The Toombs County High School wrestling team, which opened up the season finishing first in two dual tournaments, showed it’s prowess in the AA Area 1 Dual Tournament at Jeff Davis High School. The Bulldogs won their sixth straight area dual championship by beating Berrien County 66-16, Jeff Davis 57-24 and Vidalia 45-20 in the finals.
“I thought we wrestled relatively well,” head coach Bill Benton said. “We wrestled everybody up (in weight class) from 120 pounds to 138. Those guys covered and did well. I thought our heavier guys wrestled hard. A couple of them didn’t pin that I thought might pin. We got Alex Gordy a match for the first time this season. He has been out with an ankle injury. He is still not 100% by any means but just getting him on the mat to watch him wrestle was fun. I thought- all in all- we wrestled well and Vidalia wrestled a good dual.”
One of the Bulldog who stepped up in weight and excelled was sophomore Blake Hall. “Blake bumped up to 126 pounds and wrestled a guy from Jeff Davis, who is one of their best wrestlers, and Blake won a big match in that dual,” Benton said. Two-time state champion Ricardo Santana also wrestled at a higher weight. “Ricardo bumped up to 138 in every dual and wrestled well and he was never really challenged. It was good to see Rolando Tinoco who has been battling an injury and I thought he wrestled really well.”
The Bulldogs head to the Macon Centreplex for the 2019 GHSA State Dual Tournament which begins on Thursday, January 17. Toombs County is seeded second in the 12-team field and has earned a bye in the first round. The Bulldogs will jump into tourney action in the quarterfinal round at 8:30 p.m. taking on the winner of the Bremen and Dade County dual. Bremen is an area champion. The AA semifinals will be on Friday at 1:30 p.m. and the finals will be Saturday at 3 p.m.
Elbert County is on Toombs County’s side of the bracket and Elbert had to wrestle Social Circle in the area tourney. Social Circle won 44-30. Social Circle will be the team to watch in the upper part of the bracket. The Redskins have replaced Jefferson as the AA state dual powerhouse. Jefferson won sixth straight GHSA Dual Championships before moving up to AAA. Social Circle has won fourth straight state dual titles including last year when they beat Toombs County for the championship. Elbert finished second in the region on Saturday.
When you take on quality teams like Bremen, Elbert County and Social Circle it is nice to have choices when you send your 14 wrestlers to the mat. “We have some options especially in the 113, 120 and 126 pound weight classes with Cruz Arredondo, Martin Santana and Blake Hall all weighing in there pretty close. We are going to take a look and see. We are tied in at 106 and heavyweight and everything else- based on match ups- can be bumped around. A lot of thought process goes into that. At the end of the day your guys have to go out and perform. Sometimes not getting pinned is as big as getting a win. If you don’t get pinned it is only a three-point win for the other team. It can negate some things down the line. Dual wrestling is a lot of fun,” Benton said.
There is one big difference in this year’s dual state tourney. It is three days and not just two. “We have never had a three day state tourney before. I feel bad for those guys who really have to hold their weight because they have to make weight on Thursday and then they get a plus one-pound and then they have to make weight on Friday and Saturday.”