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SPORTS SECTION

SPORTS SECTION - FEBRUARY 9, 2000

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Three Cheers
Commerce Competitive Cheerleading Team Wins Class A Title In Columbus
It took less than 20 minutes for Commerce High School to win the state championship in competitive cheerleading.
Every time the team competed this year, it was judged on a two-and-a-half-minute routine.
While countless hours of preparation filled the gaps, the whole season came down to a handful of those sessions.
Commerce made the most important performance pay off Friday afternoon with the best effort in Class A at the Columbus Civic Center.
The event had been scheduled for Jan. 29, but was postponed due to wintry weather around the state.
Commerce earned a spot in the state event by winning the Region 8-A title last month at Dawson County High School.
Commerce took first place. Bremen was the second-place team.
Other schools in the event included: Aquinas, Dawson County, Irwin County, Bacon County, Hawkinsville, East Laurens, Gordon Lee, Monticello, Miller County, Metter, Brookstone, Emanuel County Institute, Landmark Christian and Calhoun.

Tigers Advance To Semifinals
CHS Downs Wesleyan For 3rd Time
Saturday night's win over Wesleyan came easily, but at a high price for Commerce.
The Tigers breezed to an 86-46 win Saturday, but lost senior guard Daniel Carder to a sprained ankle.
That meant that Commerce would have to face Wesleyan for the third time in a week in the first round of the subregion tournament Monday night without the team's second leading scorer, Carder.
But the Tigers proved that they have plenty of other weapons in a 78-65 win over the Wolves.
The team's offensive leader, Michael Collins, led the scoring with 27 points and 11 rebounds, despite being hounded by a box-and-one defense that concentrated on him.
Junior Wes Massey poured in 23 points. Twion Shealer added 21 points and eight boards.
After scoring a total of five points in the previous two meetings with Wesleyan, Massey knew he would have to pick up some of the slack created by Carder's abscence.
"When you lose a player like Daniel, you can say that you lose 50 percent of your offense," Massey said. "But you also lose rebounds, defense, leadership - he just does a lot for this team. Coach (Rex) Gregg said that somebody was going to have to step up.
"It wasn't really that hard for me. When they ran the box-and-one on Collins, it really freed me up."
Massey attempted 10 shots from the field in the game, all were three-pointers. Six of his field goals found the mark.
The Commerce team also reversed its season-long woes at the foul line, hitting on 11 of 12 attempts Monday night.
Both teams had excellent nights shooting.
Commerce was 57 percent from the floor and 92 percent from the line.
Wesleyan shot 57 percent from the floor. The Wolves hit all three of their foul shots.
Commerce did not give Wesleyan a chance to score points at the foul line in the second half, as the Tigers committed no fouls.
The effective shooting limited rebounds to 43 for both teams for the entire game.
Commerce had grabbed 40 rebounds on its own in the two teams' game Saturday night.
"We played a great game offensively," Gregg said. "We moved the ball well. I didn't think we took that many bad shots."
Monté Williams finished the night with eight assists.
WESLEYAN II
At full force, Commerce handled Wesleyan 86-46 Saturday night. The Tigers jumped to a 23-11 lead at the end of the first quarter and never looked back. Leading 48-27 at the half, Commerce had already scored more points than the Wolves would manage for the game. Four Tigers finished in double figures for scoring.
Carder had 14 points, nine rebounds and seven assists before exiting the game with his injury.
Collins led the team with 21 points. He added seven boards, four steals and six assists.
R.T. Poole had a season high 20 points as a starter. Twion Shealer had 18 points and six rebounds. Massey had no points in the game, but dished out seven assists.
GAC
The top seeded Greater Atlanta Christian Spartans did not let up in their game Friday night against Commerce.
GAC used a 22-11 edge in the second quarter to pull away and coast to a 92-76 win.
GAC controled the boards, grabbing 24 defensive rebounds to Commerce's eight.
The Spartans shot 64 percent from the field and 79 percent from the line.
Collins scored 23 points, eight assists and eight rebounds. Shealer scored 17 points. Carder had 13 points. R.T. Poole had eight points.
WESLEYAN I
Commerce downed the Wolves 79-48 in the first meeting of the season for the two teams in Norcross on Feb. 1. A 20-5 run in the final period pulled Commerce ahead for the win.
Collins led the team with 25 points. He added seven boards and four assists.
Carder had 23 points, seven rebounds and four assists.
Shealer scored 15 points and grabbed nine boards.
RIVERSIDE
Commerce picked up a 74-60 win against Riverside Jan. 25. Carder led the Tigers with 26 points. Collins added 21 points and 11 rebounds. Shealer scored 14 points. Massey had 11 points.


