The Toombs County Bulldogs honored the memory of Brad Bell and Robbie Rogers by winning the first place trophy at the Sweet Onion Memorial at the Toombs County High School Gym.
Seven Bulldogs made it to the semifinals out of the 14 weight classes and two seniors won individual championships- Cruz Arredondo and Ricardo Santana. The Bulldogs who were in third place after Friday’s quarterfinals surged into the lead after the semifinals and they held on to win the team title with 195.5 points, Ware County was second with 189.5 and West Laurens third with 180.5 points.
Cruz Arredondo (113 pounds) was the first Bulldog to win his weight class. Cruz pinned his first two opponents in 49 and 84 seconds and his third 1:09 into the third period. In the championship match Arredondo took on Matthew Phillips (Jeff Davis). After a scoreless first period Cruz scored 15 straight points to win by a technical fall 15-0.
“I tipped him over and reversed him and got two points and then from there he would hit like a switch and what I would do was a move called the sit back. So, basically when a guy sits out you grab his head and his arm and you just sit him down to the mat and you get back points and that is how I got most of my points,” Arredondo said.
Two-time state champion Ricardo Santana remained undefeated in his senior season with a pin of Vidalia’s Caleb Cook with five seconds left in the second period. Ricardo moved into the finals with a 17-2 win by a technical fall and then two pins in the second and the third period.
“He was really good in neutral so my main strategy was to keep my defense and keep a low stance so he couldn’t get to my legs. Whenever we went to top and bottom I was hoping I got bottom and got out. It was going to go into the third period, but it only stayed in the first because I deferred it. He chose bottom and I ended up tilting him and I got him in a cradle,” Santana said about his championship match.
Jose Balderas advanced to the finals in the 106 pound weight class with a 19-3 technical fall decision and two pins. In the finals Jose was pinned 29 seconds into the third period by Jacob Shepard from West Laurens.
Blake Hall moved into the finals in the 120 pound weight class with a forfeit and two pins. His run ended with a 16-1 loss to Fitzgerald’s Kevin Martin.
At 126 pounds Martin Santana sandwiched two pins around a 4-0 decision to make the finals. Ware County’s Reese Poole pinned Santana with 16 seconds left in the second period.
Aarel Rodriquez won his first match with a third period pin and then he lost 9-0. In the consolation bracket Rodriquez worked his into the fifth match with a 15-5 and a 10-6 victory. He lost 4-3 and then was pinned and finished fifth.
In the 195 pound weight class Isaiah Wright reeled off three pins to make it to the finals. However, Wright lost to Vidalia’s Tahjah Watts by an 18-3 score.
The Sweet Onion Memorial ended with an overtime heavyweight match between Toombs County’s Rolando Tinoco and Ted Dacus from West Laurens. Tinoco opened his tourney with a first period pin, then he pulled out a 3-1 decision before winning his semifinal match with a pin with just 16 seconds left in the third period. The championship match ended in overtime with Dacus taking a 2-1 win.
“I just kept a good stance and worked him the best as much as I could,”Tinoco said. “I just love wrestling him. I knew it was going to be a low scoring match because I wrestled him two times before and it has been a one-takedown match every time. I was looking to take a shot but there is less of a time frame to take a shot against him. Every shot I took was just going for a takedown, but he is just really great at defensive wrestling.”
“The semifinal round makes or breaks you in these traditional tournaments,” head coach Bill Benton said. “I think the fact that these guys have wrestled in some big tournaments before they didn’t come out there worried, nervous or scared. We were 7-for-7 in the semifinals with six pins and that is how you get the points in a traditional tournament. I couldn’t be prouder of how the kids performed today. It is just a great feeling going into area next Saturday (at Jeff Davis) to have some momentum to build on.”
The sectional tournament will be the following weekend in the Toombs County High School Gym and then the GHSA State Traditional Tourney will wrap up the season in the Macon Centreplex.