It wasn't a perfect sweep of champions at the Area 6-A tournament last Saturday (Feb. 1) for the Commerce Tigers wrestling program, but it was a perfect day of advancing a step closer to the state tournament in Macon.
The Tigers secured six individual area champions en route to sending all 13 of its wrestlers through to the state sectionals this weekend (Feb. 7-8) at Strong Rock Christian School in Locust Grove. The performance also secured the team area title for Commerce. The Tigers scored 262 points, besting second-place finisher Riverside Military Academy by 72.
Commerce had nine wrestlers compete in the finals of the area tournament. Daniel Nash (106), Dawson Legg (113), Bryson Flint (126), Michael Sherman (138), Jake Frates (182) and Elijah Burns (195) all won area titles.
"I'm real pleased," head coach Kendall Love said about his team's performance. "The guys wrestled real hard. We're taking all 13. We were out one before the tournament ... So that sets stuff up nicely for sectionals next week.
"When you do that, you've got to be pleased. The guys wrestled hard. I thought we looked the best we've looked in a while, which is great. I think we always tend to peak at the right time. The guys worked hard and having all 13 top three, not top four, is big."
The second-place finishers for the Tigers were Caleb Lovin (120), Brayden Phillips (170) and Josh Frates (220). The third-place finishers were Landon Worley (132), Logan Sherman (152), Lambdin Hardy (160) and Ethan Epps (285).
Love admitted this area tournament is special due to the "ups and downs" the team has faced.
"The fact that we are pulling together when it matters is always a good thing. I'm definitely going to get some good rest tonight and go back to work and see what we can do," Love said.
At the Class A-A sectional, the Tigers will see some familiar faces from the area. They will also see some new faces from the likes of Irwin County, Charlton County, Calvary Day School, Crawford County, Eagle's Landing Christian, Georgia Military College, Greene County, Landmark Christian and more.
Love said the key to advancing wrestlers through to Macon is to keep doing what they've been doing.
"We've got to get better in the (wrestling) room this week and keep our conditioning going," Love explained. "Our area has some great kids, and we're going to see them again. It's not over yet. We've got one more step from sectionals to state ... Our guys are believing right now. They're wrestling tough. I have no doubt they'll go hard next weekend, too."
Nash started the area tournament finals off with a quick pin-fall win over Cullen Finneran in the first round. Legg followed and eclipsed Nash, scoring a pin-fall win over Malcolm Graham to secure the second area title for Commerce.
The next title came from Flint, who led 2-0 after the first period. In the second round, Flint made his move for the win, getting the pin-fall victory with 34 seconds left in the second period.
In the 138-pound final, Michael Sherman dominated. He led 2-0 after the first and 5-0 after the second. In the third, Sherman added six more points to win the fourth area title with an 11-4 decision.
Jake Frates and Burns capped off the finals with dominating performances. Both wrestlers got pin-fall wins to give Commerce the fifth and sixth area titles, respectively.
In the finals' losses, Lovin trailed 5-2 entering the third period. He was able to get one point but fell short by a 6-3 decision.
Phillips lost via pin in the first round. Josh Frates was in a close battle, 0-0 after the second period. His opponent, Jonathan Chesser, scored three points in the final period to win the match by a 3-0 decision.