Wesleyan Eliminates Lady Tigers, 71-51
The Commerce Lady Tigers' season came to a close Tuesday night at the hands of a 71-51 loss to Wesleyan in the Region 8-A South tournament at Jefferson High School.
Further details were not available at press time.
Monday's meeting with the Lady Wolves was the third in one week for Commerce.
Commerce closed out the regular season with a 65-52 loss to Wesleyan. The Wolves outscored the Lady Tigers 35-18 over the second and third quarters to pull away.
Shemika Reed scored 13 points for Commerce to lead the way. She added five assists. Monique Diamond scored 12 points. Sheka Wheeler had eight points and seven rebounds.
GAC
Greater Atlanta Christian used a 19-6 run to beat Commerce 49-46 Friday night.
Diamond led Commerce with 16 points.
Reed scored 13 points and grabbed eight boards. She added six assists.
Charlene Gaither scored 11 points and bagged six rebounds.



BCHS closes home court
Senior Bree Whitlock scores 1,000th point
While the subregion tournament lay ahead this week, Banks County's game Friday night with Towns County closed the regular season schedule.
Banks County's boys topped Towns County 77-62. The girls fell to the Lady Indians 71-65.
Senior Bree Whitlock scored 31 points, the fifth straight game she had scored 20 or more, to close out her career with 1,000 points.
"Here at the end of the season, (Whitlock) starting shooting the way I always knew she could," coach Mike Gordon said. "That's one that you hate to see go. She's been with me for four years. Every coach wants players like that."
Seniors from the cheerleaders and the basketball teams were honored Friday at a ceremony between the two games.
The student-athletes were escorted to midcourt, where they were given medals and other tokens.
GIRLS
Towns County outscored the Lady Leopards 21-12 in the final period to take the six-point win.
Whitlock hit all 14 of her free throw attempts in reaching her game high 31 points.
Haley Crumley added 11 points. Holcomb scored nine points.
Whitlock, Brittany Holcomb, Michelle Snipes, Johnna Williams and Brooke Shubert closed out their senior home seasons.
TOURNAMENT
Banks County's girls closed out their season Monday with a 62-48 loss to Dawson County in the Region 8-A North tournament.
The Lady Leopards cut the Dawson County lead to five points just before halftime at 28-23. But the Lady Tigers went on an 8-0 run to close out the half with a 36-23 lead.
In a run that spanned the third and fourth quarter, Dawson County went on another 8-0 run to pull away for good.
The girls closed out their season with an 11-10 record.
BOYS
Each team made runs at each other, but Banks County's boys outscored Towns County 32-24 in the final quarter to clinch the win.
The Leopards took a 38-23 lead at halftime, thanks in part to a 15-6 run in the second period.
Towns County responded in the third quarter with a 15-7 run to narrow the Banks County lead to 45-38.
Scoring picked up in the final period as the two teams combined for 68 points.
"Here at the end of the season we've beaten Union at Union, Towns and Dawson," coach Mike Ruth said. "Those were teams that beat us the last time we played them. Our team just said, 'They're not going to beat us again.'"
The Leopards had four players in double firgures in scoring.
Mike Ivey led the way with 20 points. Victor Bonds added 19 points. Bray Maxwell scored 14 points.
Seniors Blakley Crumley and Justin Smith played their last games before the home crowd. B. Crumley had 13 points. Smith finished with nine points.

