Demarcus Williams was the only athlete from either program to finish fourth. Caleb Jones, of Woodland, squeaked into the state tournament field as an eighth-place finisher.
Cass had three sets of siblings qualify for state. Brothers Ben Mills (126) and Nick Mills (132) each landed in fifth place; Kameron Depasquale also wound up fifth in the 138-pound division, while his brother Alex placed sixth at 160; and Hunter Rees finished sixth at 120 and his sister Kailey placed eighth at 106.
Cass' Reed Davis placed ninth in the 170-pound class, so he will be an alternate at state.
The round of 16 and first round of wrestlebacks will take place Wednesday for 5A. The quarterfinals and second round of wrestlebacks will occur on Thursday. Friday will see the semifinals, consolation quarterfinals and consolation semifinals completed. While Saturday's action will include matches for fifth place, third place and first place.
Cartersville sends all 10 boys wrestlers to state
Last Saturday, Cartersville wrestling head coach Brooks Gayton predicted that all 10 of his boys who qualified for sectionals out of Region 5-AAAA would reach the state tournament. This Saturday, his grapplers proved his faith was well-placed.
The Canes had a trio of wrestlers — Tyler Earick (106 pounds), Giles Turner (113) and Jabril Williams (160) — finish third at the West Laurens sectional to set them up to face the No. 6 seed from the opposite sectional in the opening round of the Class 4A state tournament, which begins Wednesday at Macon Centreplex.
Cartersville's next-highest finishers were Desmond Winters and Collin Buffaloe, who wound up fifth at 182 and 220, respectively. Three Canes placed sixth in Joshua Alvarez (120), Eoin Neal (126) and Rashun Hurst (195). Kentrel Freeman overcame a first-round defeat to rally for seventh place in the 152-pound division, while Shadre Hurst also won his seventh-place bout to avoid facing the other sectional's No. 1 seed at 170 pounds.
This week's schedule for 4A is the same as listed above for 5A.
7 Tigers qualify for 3A championships
Class 3A sends only six wrestlers from each sectional to state instead of the eight that 4A and 5A get, but Adairsville still managed to send qualifiers in seven of the 14 weight classes to Macon.
Angel Banda and James Standridge had the best individual finishes for the Tigers at Saturday's sectional in Jefferson, placing third in the 113- and 126-pound divisions, respectively. Jody Sutton wasn't far behind, coming in fourth at 145 pounds.
Nic Jackson (170), Austin Jackson (220) and Ross Dudley (120) finished fifth in their weight classes, while Jaxson Owens swiped the final 106-pound qualifying slot. Dalton Cornett finished seventh at 160 to secure an alternate spot.
The 3A state tournament doesn't begin until Thursday, with the round of 12 and quarterfinals taking place that day. Semifinals and all wrestlebacks will take place Friday ahead of Saturday's bouts for fifth, third and first places.
5 Canes girls wrestlers advance
There will be at least five girls from Bartow County competing in the first-ever GHSA girls state championship wrestling tournament.
Cartersville sent five girls from Saturday's sectional at West Laurens to the girls state bracket, which is set to include the champion from each of the 14 sectionals across the state's seven classifications and two other qualifiers (or more if some sectionals didn't have a representative).
Riley Payne emerged in first place in the 136-pound class, which also included teammate Destiny Smith. Aisia Swim pinned her only competitor at 146 to advance to state.
Three of the Canes to qualify — Elora Waterman (95 pounds), Gabby Walker (156) and Paige Nelson (166) — were unopposed in their respective divisions.
Each of the four public schools in the county had one wrestler finish as runner-up, allowing for the possibility of them to earn a spot into the final bracket.
Adairsville's second-place finisher was Ashleigh Stancil at 106; Cartersville's runner-up was Raven Waterman, also at 106; Cass' possible state-qualifier was Abigail Gentry in the 136 division; and Woodland's alternate was Jesse Johnson at 116.
The girls tournament will commence Thursday at Macon Centreplex. The first day will see the athletes compete in the round of 16, quarterfinals and first round of wrestlebacks. Friday will include all remaining wrestlebacks and the semifinals of the winners bracket. As with the boys classifications, Saturday will feature the girls battles for fifth-place, third-place and the championship.