We are the cham­pi­ons

East­side High cap­tures Class AAAA wrestling ti­tle

The Covington News - - Sports - By Eric L. McDon­ald

DU­LUTH — Af­ter a dis­ap­point­ing fin­ish at the Class AAAA State Duel Tour­na­ment last month in Ma­con and fin­ish­ing as state tra­di­tion run­ners-up the year be­fore, East­side fi­nally cap­tured New­ton County’s first- ever tra­di­tional state wrestling ti­tle.

This is the third state ti­tle in East­side’s 12- year his­tory and the school’s first state ti­tle in nine years. The East­side girls fast­pitch soft­ball team won the first two state ti­tles in the AA clas­si­fi­ca­tion back-to-back in 1998 and 1999.

Yet the mo­ment of win­ning the great­est prize seemed sur­real for first-year head coach Bran­don Blake­man.

“I couldn’t have been hap­pier, par­tic­u­larly for my se­niors,” said Blake­man. “To see three of my se­niors plac­ing (at state) is just phe­nom­e­nal. Win­ning this ti­tle was a great sigh of re­lief; we fi­nally got the mon­key off our back.”

Mean­while, Al­covy — with only six wrestlers qual­i­fy­ing for the state tour­na­ment — fin­ished among the top 25 in Class AAAA by plac­ing 16th over­all in team scor­ing.

For the Ea­gles, they won the ti­tle by team points head­ing into the state tour­na­ment and fin­ished Satur­day night with a score of 159.

De­fend­ing AAAA cham­pion Stock­bridge state

fin- ished sec­ond with 139.50 points. Round­ing out the top five were Jack­son County ( 139.50), North­west Whit­field (125.50) and White­wa­ter (114).

East­side fought hard for much of the tour­na­ment with its 10 that qual­i­fied. Cody Dur­den (103 pounds) de­feated Tyler Deloach (Stock­bridge) in the first round and was de­feated in the sec­ond round by even­tual state cham­pion Pawl­loes Belete (Tucker).

Se­nior Ja­markus Griggs (112) was 4-0 head­ing into the fi­nals af­ter de­feat­ing Jar­rod Cham­blee (McIn­tosh) in the semi-fi­nals. Griggs (34-6 over­all) had to settle for state run­ner-up af­ter be­ing de­feated by Frankie Miller (Dac­ula) by a 12-2 de­ci­sion.

“For Frankie (Miller) to go against Mr. Griggs, who is an in­cred­i­ble young man and wrestler, three times (at the Area-8 Du­els and In­di­vid­ual Tour­na­ments) al­ready is some­thing else,” said Dac­ula head coach Ja­son Hol­combe. “They have gone to war with each other and were both out­stand­ing.”

But the big­gest up­set in the Class AAAA fi­nals oc­curred in the 119-pound class be­tween East­side’s Joel Stafford and Dac­ula’s Noel Hunt.

Stafford (51-5) was un­de­feated at 4-0 en­ter­ing the fi­nals. Pre­vi­ously, he de­feated De­quan Warner (South­west Dekalb) in the semi-fi­nals to ad­vance. But af­ter a hard fought match, Stafford lost his ti­tle to Hunt by an 11-3 de­ci­sion.

“ Joel ( Stafford) is an amaz­ing ath­lete,” praised Hol­combe. “We were for­tu­nate to get him in the big one that mat­tered. We were pumped and we were ready to go.”

Michael Green (125) was de­feated in the first round by Mike Sea­gle of Lithia Springs.

Se­nior Bran­don Cole (130) made an im­pact in the first round by de­feat­ing Tay­lor Wade (Up­son-Lee) by pin. How­ever, he was de­feated by Zach Gil­liam (Eff­in­g­ham County) by a 15-3 de­ci­sion in the sec­ond round. Cole en­tered the con­so­la­tion match and was then de­feated by Im­manuelKerr Brown (Rome) by pin.

Trevor Bai­ley (135) made his ap­pear­ance in the fi­nals af­ter de­feat­ing Kevin Olson (East Pauld­ing) by a 7-3 de­ci­sion in the semi-fi­nals. Bai­ley (51-6) gave his best ef­fort, yet was de­feated by Zach Hop­kins (Ring­gold), 7-3.

Se­nior David Ben­der (152) won his match in the first round against Gus­tavo Zanette ( North­side- Warner Robins), yet was de­feated by Sam Law (Fayette County) in the quar­ter­fi­nals. Ben­der set­tled for fourth in state af­ter fall­ing to Con­nor Young (Rome) in the con­so­la­tion match.

Se­nior Jon Palmer ( 171) won his match, 7-0, in the first round by de­feat­ing Gar­rick Brat­ton (Ring­gold), but was de­feated in the third round by Ja­cob Wil­liamson ( White­wa­ter). Palmer fin­ished his ca­reer by plac­ing sixth in the con­so­la­tion match af­ter los­ing to Steven Walkey (North­west Whit­field), 6-0.