Howard moves to state
Banks County's Richard Howard will compete this weekend at the Class A state wrestling tournament at Riverside Military Academy.
Howard finished fourth at the area tournament in the 171-pound class last Saturday to earn a berth. He will face a tough competitor in the first round from the top-ranked team in Class A, Lovett.
Charles Beard finished in fourth place last year in the 189-pound class, but dropped down to 171 for this year.
Kevin Hall and Sylvan Erb-Summer each had sixth-place finishes for Banks County.
Session I action begins Friday at 3 p.m. Session II starts Saturday at 9:30 p.m. Finals will take place at approximately 6 p.m. for Session III. Admission prices for the state tournament are $7 per session. All-session tickets may be purchased for $12.
The top four individual finishers in each weight class from each of the four areas in the state move on to the Class A tournament.
Banks County finished the area tournament with 16 points. Jefferson won the team compeition with Commerce and Oglethorpe County rounding out the top three.

Kevin Hall 6
Richard Howard 4
Sylvan Erb-Summer 6Shall we gather at the river? Riverside to be exact, for the Class A state wrestling tournament this weekend.
Commerce High School will send 11 wrestlers to compete in the event, which begins Friday afternoon at Riverside Military Academy.
Session I action begins Friday at 3 p.m. Session II starts Saturday at 9:30 p.m. Finals will take place approximately at 6 p.m. for Session III. Admission prices for the state tournament are $7 per session. All-session tickets may be purchased for $12.
The top four individual finishers in each weight class from each of the four areas in the state move on to the Class A tournament.
Commerce finished second in the Area IV-A tournament Saturday at Dawson County.
Blake Milford, Wes Smith, Adam Perry, Tyson Brown and Eric Moore each earned individual titles.
Lee Sorrow, Daniel Arwood and John Martin reached the finals. Jonathan Beasley, Wes Prickett and Chadd Scoggins placed fourth. Kyle Moore and Taylor Massey finished fifth and are alternates for the state meet.
Jefferson took first place in the area tournament, sending 13 wrestlers to state.


BCMS 8th grade teams in basketball action
The Banks County Middle School eighth grade basketball teams recently played four games against Oglethorpe County, North Hall, East Hall and Franklin County middle schools.
GIRLS
The girls lost their game against Oglethorpe County 37-22. Jennifer Martin led BCMS with 12 points.
Other scorers against Oglethorpe County included: Chastico Beasley, six; Janna Hobson, two; Wynonna Parson, one; Erin Westmoreland, one.
The girls lost their game to North Hall 39-19. Beasley scored 11 points and Martin added eight. Nicole Powell also scored one point.
The girls lost to East Hall 35-27. Martin scored 16 points. Beasley and Parson each added five points.
The girls lost to Franklin County 47-40. Beasley scored 16 points. Martin added 13 points. Parson and Jessica Freeman each scored four points. Ashley Dumas added two point.
BOYS
The boys beat Oglethorpe County 51-48. Reggie Smith led Banks County with 10 points.
Jimmy Bryant scored nine points. Tra Smith scored eight points.
Other scorers against Oglethorpe County included: Kyle Roberts, seven; Seth McCoy, six; Alex Cruce, five; Chase Martin, four; D.J. Ledford, two.
The boys beat North Hall 56-48. R. Smith led the team with 11 points. Bryant and Matt Dale each scored nine points.
Other scorers against North Hall included: Cruce, five; McCoy, five; T. Smith, five; Ledford, four; Tim Brown, three; Roberts, three; Mickey Mullin, one; Michael Haynes, one.
The boys beat East Hall 27-26. Bryant led the team with seven points.
Other scorers included: R. Smith, six; McCoy, four; Martin, four; Cruce, three; T. Smith, two; Roberts, two.
The boys beat Franklin County 55-52. T. Smith led the team with 16 points. R. Smith added 12 points. Roberts scored nine.
Other scorers included: McCoy, four; Ledford, four; Cruce, three; Martin, three; Dale, two; Roberts, two.



