Posted: 12:02 pm Wednesday, January 15th, 2014
By Craig Sager II
Archer owns a 22-0 duals record this season and cruised past Lowndes, Newton, Collins Hill and Camden County by a combined score of 226-46 to claim its second duals title in school history this past weekend. As wrestling enters the backstretch of the season, the Tigers are the favorites to record a consecutive sweep and join Collins Hill as the only other school to do so in Georgia’s top classification. Archer qualified 12 individuals for state last season and had nine wrestlers finish in the top 3 of their respective weight classes. Six of the nine top 3 finishers are on this year’s top ranked team and three of the four individual champions from last season (Daniel Bullard, Thomas Bullard, M.J. Couzan) continue lifting the Tigers to new heights.
In Class AAAAA, Pope aims for its third consecutive sweep of titles after rallying to win the 2014 duals title. The Greyhounds had a state-best five individual wrestlers place first in state last season and graduated three of the five. However, seniors Tyler Haskin (126), TJ Collins (132) , Jake Henson (152), Joey Tabachino (220) and Jake Adcock (126 at Carrollton) all finished in the top three as juniors last season and head another dominant senior class. Henson and Tabachino were Pope’s two underclassmen that won state last season.
Gilmer has reigning Class AAAA individual state champions Cameron Perry (126) and Johnie Flakes (138) on its deep roster and won its fifth consecutive duals state title last weekend. The Bobcats sent 11 wrestlers to the state tournament last season and return six of 11. Gilmer edged Cass 31-30 by criteria in the duals state finals and Class AAAA will be a tight race for the traditional state crown.
Class AAA Buford made school history and captured its first wrestling state title with a 44-23 victory over defending state champion Banks County in the finals. The Wolves have one of the best wrestlers in the nation, senior Chip Ness, but depth was not considered a strength of this team until recently. Buford qualified just four wrestlers for state last season, but finished top three in all four appearances. Ness, Jack Barber (113) and Brayden Harley (126) placed first and sophomore Darius Bunch placed third at 106. All four of these standouts are on this year’s team and with the support of an upcoming cast, the Wolves could make history with its first sweep.
Class AA Jefferson has swept state titles the past 12 years and took a 45-18 victory over Bremen in this year’s duals finals. The Dragons qualified 12 wrestlers for state last season and return eight of the 12. Chase Piperato (106) and Ben Kelly (113) won state titles as sophomores last season and five top 3 finishers are on this year’s lineup.
In Class A, Commerce topped Athens Christian 48-18 to win its first duals state title last weekend. The Tigers finished second in state last season in the traditional scoring behind Gordon Lee. Gordon Lee qualified 13 wrestlers for state last season and placed 12 of 13. Six of the 12 wrestlers that placed graduated and the Trojans bring back state champions Wil Jacks (145) and Jonathan Ragsdale (113). Commerce returns seven of the eight wrestlers it sent to state last season and all five of its top five finishers from 2013 are on this year’s championship roster.