Tyler Marinelli outmaneuvered his 138-lb. opponents to win his weight class and lead Jefferson High School to a second-place finish at a wrestling tournament viewed as a key test for state championship contenders.
Class AAAAAA’s Archer earned 273.5 points to secure first place at Habersham Central High School’s Sham Slam traditional meet Saturday. The Dragons followed with a combined score of 204. Collins Hill (199.5), Carrollton (186), North Gwinnett (141.5), Banks. Co. (130) and Commerce (108) rounded out the top seven. All but North Gwinnett, another 6A school, finished fourth or better at the recent duals state championships.
The Dragons, who captured the Class AA duals title, did not compete in one weight class, which added pressure to the JHS’ 13 wrestlers to do well in the grueling two-day, 27-team event. Every Dragon wrestler contributed to the points total.
“Everybody we carried won matches and ended up giving us the points we needed to pull second,” Jefferson coach Doug Thurmond said. “They had to wrestle well with this tournament. It was a very tough tournament. I was very pleased this weekend.”
Also placing for the Dragons were: third, Chase Piperato (106-lbs.); fifth, Ben Kelly (113-lbs.); fourth, Kyle Kashuba (120-lbs.); fourth, Josh Harris (126-lbs.); second, Jack Dollar (145-lbs.); second, Jake Sherman (152-lbs.); fourth, Zach Rhymer (160-lbs.); sixth, Jace McColskey (182-lbs).
The Dragons were scheduled to compete in a tri-meet Wednesday at Mill Creek against the Hawks and Brookwood. It was expected to be JHS’ last meet before the season-ending state tournaments in February.
At stake is a momentous streak, including JHS’ attempt for a 13th-consecutive state title in the traditional format. The Area 4-AA meet will take place at Greater Atlanta Christian on Feb. 1-2. The top four wrestlers in each weight class will advance to the sectional tournament Feb. 8-9, with the state meet planned at the Macon Centreplex Feb. 14-16.
Thurmond said the way Jefferson earned second at the Sham Slam is how the team will have to go about stalking another traditional championship.
“All our guys are going to have to place,” he said. “If all of our guys wrestle well, we’ll have a chance to do well.”
Several of the more competitive teams in Class AA will be coming up in the other state sectional and therefore won’t meet Jefferson until the finals in Macon, assuming the Dragons cruise as they have for a dozen years.
Bremen, which fell to JHS in the duals finals, is expected to be among those teams. So is Calhoun.
“Archer is the strongest overall team top to bottom in Georgia right now. They are what I would call loaded,” Thurmond said. “As far as the field, you’d call this the (Sham Slam) tournament in Georgia, especially this time of year. If you are trying to get your team ready, that is what you’re looking for, why we go… I was very pleased with this past weekend.”
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