Dragons earn subregion win
BY TIM THOMAS
Subregion 8-A south tournament action is in full tilt this week at Jefferson High School.
The Lady Dragons earned an opening-round bye with a second-place finish in regular season subregion standings, and will see semifinal action against Greater Atlanta Christian Thursday at 4 p.m.
Meanwhile, Bolling DuBose's fourth-seeded boys defeated Providence Tuesday night, 64-52. Buzz Wehunt was a perfect 10-for-10 from the foul line in the final two minutes, and Daniel Goza pulled in three key defensive rebounds with less than one minute to play.
Both teams were sluggish out of the gate, and turnovers and missed shots were in abundance on both sides. Four minutes into the game, the score was knotted at 2-2.
Michael Newton hit a three-pointer late in the first frame to give the Dragons a 12-9 lead. Providence used a pair of three-point plays to go up 28-25 at intermission.
Jefferson heated up a bit in the third, as Wehunt scored seven of his 23 in the quarter. His team trailing 37-35, Wehunt teamed with Ryan Gurley to grab a steal, then raced to the basket for a layup and foul. The charity shot whooshed through the net.
Goza followed Wehunt's antics with two points of his own, and Nick Sheridan added two more after a Providence charge turned the ball over. Jefferson led 44-40 going into the final period.
Providence tied at 48 with five minutes to play, and trailed by only one at the three-minute mark. Goza and Kyle Potts teamed up to block a Providence shot under the net, and the possession arrow pointed to Jefferson after a jump ball was called.
Jefferson grabbed the momentum and ran with it, with Wehunt's 10 foul shots leading a 10-1 run to close the game.
The Dragons face a tough challenge Thursday against the number one seed, GAC. Tipoff is set for 8:30 p.m. Wins by Jefferson teams Thursday would clinch spots in the state tournament.

