The Banks County High School Leopard Matmen took to the Macon Centreplex for the State Traditional Tournament on Friday and Saturday. The Leopards scored 88.00 points to place third as a team and brought home one wrestler as a state champion, Chris McCrackin. Woodward Academy took first place with 138.00 points and Oconee County placed second with 101.00 points.
"We placed third as a team and thought we could push for the number one spot and our expectations were extremely high for that spot,” Coach Kasey Hanley said. “Woodward qualified 11 athletes and we only had eight but I thought we could push them for that number one spot and we had to wrestle perfect. These kids work hard and we got to see them as they came off the mat wanting to win."
BCHS took eight wrestlers to compete at the meet and one alternate was earned but did not get the chance to participate in the tournament. It has been six years since Jamie Ledford wrestled for the Leopards at the State Traditional Tournament as a finalist.
Freshman Chris McCrackin won the first bout against Woodward Academy's Grady Pastor with a pin and took out Carver's DeAndre Jackson in the second round by decision 4-2 an went on to win in the 106 pound class for the title against North Hall's Taylor Marett. McCrackin won by a 6-2 decision.
Chris got the first takedown and percentages favor the wrestler that makes that move to win the match. 86 percent of the time the wrestler that makes the first take down wins the match. The last state champion for BCHS was in 1989 when Shane Jones won a title.
McCrackin has put a lot of time in wrestling throughout the year and got extra practice where ever he could hit a mat. It's not the first time that Chris has finished on top. Several weeks ago he competed in a national tournament and placed first in his weight class.
Senior Mason Patton wrestled in the 126 pound weight class and placed second to Buford's Brayden Hartley with a 11-9 decision. The loss came in overtime with a questionable call by the referee. Patton was down four points with seconds to go in the match and got two takedowns to tie it up and go into overtime. Going for a leg shot, Hartley stepped over Mason's ankle to take control and get the takedown and the points to win.
"The call was very odd and other referees and coaches opinions were supportive of a poor call to be a state final match," said Coach Hanley.
In the 132 pound weight class was Senior Francisco Hurtado. Hurtado finished in eighth place at state. He lost in the first round to Sonoraville's Matt Charles.
"Hurtado had all the capabilities to be in the finals," said Coach Hanley.
Hurtado lost by major decision 14-3 in the wrestle back for third or fifth place to McNair's Zeontaye McCoy.
Junior Tony Fultz wrestled in the 138 pound weight class. He took on Woodward Academy's Caleb Greer and lost by a 13-7 decision. Fultz took on St. Pius Dalton Scoggins in the wrestle back for third or fifth place but lost by decision 10-6.
In the 160 pound weight class was Junior Wes Faulkner. He had undoubtedly the toughest match up of any BCHS athlete at the State Tournament in the finals. But first he took on Sonoraville's Jerrett Derryberry and won a 5-3 decision. Then Rockmart's Marlon Morales for a 3-2 decision and finally Woodward Academy's Chad Pyke.
The holder of the national high school record for wins with 329 career victories. Pyke has a 89-2 record this season and has rewritten all the record books for Woodward Academy. Wes Faulkner took second place at the State Traditional Tournament.
Senior Eli Smallwood placed second losing to Jackson Counties Davion Ledford in the finals to a 5-1 decision. Smallwood won in the first round against Cartersville's Gerry Vassel by pin and Swainsboro's Dalvin Lott in round two by a decision of 5-4.
"Smallwood is a fierce competitor and has made great strides this year," said Coach Hanley.
Senior Hayden Dilbeck wrestled in the 182 pound weight class and finished in fifth place. Dilbeck faced Dawson Counties Gavin Brown in round one and lost on a 3-2 decision. He went on to win by a decision of 7-3 in the first wrestle back match against Woodward Academy's Cai Glencross. But then suffered another loss to Elbert Counties K'Taro Cade by a 11-8 decision. Dilbeck wrestled Derival Stevenson for the fifth place slot and won by a 6-4 decision.
"Hayden gives everything he has during every single match," said Hanley.
In the 195 pound weight class was Sophomore Matthew Dilbeck. Matthew won round one against Carver's Israel Wheat by a 9-3 decision. Then lost to North Oconee's Dakota Greene in a 4-2 decision. Greene would take it all the way and become the state champ in this division. Dilbeck started the wrestle back for third place but fell short of the mark against Nate Long in a 4-3 decision and was placed on the trail to a fifth place finish with a win over Israel Wheat from Carver, whom he had previously beaten in round one.
Highlight of the season for coach Hanley and the team was winning the State Duals.
"This speaks a lot of the kids we have on our team, they love each other and compete harder for each other than they do individually and all of our kids were state champions till they entered this tournament, secondly was seeing Chris win the state championship as a freshman,” Hanley said. “I have been waiting for eight years to see someone win from Banks County."
Hanley said that it’s sad to see the seniors last matches but these kids have to move on and grow up. Several of the wrestlers that didn't make the cut were on hand to watch and gain knowledge during the event. Even the coaches came away with something from the tournament.
"The coaching staff we have is very sound , no egos get in the way of preparing the kids,” Hanley said. “Each one of us loves these kids and would do anything to help them in the sport of wrestling, a word of thanks goes out to Adam Nichols, Mark Crook and Sam Baxter for their hard work and dedication to the Banks county Wrestling program.”
BCHS will have nine starters return in the 2013-14 season including State Champion Chris McCrackin. The season comes to an end with a 30-1 record and the only loss of the season to nationally ranked Pope High School.