Defending county duals champion Woodland started the day somewhat lackadaisical before ratcheting its intensity when it met rival Cass in the finals. The Wildcats fell behind briefly but took the lead for the first time during the sixth individual match en route to a championship victory, 51-26, at Adairsville High.
Adrian Tramutola, Woodland head coach, did not seem at all surprised that his team as well as the Colonels once again cranked things up just off the mere sight of one another.
“I think anytime the two of our schools get together, it’s gonna be pretty intense. I think the kids are gonna up their intensity and up their level. Because of the rivalry, they’re gonna wrestle harder,” Tramutola said. “Overall, on the day, I think we started off kind of sluggish against Adairsville — maybe didn’t warm up as well as we should have. In the Cass match … we were down in a spot there. Kids stayed patient, and we had some good kids coming up and they did their job and put us where we needed to be.”
Cass’ Sammy Rosario, 126-pound weight class, pinned to open up things, and the Wildcats’ Zach Culver (132) answered with a pin of his own to tie things up.
The Colonels regained the lead at 12-6 as Austin Buffaloe (138) scored a third-period pin, but first-year wrestler Jabbari Carrion made the returning state qualifier work for the win and appeared to help fire up his squad.
“He showed us some things. We had one of our guys who was sick, out of the lineup, and he stepped up and did a good job,” Tramutola said of Carrion. “He’s been wrestling for two months.”
With Cass ahead 15-6 following a decision for Ryan Bennett (145), Zach Frye — wrestling up at 152 — began a string of 24 consecutive points for Woodland, which included his pin and a pin by Twan Terrell (170), to establish a 30-15 lead.
Montavious Parker (195) put the Colonels back on the board with his pin of the Wildcats’ Clint Lemon, a returning state qualifier. Parker’s pin came late in the second period, with about five ticks remaining on the clock.
The momentum was short-lived for Cass, however, as Woodland pinned in its next two matches — wins by Cody Coffee (220) and Shelby Townsend (285) — to guarantee another county win.
Freshman Jake Huffine (106) upset the Colonels’ Alec Rivera and teammate Chad Hawkins earned another Wildcat win before Cass ended things with an individual win.
Tramutola credited his guys for continuing to wrestle hard, including Huffine who rallied in the third period.
“Jake Huffine, at 106, beating the Alec Rivera kid who was a state placer last year, and he’s only a freshman; he looked great,” the coach said. “That was a great win for him. He was down in that match 4-1 at one point and he just battled and battled and battled, and he wrestled hard and came away with the win. He did a great job.”
“We saw some guys who had not really been our traditional point scorers step up in a big spot for us [Thursday],” Tramutola added.
Colonels coach D.L. Koontz wasn’t praising his team’s performance after its loss, using words like “tired” and “lazy” to describe the effort.
“I just think that we didn’t do a very good job of taking advantage of some opportunities that were presented to us,” Koontz explained. “That’s not to discredit any of the kids that had good matches and got wins or got some bonus points in situations where … the last time we wrestled might not have gotten those bonus points. But, I just think, as a whole we didn’t look as good as I would have liked us to.”
There were Cass wrestlers that had good days, though, including Parker and Rosario — who won both of their matches.
“[Parker] and Lemon went into double overtime last time and he’d lost, but he catches him, gets him on his back and seals the deal there. That was very good, and he did a good job against Cartersville with a pin as well,” Koontz said. “Sammy, he was tough all day, definitely getting as many points as he could, starting us off and finishing off both times very well for us.”
Rosario’s pin against the Purple Hurricanes gave the Colonels a 12-0 lead — Rashad Williams (120) pinned to start off the match — but Cartersville got within four points, 33-29, before Cass pinned out — Parker, Mark Morton (220), Jon Holcomb (285), Chandler Blum (106), Rivera (113) — to win the match, 51-29.
The Canes regrouped to win against Adairsville, 49-25, and looked like the most improved team on the day.
“Our kids did wrestle extremely well, all the way up the lineup. [We had] two matches that could have swung either way, and the match could have gone our way,” Cartersville coach Garvin Edwards said in reference to the match with the Colonels. “We’ve made a lot of improvement as the year’s gone on. As a team, we’re wrestling a whole lot better because we’ve wrestled a lot as a team. We haven’t wrestled many traditional tournaments. We’ve only wrestled one traditional tournament. All of our tournaments have been team-oriented dual tournaments, so our kids are wrestling extremely well as a dual team and I’m very proud of that.
“[I] thought we wrestled well … against Cass, and I thought we wrestled well against Adairsville. So, we’re extremely proud of our effort today and up to this point in the season … Again, they’re learning to be a team and that’s something that we’re very proud of.”