Dragons demolish area IV-A
'Most outstanding area performance in school history'
BY TIM THOMAS
Jefferson wrestlers will travel to Riverside Military Academy Friday and Saturday to vie for the 2000 state class A wrestling championship. The Dragons are ranked second in the state, behind defending champion Lovett.
Jefferson will be represented in 13 of the 14 weight classes, more than any school other than Lovett. The Lions qualified all 14 wrestlers for the tournament, including seven area champions and four runners-up.
This weekend's state tournament will mark the final coaching event of coach Jack Keen's career. The Dragons face a tall order in trying to surprise Lovett and take the class A trophy.
Lovett returns six medal-winners from last year's state championship team, including two champions. Jefferson has only three returning state placers ­ Justin Gooch (2nd, 125), Eric Wilburn (2nd, 135) and Steve Green (4th, 160).
On paper, the Lions hold about a 70-point tournament advantage over Jefferson, but that margin could be made up with two or three well-placed upsets.
One potential match to watch is between Green ­ who is 36-0 on the season ­ and Lovett's Charles Beard at 171. Both are returning fourth-place winners, but Green has moved up a weight class, while Beard has moved down. Barring a prior upset, the two should meet in the semifinal round. The winner would earn his team a 20-point swing in the standings. Thrown into the mix is Bo Dettmering, a Northgate wrestler who finished fourth at 152 last year. Green and Dettmering would meet in the quarterfinals.
Michael Albea, Joseph Carter, Chris Seibert and Chad Hemphill all face tough competition in their half of their respective brackets. All four Dragons would meet defending state champions before the finals.
Though Jefferson is likely the only team that could give Lovett a run, six others will bring a significant number of wrestlers to the tournament. Armuchee and Irwin County each qualified 12, and Commerce 11. Landmark, McIntosh and Northgate will each have 10 in the tournament. The top eight teams will showcase 41 percent of the field. A total of 38 schools will be represented at the tournament.
Wrestling is set to begin following opening ceremonies at 3 p.m. Friday, and continue through 9 p.m. There will be a 45-minute break at 5 p.m. Semifinals are scheduled for 9 a.m. Saturday, with final ceremonies at 6 p.m. and championship matches commencing around 6:30.
In winning last weekend's area tournament, Jefferson wrestlers turned in what coach Jack Keen termed the most outstanding area performance in school history. Jefferson placed 11 wrestlers in the final round, with six winning individual championships. Two others finished third.
Eric Wilburn was voted the tournament's most outstanding wrestler, after he defeated Commerce foe Lee Sorrow in the 135-pound final. Sorrow had previously beaten Wilburn three times this season. Both Sorrow and Wilburn won state medals last year, Sorrow a bronze at 130 and Wilburn silver at 135.
Keen also pointed to a number of other Jefferson wrestlers who came up with big upset wins to help the Dragon effort. Blake Gooch and Chad Hemphill each contributed key upset wins in the semifinals at 119 and 189. Joseph Carter managed two big upsets at 145 in the quarter and semifinals. All three wrestlers earned second-place finishes.
Winning area titles were Jeremiah Wilson, Michael Albea, Justin Gooch, Wilburn, Hunter Garner and Steve Green. The six area champions have combined for an amazing 186-21 record on the season.
Runners-up were B. Gooch, Jeremy Smith, Carter, Chris Seibert and Hemphill. Clint Bryson and Brendon Kemp finished third, and Jon Veldhuis fifth.
STATE PREVIEW
This weekend's state tournament will mark the final coaching event of Keen's career. The Dragons face a tall order in trying to surprise Lovett and take the class A trophy.
Lovett returns six medal-winners from last year's state championship team, including two champions. Jefferson has only three returning state placers ­ J. Gooch (2nd, 125), Wilburn (2nd, 135) and Green (4th, 160).
On paper, the Lions hold about a 70-point tournament advantage over Jefferson, but that margin could be made up with two or three well-placed upsets.
One potential match to watch is between Green ­ who is 36-0 on the season ­ and Lovett's Charles Beard at 171. Both are returning fourth-place winners, but Green has moved up a weight class, while Beard has moved down. Barring a prior upset, the two should meet in the semifinal round. The winner would earn his team a 20-point swing in the standings. Thrown into the mix is Bo Dettmering, a Northgate wrestler who finished fourth at 152 last year. Green and Dettmering would meet in the quarterfinals.
Albea, Carter, Seibert and Hemphill all face tough competition in their half of their respective brackets. All four Dragons would meet defending state champions before the finals.
Though Jefferson is likely the only team that could give Lovett a run, six others will bring a significant number of wrestlers to the tournament. Armuchee and Irwin County each qualified 12, and Commerce 11. Landmark, McIntosh and Northgate will each have 10 in the tournament. The top eight teams will showcase 41 percent of the field. A total of 38 schools will be represented at the tournament.
Wrestling is set to begin following opening ceremonies at 3 p.m. Friday, and continue through 9 p.m. There will be a 45-minute break at 5 p.m. Semifinals are scheduled for 9 a.m. Saturday, with final ceremonies at 6 p.m. and championship matches commencing around 6:30.


