By J. SCOTT HELTON
The Chattooga Indians wrestling team was able to accomplish something that has never occurred since the school established the program in 1989, which is winning the state duals championship. The school has produced 14 individual champions, but since the GHSA began duals competition in Georgia, the highest Chattooga placed was state runner-up in 2002, so this is an enormous step in the program.
The Indians began the tournament against a strong program in the Bremen Blue Devils, who recently won three duals championships in 2009, 2010, 2011, in the single-A classification. Bremen also won a state-title at AAA in 2017. The Indians were leading Bremen 59-6 when they decided to forfeit the final matches to rest the team. The final score was Chattooga 59-24 as the Indians advanced to the next round to take on Elbert County, who finished second in the double-A duals last year.
The match against Elbert County was close, but Chattooga managed to come out on top by a score of 45-27, putting them in the finals against the defending five-time state champion Social Circle Redskins, describing Social Circle as a powerhouse is an understatement. The team had won the last five duals championships after knocking off Jefferson High, who had won the previous six titles in AA and before that Jefferson had won an incredible seven titles from 2002 through 2008 in Single-A, dominating the division.
Defending State Champion Alex Mears (220) began the championship finals for the Indians with an impressive 17-1 technical fall win over his opponent, which was followed by a quick pin by Luis Medina (285) to give Chattooga an 11-0 lead. The Indians suffered a loss at 106 lbs., but pins by defending state-champs Griffin Jarrett (113) and Wes Conley (120) put the Indians up 23-6. Losses at 126 lbs. and 132 lbs. gave Social Circle more points as they tried to get back into the competition. Fortunately, Indians Timmy Robinson and Balyn Stephens fought hard and kept Social Circle from getting bonus points, which lead to arguably the most important match of the day for Chattooga at 138 lbs.
The score had narrowed to 23-15 when Indian Jason Malone picked up critical points with a pin of his opponent. “That was a huge momentum swing for us in the finals,” Coach Brian Beasley said after the finals.
Malone’s effort was followed up by Mason Sterner (145) and Rowan Burdick (152) with pins to give Chattooga the lead, 41-15. Then, Jakoby Cottrell (170), Devon Heroch (182), and Ty Veatch (195) all pinned their opponents to secure the state title for the Indians.
The finals are an example of how strong the Indians’ wrestling program has become. Out of 14 weight classes, the Indians won 10 matches – nine of them by pin and one by technical fall. Chattooga’s margin of victory (38 points) was the most out of every classification. They scored more points than any team (59), and they had the most pins (9) in the finals. Griffin Jarrett (113), Wes Conley (120), Mason Sterner (145), Rowan Burdick (152), Jakoby Cottrell (170), Devon Heroch (182), Ty Veatch (195), Alex Mears (220), and Luis Medina (285) all went unbeaten over the weekend.
Coach Brian Beasley gave his team some well-earned praise after winning the title, “This was an amazing weekend for the team, and I am so proud of the effort and focus of each wrestler going into their match this weekend.”
By J. SCOTT HELTON