Mat Dogs qualify seven for Sectionals

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The Morgan County wrestling team hosted the Area 4-AAA Traditionals this past weekend and came up big by sending seven wrestlers to the State East Sectionals this Saturday at Greater Atlanta Christian High School.  Should these men finish in the top four of their respective weight class at GAC, they will then be headed to Macon for the State Championships.  The biggest news coming out of the weekend for MOCO was Garner Drummond’s first place finish at 152 to grab the Area Championship Award.

Coach Dusty Sidwell talked about the success of the team, “There’s something to be said about advancing to the sectionals.  We’re encouraging all our guys to keep driving to get to that podium at the Macon Coliseum in two weeks.  Garner had to overcome some obstacles this year to be the Area Champion.  He had to battle through some injuries to come out of what most people think is by far the toughest Area in the state in AAA.  Winning Area is a hefty task.”

When looking at 4-AAA overall, Sidwell has the goods to back up that statement.  North Hall has already won the state duals from the Area earlier in the month.  Jackson County finished fourth.  East Hall was the state runner-up a year ago and didn’t even qualify for sectionals this year.  He continued, “To make it out of our Area to Sectionals is quite an accomplishment given the depth and quality of wrestlers we have.”  There are several schools that place, qualify, or compete for the State Championships every year.

The other six wrestlers who qualified for Sectionals were ninth grader Griffin McAlister at 106, Tyler Snowden, a sophomore, at 113, senior Kevin Berisko at 138, Donovan McElligott, a junior, at 160, another junior, Finn Williams at 182, and senior Hayden Snowden at 195.  McAlister finished fourth in his weight class, T. Snowden finished third, Berisko was fourth, McElligott grabbed second place, Williams also finished second, and H. Snowden garnered a third place finish.

Sidwell again commented, “Donovan had a tough match in the finals only losing by two points to last year’s state finalist and Finn wrestled well.  If a few things had gone their way, we could have had three Area Champions.  On the other side of the coin, we had some heartbreaking losses in the round to qualify for Sectionals.  We had three seniors that didn’t make it who have gone out and worked their tail off that missed some opportunities and ended up not qualifying.  It’s tough to see them work so hard to achieve a goal that they fall short in.”  Those wrestlers included Tre Davis, Zach Smith at 145, and Mason Adams at 126.

Sidwell was quick to heap praise on his fine group of assistant coaches saying, “I couldn’t have done this without the quality help from our coaching staff.  These guys bring a lot of experience and knowledge to the room every day.”  Those assistants include Carter Shultz, a former three-sport standout at MCHS who, according to Sidwell, is a community coach in name only.  He’s spent four years on staff mainly working with the middle weights.  Sidwell said, “Coach Shultz brings a competitiveness to the room and continues to push the guys and keeps them on their toes with their skills.  Tim LeClair is a former undefeated State Champion who wrestled at the Division I level.  Sidwell said he brings a wealth of knowledge to the program.  Sam Simmons was a teammate of Sidwell’s on the 2003 and 2004 State Runners-up and was a state placer (top four in state).  Sidwell himself was a highly decorated wrestler for Coach Tim Stoudenmire and two-time State Champion at Morgan County who has paid his dues.  Although only in his first year at the helm of the program, he spent 10 years at Morgan County as an assistant before that with eight of those working with John Robbins.

When asked what the team’s goals were from here, Sidwell responded, “We plan on wrestling in the final eight-man bracket at Macon and getting everybody to State to accomplish our goal of placing at State (top six).  I think it’s a very realistic goal when we go up against another Sectional (West) that’s not quite as tough.  That goal is not too far out there, but it’s not easy.  I wouldn’t be surprised if a majority of our Area wrestlers make it to state.  We expect our wrestlers to be a part of that majority.”

The Dogs will compete at GAC in the Sectionals this Saturday, Feb. 3 before they move on to State competition Feb. 9-10 in Macon.  Good luck to the Mat Dogs!

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