Three Winder-Barrow wrestlers and one from Apalachee had first-place finishes Saturday, Feb. 1, in the GHSA Area 8-AAAAAA tournament, while four more Bulldoggs and five additional Wildcats qualified for the upcoming state sectionals this weekend.

Winder-Barrow seniors Rosseau O Asu Abang (195 pounds) and Nate Allen (182) repeated as area champions in their respective weight classes and had little trouble doing so, going 2-0 on the day at Lanier High School. Asu Abang pinned Dacula’s Gianni Araujo and Habersham Central’s Tanner Wade, while Allen pinned Habersham Central’s Ashton Parks and Dacula’s Komlan Akoussan.

Mason Bell went 3-0 on the day to win the title at 106 pounds for Winder-Barrow. After pinning Apalachee’s Owen Mabry in the quarterfinals, he won a 7-5 decision over Dacula’s Simaj Best and pinned Lanier’s Chris Wheeler in the finals.

First-year varsity wrestler junior Jacob Merrifield had a runner-up finish at 285 pounds, pinning Dacula’s Riley Adcock before dropping a 5-1 decision to Habersham Central’s Josh Wade in the finals.

Christopher Walker (132 pounds) and Chas Ferm (160) went 2-1 on the day for the Bulldoggs, finishing third. After an 11-0 loss to Gainesville’s Leandro Chavez, Walker defeated Apalachee’s Colton Austin 8-5 and then squeaked out a 6-5 decision over Lanier’s Wyatt Smith in the third-place match. Ferm lost his first match to Habersham Central’s Colby Watson 8-2 before pinning Lanier’s Camden Doker and defeating Gainesville’s Tyvez Bledson 13-0.

Joshua Rucker finished fourth at 138 pounds for the Bulldoggs to also qualify for sectionals.

Meanwhile, Apalachee was led by Isaiah Skinner, who won the area title at 126 pounds. Skinner defeated Lanier’s Weston Ward 6-1 and then beat Gainesville’s Brian Le 8-2.

Bryson Ferguson, who won the previous two area titles at 138 pounds, took second at 145 pounds Saturday, going 2-1 on the day. After pinning Gainesville’s Joey Benitez and Dacula’s Ethan Adcock, Ferguson was pinned by Lanier’s Zander Clark in the finals.

Hunter Noblett, the area champion at 170 pounds a year ago, took second at 160 pounds, defeating Bledson 12-7 before losing to Watson 11-1 in the finals.

The Wildcats also got a trio of fourth-place finishes from Isaac Budu (170 pounds), Ryan Szendel (182) and Leevi Norberg (120). Budu won a pair of matches with a 14-1 decision over Habersham Central’s Joel Compton and a pin of Winder-Barrow’s Riley Sample.

Winder-Barrow finished fifth out of six in the overall team standings with 105 points, while Apalachee (73) was sixth. Gainesville won the team title with 173.5 points, followed by Lanier (157), Habersham Central (150) and Dacula (131).

The Bulldoggs and Wildcats will take part in the Class AAAAAA sectionals at Lanier on Friday and Saturday, Feb. 7-8. The top eight wrestlers in each weight class will qualify for next week’s state tournament in Macon.

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