JHS alumnus booted from GSU baseball
Former Jefferson baseball standout Jody Pollock was among four players dismissed from the Georgia Southern baseball team last week.
In a press release dated February 1, head coach Rodney Hennon said the dismissals were the result of "a repeat infraction of athletics department and team rules."
The release indicated that players were "involved in a similar incident during the 1998 season [and] were issued a private departmental reprimand outlining the potential severity of future penalties."
Also dismissed were senior third baseman Ryan Peterson, junior outfielder Scott Burks and pitcher Rhett Roberts. Pollock, a senior, played third base for the Eagles last year, leading the team with a .387 batting average.
"We regret situations like this require extreme action," Hennon said. "However, for the benefit and future goals of the team and program, this was a very serious issue which needed to be promptly addressed."
Georgia Southern Director of Athletics Sam Baker agreed with Hennon.
"I fully support the decision made by coach Hennon and his staff," said Baker. "It's certainly disappointing, but no one player or players are ever larger than the program. We owe it to our commitment to departmental integrity and the responsibility of institutional decorum to address this situation."




Jackson County third in area, qualifies seven for state
BY TIM THOMAS
Seven Jackson County wrestlers will travel to Columbus this weekend to participate in the 2000 class AAA state wrestling championship. Matches are scheduled to begin at 11 a.m. Friday, and continue through around 9:30 p.m., with a 90-minute break at 5:30 p.m. Semifinals kick off Saturday's action at 10 a.m., and wrestling will continue until 4:30 p.m. Final ceremonies begin at 6:30 p.m., with championship matches immediately following.
Last weekend's area tournament may have set off a fiery new rivalry between Jackson County and Habersham Central. The Raiders finished first with 213 team points, followed by host Newton County at 181 and Jackson County at 168.
Team spirit reached a fever pitch several times during the tournament, as Panther and Raider wrestlers squared off in a number of close matches.
Friday night's 145-pound match between Wesley Colley and Habersham's Matt Speed finished with a close decision in favor of Speed. Colley remained on the mat while coach Phil Thurmond contested the scoring. After a lengthy delay, Speed was brought back to the mat and Colley declared the winner, 10-9. Habersham fans were irate, and cheered against Jackson County for the remainder of the tournament. Colley and Speed met later in the fifth-place match, with Speed coming out on top, 7-2.
Saturday morning's match between Brian Bowles and Raider Matt Cantrell at 130 set Habersham fans off again. A late 4-2 score ballooned to 14-13 in favor of Bowles as the pair tumbled through several moves just before the buzzer. The quick scoring had the scorer's table unsure about the outcome, but Bowles was given the nod after a brief huddle between coaches and officials.
Bowles went on to finish second to Mitch Rogers of Newton County. The final match between the two was voted the best match of the tournament, as Rogers took a 3-1 win.
Brian Gower (275) was also involved in a contested match in the semifinals, with Habersham's J. D. Broner. At one point, Broner was awarded a takedown as the pair went off the mat. Gower managed to get away quickly, and the official waved off the takedown. Disgusted Habersham fans raised the roof again.
The excitement seemed to invigorate Broner, who earned a takedown later in the match to take a tight 2-0 decision. Gower went on to qualify for the state tournament with a third-place finish.
Jarad Herrington earned a second-place finish at 125, losing to defending 119-pound state champion Paul Stansbury of Dacula. Herrington and Stansbury have squared off several times during the season, the most notable being Herrington's win in the final round of the Panther Invitational. Stansbury took the top spot in the area with a 3-1 decision. Herrington and Stansbury are considered by many to be the top contenders for a state title at 125.
Others qualifying for state were Rusty Colley (first at 119), Stephen Ledbetter (first at 135), Jason Powers (second at 103) and Steven Barber (second at 215).
Travis Ingram took sixth at 152. Others competing in the area tournament were Josh Jackson, Matt Potts, David Elkins, Jordan Breit and Lee Reece.


