Area wrestling teams finish strong at state - Oconee Enterprise
Oconee County’s high school wrestling teams turned in a strong 2020-21 performance.
Multiple teams throughout the county performed well during area competition and at the state level. That concluded last week with showing in the traditional state meets.
North Oconee High School placed the highest of any team in the area. The North Oconee wrestlers combined to score 177 during the individual competition, good enough for a second place finish in Class AAAA.
That placed the Titans just behind state champion Jefferson, which totaled 265. There was a considerable gap between North Oconee and the third place team, Flowery Branch (150).
North Oconee’s runner-up finish in the individual competition followed up a third place run through state duals.
The Titans’ state duals performance was preceded by them scoring a couple of upsets in the preliminary rounds.
They traveled to Northwest Whitfield for the preliminary rounds. Northwest Whitfield was the No. 5 team in the state at the time. North Oconee topped Luella and then beat Northwest Whitfield 44-17 to earn a spot in the duals finals.
For the individual competition last week, North Oconee was represented by Wyatt Anderson (21-6), Gavin Bloom (21-1), Beau Branand (26-0), Peyton Fanning (15-4), Ashton Hefner (22-5), Jonah Hunt (21-5), Luke Jarvis (21-6), Sam Johnson (21-3) and Hayden Prior (17-4).
Branand earned an individual championship by winning the 132 first place match. Johnson reached the finals and won in 152.
North Oconee head coach Walker Daniel said that, when he first took over the program, the Titans struggled sending wrestlers to the postseason competitions.
Now that he’s seen the program grow and develop into one of the top teams in the classification, Daniel is proud of everything he and the Titans established the last few years.
“What I'm most proud of is the sacrifices and commitment from our wrestlers and their families over the past several years,” Daniel said. “They've literally brought our team from an afterthought to a program that is now going toe-to-toe with some of the biggest powerhouse teams in the state.”
Athens Academy’s wrestling team also made a bit of history this season.
During region qualifying, Steven Holder won the first wrestling region championship in Athens Academy history.
Holder, along with Ethan Connelly, Clark O’Neill, Mo Alserafi, Michael Cashin, Khoa Lee and Charlie Vaughn reached the state meet.
Alserafi went 9-9, Connelly went 13-6, Cashin went 11-17 and Vaughn went 2-6. Holder (24-9) and O’Neill (21-6) posted the top results for the Spartans.
Oconee County High School was well-represented during the state competition as well.
The Warriors finished second in Area 8-AAA earlier this month. Zach Cartrette and Zane Fairbanks brought home individual area championships during the area competition.
They and several others also punched their tickets to the state competition.
Cartrette went 23-7 while Fairbanks finished 11-6.
Additionally, Mac Bowen (15-8), Eli Canup (21-6), Simms Dresch (21-7), Dylan Gooch (19-7), Daniel Jaeck (6-5), Pyren Queen (15-10), Garrett Short (19-11), Eric Thompson (24-6) and Hank Veit (12-3) represented the Warriors during the individual state meet.
Starting with the 2015-16 school year, wrestling has been added to the list of the school's athletic offerings. Since wrestling takes place in the winter athletic season, the addition of the sport provides a welcome opportunity for student-athletes who might not otherwise participate in basketball or swimming & diving.