Se­nior Ardest “A- Train” Carter (189) be­gan the tour­na­ment strong by de­feat­ing Andrew Gude ( North Springs) in the first round and Ral­ton Flower (Chero­kee) in the sec­ond, both by pin. He downed Court­ney In­gram (Bald­win) in the third round by a 20-6 de­ci­sion.

Carter was de­feated in the semi-fi­nals by Pa­trick Blanken­baker (Fayette County), 6-5. He did well in the con­so­la­tion match yet was pinned by Fred Byars (South­west Dekalb),

ul­ti­mately set­tling for fourth place.

Karl Wil­liams (215) dom­i­nated from the get-go in the first round by pin­ning Ryan Nolan (White­wa­ter), Michael Rober­son (Ridge­land) and Gar­rett Lester (Hill­grove). But lack of fo­cus caused Wil­liams to fall in the semi-fi­nals to Matt Car­roll (McIn­tosh) by pin.

Wil­liams re- grouped and went into the con­so­la­tion match by de­feat­ing BenHatch­ett (Chero­kee), yet came up short when Jose Paz (Stock­bridge) pinned him in the bat­tle for third place. Wil­liams also set­tled for fourth place.

Al­though no Ea­gles won any in­di­vid­ual ti­tles this year, Blake­man was thor­oughly pleased and quite proud of the per­for­mance his team dis­played dur­ing the four-day com­pe­ti­tion.

“This is the best tour­na­ment that we have ever had,” said Blake­man. “Seven of the 10 guys (who) placed worked their butts off. They wanted it bad enough, and even though they didn’t place where they wanted, they got to the ul­ti­mate goal.”

Blake­man

also

cred­ited the cham­pi­onship sea­son to for­mer head coach Michael Smith-Foot, one of the key ar­chi­tects who helped cre­ate the new dy­nasty East­side wrestling was built upon.

“I con­trib­ute all this to him,” ac­knowl­edged Blake­man. “East­side wrestling would not be here with­out the huge con­tri­bu­tion that Coach Foot has made to this pro­gram.”

East­side proudly ex­ited as Class AAAA state cham­pi­ons. But rest as­sured, Blake­man and the Ea­gles are gear­ing up for next year al­ready, as they will at­tempt to con­quer their new di­vi­sion — Class AAA — with most of their start­ing lineup re­turn­ing.

“We are en­joy­ing this now, but we are al­ready look­ing (at) next year,” said Blake­man.

For the Tigers, they held their own in just their sec­ond year of ex­is­tence.

Al­covy’s Jon Sey­more (103) won his first round against Demitri Miller (Riverdale), 17-13. Sey­more lost to Andy Khair (Wood­ward) in the sec­ond round by pin, and was de­feated in the sec­ond by Chris­tianWash­ing­ton (Dal­ton) dur­ing the con­so­la­tion match.

Adam Pol­lard wres­tled well in the tour­na­ment, mak­ing it all the way to the semi-fi­nals but was topped by even­tual state cham­pion Nathan Allen ( Stock­bridge), 8- 2. Pol­lard re­deemed him­self by de­feat­ing Den­nis Eck­les (Lee County) to take third place.

Travis Knight (135), Corey Reid (140) and T.C. Jack­son (189) all bowed out be­tween the first and sec­ond round of com­pe­ti­tion.

Ju­nior Malachi Out­law be­came the first Al­covy wrestler in school his­tory to com­pete in the state fi­nals. The 160-pounder took con­trol of ev­ery match, win­ning his first round match against Le­an­dre In­gram (For­est Park) by pin and then down­ing Colton Lemon (Wood­land) to ad­vance to the fi­nals.

In the fi­nals, Out­law had his hands full when matched up against Chase Pen­land (White­wa­ter). Pen­land was al­ready up in points in the match, con­trol­ling Out­law’s chance of a come­back. He put up a gal­lant ef­fort be­fore ul­ti­mately fall­ing, 7-4.

“Malachi has had an out­stand­ing sea­son,” said Al­covy head coach Mike Mostek. “He just came up a lit­tle short in the fi­nals. He fought hard and gave us ev­ery­thing that he had.”

Next year Al­covy, which will be the only New­ton County School in Class AAAA, should have the op­por­tu­nity to also com­pete for a state and/or tra­di­tional ti­tle.

The Tigers will grad­u­ate only two se­niors from this year’s squad.

“We are look­ing for­ward to­ward next year,” said Mostek. “We are go­ing to hit the weights hard and do a lot of off-sea­son wrestling, come back and have a great sea­son next year.”

Mandi Singer/The Cov­ing­ton News

East­side’s Bran­don Cole pins his op­po­nent in ear­lier ac­tion this year. Pic­tured: The 2008 Class AAAA Tra­di­tional Wrestling State Cham­pi­onship tro­phy

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