Elbert County pulls out a semifinal dual with Toombs County which included six lead changes and one tie

The AA GHSA State Duals Tournament semifinal between Toombs County and Elbert County featured six lead changes and one tie and was decided in the 12th and 13th match of the 14 held in the Macon Centreplex. After two-time state champion Ricardo Santana (138 pounds)collected four Bulldog points with a 21-9 major decision victory over Nolan Johnson the Dawgs had a 28-27 lead.

Elbert County won the 145 pound weight class with a first period pin to take a 33-28 lead and then clinched the victory with a technical fall win at 152 pounds. The final score- after Elbert County forfeited the 160 pound weight class- was 38-34 Blue Devils.

Elbert County advances to the championship and a rematch with Social Circle on Saturday at 3 p.m. The two schools met in the semifinals of the area tournament with Social Circle winning a close dual. Social Circle roared past Pepperell 62-17 in the other semifinal dual.

Elbert County opened the dual with Toombs County by taking a 9-0 lead on a pin and a win. Isaiah Wright (195 pounds) won Toombs County’s first match with a first period pin. Devante Willis (220) put the Bulldogs up 12-9 with a second period pin. An Elbert County pin at 285 pounds lifted the Blue Devils to a 15-12 lead.

The Bulldogs won back-to-back matches at 106 and 113 pounds to regain the lead at 21-15. Jose Balderas pinned Cameron Harris in the first period and Cruz Arredondo defeated Jamal Rucker 7-3.

The only tie score in the dual occurred after Elbert County’s Martrez Huff’s late second period pin at 120 pounds and the team score was 21-all.

Toombs County’s Martin Santana (126) rallied from a 2-0, 5-2, 5-4 and 7-6 score with an escape that tied the match at 7 and then he executed a late third period takedown to pull out a 9-7 win which put the Bulldogs up 24-21.

An Elbert County second period pin, at 132 pounds, put the Blue Devils back on top 27-24.

“We knew going in it was going to be tight and you have some swing matches,” head coach Bill Benton said. “In the beginning we were thinking about the coin flip and how crucial that would be and the flip didn’t go our way and we felt like we would be hurt by that. In the end we kept Jonathan Morales at 182 and he wrestled their best guy and didn’t give up a pin and then we went pin, pin at 195 and 220 which made us feel better. Their heavyweight came up with a big win. That is one of those matches that got away from us. Rolando is going to see him again in the traditional state tournament and I think Rolando will beat that guy this time. Then it was back and forth and back and forth. 145 pounds was a key match. Jaden Banks went out and shot in on the guy and it looked like we were getting in good position and all of sudden he had Jaden on his back. We found out later that Jaden had torn his knee up on the first move and we lost that match and that sort of sealed the deal. We felt good about that match going in.”

“We could dual them 10 times and it might be five and five. What I was proud of was what happened next. We took that blow and I have never seen kids hurt as bad as I saw those kids hurt because they really wanted to wrestle for the state championship the next day. We had a talk and I’ll be honest with you it was a tough talk. We had to challenge them. They were hurt. They didn’t have their heart set on wrestling the next day and giving their all. After the talk and a little time off I thought they came out Saturday and competed and competed well.” Benton said about his team which beat Vidalia and Dade County to finish third.