Boys bow out of tourney
18-4 Madison County Lady Raiders face N. Gwinnett today (Wed.)
BY BEN MUNRO
The Red Raider basketball team's rocky season came to a close Tuesday night in the opening round of the 8-AAA region tournament as Central Gwinnett downed Madison County 60-46 in Lawerenceville.
Meanwhile, the Madison County girls' basketball team, which ended the regular season at 18-4, was scheduled to face North Gwinnett today (Wednesday) at 7 p.m. Results of that contest were not available as of press time. The winner of that game will play Friday at 4 p.m. at Newton High School versus the winner of the Jackson County/Oconee County matchup. The winner of that game will play for the region title at 7 p.m. Saturday in the same Covington gym.
VERSUS C. GWINNETT
After trailing by six points after one half of play, the Raiders, who finished the season at 7-16, fell down by as many as 13 points during the third quarter and trailed 38-26 heading into the final period.
Down by 14 points during the final period of play, the Red Raiders attempted one last effort to keep their season alive, going on an 8-0 spurt to pull within six points, 40-34, with 5:45 left to play in the game.
However, Central Gwinnett snuffed out any fourth quarter sparks generated by the Raiders as they went on an 8-2 run to take a comfortable 48-36 edge with 3:24 remaining in the game. Madison County didn't threaten the lead again.
Leading the way in Central Gwinnett's win were Tristam Rodgers and Palmer McDuffie, who both tallied 15 points on the night.
The game started out on a good note for Madison County as they went on a 7-0 first quarter run to give themselves a 9-6 edge with 1:55 left in the opening quarter.
After being tied at nine at the end of the quarter and then falling down by three during the second quarter, Madison County then regained the lead at the 5:31 mark with a Chad Gillespie jumper making the score 15-14.
However, the Black Knights answered with seven consecutive points to close out the low-scoring first half, taking a 21-15 lead into the locker room.
Central Gwinnett started out the second half strong as they went on an early 7-2 run to push their lead to 28-18. However, the Raiders refused to sink as they responded by scoring six unanswered points to cut the lead to 28-24 with 3:05 left, giving the team some new life.
But the Black Knights quickly re-established their lead, putting together a 10-2 run to end the quarter.
Leading the way for Madison County in his last game as a Raider was senior Gillespie, who registered 15 points, followed by Jamaris Mattox, who had 10; Chris Lattimore, who had nine; and Trellis Appling and Jonathan Berrian, who had six apiece.

On to the next level
Austin, Ballenger, Cleghorne qualify for state tourney
BY ZACH MITCHAM
Three Madison County wrestlers - sophomore Steve Austin and juniors Matt Cleghorne and Randall Ballenger - earned a trip to the Class AAA state wrestling tournament in Columbus this weekend.
All three placed in the top four in their weight classes in the 11-team Area 8-AAA tournament at Newton High School in Covington Saturday.
Austin took third in the 119 lb. division. Cleghorne was fourth in the 103 lb. weight class and Ballenger placed fourth in the 125 lb. division.
While several Raider wrestlers turned in notable performances, Madison County did not fare well, finishing 10th out of 11 teams in the tournament with 66 points.
Habersham Central won the event with 213 points; Newton was second, 181; and Jackson County was third, 168.
Raider head coach Greg Gaines said he was pleased with the efforts of the the three qualifiers. Gaines said he expected Cleghorne, a force in the 103 lb. division, to qualify for state. But he was somewhat surprised with Austin and Ballenger.
"Steve pulled off some serious upsets," said Gaines. "He beat the three and four seeds to get to third place."
Gaines added that Ballenger also defeated a couple of formidable foes.
"He (Ballenger) beat two guys he'd never beaten," said Gaines. "He beat one guy he lost to in 39 seconds earlier this year."
Raider wrestlers Adam Thompson, Gary Evans and Joey Cash each finished sixth in the area tournament.
Gaines said that he expected five Raider wrestlers to qualify for the state tournament.
"Of the five I expected, only one made it," he said. "That will tell you that anything can happen."
While Madison County struggled with injuries and sickness at times this season, Gaines said he felt his squad had a good year. He noted that 21 wrestlers will return next season.
Seniors on this year's squad include Tony Patterson, Thompson, Evans, Cash and Nathan Bullock.
The state tournament will begin Friday at 11 a.m. at the Columbus Civic Center.


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