Edwards pointed to his seniors as the ones creating the pace for the entire team. Ty Downer (132), he said, had two big matches — including one against Adairsville’s Virgil Gentry — and went 2-0. Likewise, Jake Johnson (160), a returning state champion, won both of his matches to remain undefeated on the season. Tamichael Wills also was 2-0, improving to 7-0 during the last two tournaments. Wills combined with Downer, Johnson, Gerry Vassil (170) to go 20-0 at the Ringgold Duals on Wednesday, a tournament where Cartersville finished fourth.
“They’re learning to be good leaders,” Edwards said of his seniors. He also noted that his underclassmen are making strides, too, guys like Evan Cole (138) and Vassil. Cole finished the county duals with a perfect mark. “Our returners are getting better as the season’s gone on and [are] improving, too.”
First-year Adairsville coach Joey Harris, a two-time state champion as a wrestler at Armuchee, feels his wrestlers have steps to take in terms of wrestling continuity.
“I thought they wrestled pretty tough. We’re wrestling — kind of like we told them — we’re wrestling in spurts. We do things real well and then we pause and we hesitate. It needs to be more of a chain, wrestling’s got to be continuous,” Harris said following the loss to the Canes and his former high school coach, Edwards. “We create openings [but] we’re not attacking those openings or capitalizing on them. That’s an area of improvement, for sure.”
Harris advised his wrestlers to watch teammate Kevin Grimaldo, a 120-pounder.
“I try to tell the kids to watch him because he does a great job … if he’s winning or if he’s losing, he’s staying busy,” Harris continued. “And he does wrestle real fluid, it’s one thing to the next … He does a good job of that.”
Dalton Johnson (285), a returning state placer for the Tigers, faced Woodland’s Townsend in his only match of the day. Harris didn’t know what to make of a tough matchup for Johnson going into it, but pointed out his senior’s ability to bounce back during the match.
“He was actually behind when he pinned him, so that was a huge performance,” Harris said of Johnson’s late third-period pin, which came in Adairsville’s 57-15 loss to the Wildcats.
The Adairsville coach also lauded Trey Gulledge for his outing.
“Trey Gulledge is wrestling real well; he’s our 60 pounder. [We] bumped him to 170 against Cartersville,” Harris said. “Trey Gulledge is really standing out, doing real well. … I’m very proud he came back out this year.”
Gulledge earned a couple of wins on the day, along with Brett Gutkowski.
The Tigers are doing what their coach has asked of them but need to put it all together next weekend — Jan. 6-7 — at Sonoraville High, where Harris believes Rockmart and Calhoun may be the favored teams to make it out of Area 7-AA and into the Class AA state duals. North Murray and Sonoraville also should contend for state, he said.
“The biggest thing is I think we have to put a full match together. Sometimes we do a good job of keeping the score close through one period … either being tied or losing 2-1, winning 2-1,” Harris said. “That’s one thing we have to do better is wrestle for three periods, wrestle for three periods the same way. It doesn’t do you any good to win the first period. We need to not give up pins in these duals. [We] probably could stand to pin in more places.”
Just as Adairsville will have to wrestle extremely well for any hope at a state berth, Cartersville has an arduous path as well, with Area 7-AAA teams like Gilmer, defending Class AAA state duals champion, and Heritage-Catoosa, state duals runner-up, standing in the way. The Bobcats also were state traditional champions, too.
“We saw both Gilmer and Heritage [Wednesday] up there at the Ringgold tournament,” said Edwards, whose team lost to Gilmer and Calhoun and beat Tyner Academy (Tenn.) and North Atlanta. “They’re [Gilmer and Heritage] both two outstanding teams, but we’re still vying for the top two teams in the region and, hopefully, the opportunity to wrestle at [state duals]. It’d take a lot, but that’s what we’re working toward and that’s what we’re hoping we can achieve, so we’re hoping to have a good showing next weekend at region duals.”
Heritage will host its area’s duals.
Cass and Woodland both head to Lambert High for the Area 7-AAAA Duals next weekend as the Wildcats begin their title defense of last season’s area duals championship and possibly the state duals championship.
“I think we’re in a good spot. It’s gonna be a tough two weeks, that’s for sure, but I like where we sit right now,” Tramutola said. “We got a few things to work on here and there, but I think everybody does.”
The Colonels’ loss Thursday gave them an idea of what to focus on going into the area duals tournament.
“We need to work on mental toughness, for one, because there were some letdowns that absolutely amazed me. And then the other thing is understanding what our role is,” Koontz said.