Tigers, Canes wrestling finish runner-up, qualify for state

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The wrestling coaches from Adairsville and Cartersville each wanted to know how the other's team did in their respective region duals Saturday.

They finished second, coach, same as you.

The Tigers overcame a true second challenge, although it wasn't much of one, from Calhoun to finish runner-up in the Region 6-AAA duals at Sonoraville. Meanwhile, the Canes, luckily, avoided a true second match but managed to qualify for state anyway out of the Region 5-AAAA duals at Central, Carroll.

Adairsville, which entered as the No. 2 seed, rolled over Ringgold (66-12) and Coahulla Creek (57-18) in the first two rounds. The Tigers gave top-seed and defending Class 3A state champion Sonoraville a run for its money in the finals, ultimately falling 47-27 after an injury forced Adairsville's Angel Banda to forfeit.

"We were neck-and-neck with them, and that kind of deflated us a little bit," Tigers head coach Ryan Torrence said. "It's hard to battle back when one of your captains goes down and gives up six [points] off a medical default.

"I think they wrestled really well against Sonoraville."

Torrence believes his team showed it can compete against the Phoenix. He hopes Adairsville will get a chance to face Sonoraville again in next week's state tournament in Macon.

"We hoped to beat Sonoraville, but in fairness, we'd rather see them next week and beat them than beat them this week," Torrence said. "If you only get one, I'd rather it be next week."

Given Adairsville's showing on Saturday and assuming Banda, who has finished third at state individually each of the past two years, returns healthy, the Tigers will be a team nobody wants to see in the 3A bracket.

But even after proving they belong among the best teams in the state, Torrence's bunch still had to regroup to fend off Calhoun for true second, because they hadn't faced the Yellow Jackets earlier in the day.

Adairsville took control early and waltzed to a 69-9 victory.

"We'd seen them earlier in the year," Torrence said of the Jackets. "I have a lot of respect for coach [Michael] Herndon, and he does a really great job with the program. ... He's better on paper than his numbers looked against us. They're really a solid wrestling team."

According to Torrence, the Tigers had four wrestlers go undefeated on the day. Dalton Cornett and Owen Henry each went 2-0, splitting the four matches at 160 pounds. Steven Lynch finished 4-0 with some of his matches at 195 and some at 220.

The star of the day, though, for Adairsville was James Standridge, who pinned out all four matches.

"He's wrestled anywhere from 152 down to 132," Torrence said of the senior. "Once he got to 132, he hasn't lost. He's really been a standout."

While Adairsville was putting together a performance that went about as well as could be expected, Cartersville was fighting and scraping to make it back to the Class 4A state tournament.

Simply put, Saturday did not go how second-year head coach Brooks Gayton expected. But bottom line, his team punched a ticket to state, and that's all that really matters.

The day started off well enough with a convincing win over Chapel Hill. But the third-seeded Canes ran into trouble against No. 2 seed Cedartown.

"As soon as we scored enough points to secure the dual, we forfeited out," Gayton said. "I didn't want to wrestle everybody and be tired. ...

"When I was scouting it, I really thought we would beat Cedartown by 30. It was another one of those where, as soon as we had it locked up, I planned on forfeiting it out."

But things didn't go according to plan.

Cartersville needed Tyler Earick (113 pounds), Giles Turner (120) and Eoin Neal (126) to run off three straight wins to close the match. Gayton also credited Joshua Alvarez, who opened the matchup with a technical fall win at 132.

"A couple of my guys, who I was certain would win, lost some key matches," Gayton said. "All of the sudden, we're trying to salvage the win. My last three guys came through in a big way."

After eking past the Bulldogs, the Canes were completely overmatched against No. 1 seed Central.

"I don't know if that Cedartown matchup took something out of us or the boys were nervous, but we wrestled Central and it all fell apart," Gayton said.

With his team clearly out of sorts, Gayton was just hopeful that he didn't need to send them back out for a fourth matchup against LaGrange. So he was relieved to see the Bulldogs handle their business against the Grangers, allowing the Canes to avoid wrestling for a true second.

"I was not looking forward to it," Gayton said of the possibility. "... It would have been another dogfight. It would not have been an easy match. I think our guys are better, but you get in that state of mind. We won one real close that we thought we were going to crush and lost one we thought we were going to barely win."

At the end of the day, Cartersville advanced to state for just the second time ever, which is an important accomplishment. And although it got somewhat lost in the shuffle, the Canes did avenge a season-opening loss to the Bulldogs.

Cedartown had narrowly beaten Cartersville back before the Canes had their football players at their disposal. That might have been the extra motivation Cartersville needed Saturday to avoid a similar fate.

"I reminded our boys all season about that time and time again," Gayton said. "It was good for our guys to see a team that had defeated us earlier in the year."