The Jackson County wrestling team was just a handful of points shy of repeating as Region 8-AAAAA Championships on Friday (Jan. 7).
The Panther lost to Walnut Grove in the finals 39-34, but won two duals in lopsided fashion to get there and punched their ticket to the state quads this Saturday (Jan. 15).
“It was really close,” said head coach Jason Powers. “It came down to one match, one way or the other. If you pick a 14-match dual, you always find one or two you wish you had an opportunity to get back…. We wrestled well against Walnut Grove, it’s just one of those deals where sometimes we came out, and instead of scoring points first, we looked to pin early. Sometimes that causes you to run your gas tank low.
“Overall, I think our kids wrestled really well. We gave ourselves a shot to be in there… we came up a little bit short of our goal, but we still qualified for state quads and now we have to do some work this weekend.”
Jackson County advanced to the finals with wins over Clarke Central in the quarterfinals, and Greenbrier in the semifinals. The Panthers dominated the Gladiators 72-12, but their 48-27 win over Greenbrier was most impressive as the Wolfpack had finished ahead of them at several tournaments this season.
“Greenbrier is a tough program,” Powers said. “We knew we were going to be in for a fight. The difference was that we came out at 160 lbs. And rolled them up all the way through 220 lbs. Their first win was at heavyweight. Really, through the first half of the dual, [Greenbrier] hadn’t scratched the board.
“We really did dash their hopes of winning early… We closed the dual before they really got rolling. It’s always important to jump on people quickly and get a little momentum. Our kids did a fantastic job. I feel like we wrestled really well all weekend. We wrestled sharp without a whole lot of mistakes. We wrestled clean.”
The duals season is far from over. Jackson County host Franklin County and Washington-Wilkes this Wednesday (Jan. 12) for a senior night event before traveling to Harris County this Saturday for the AAAAA State Quads.
The Panthers’ opponents Saturday are North Springs and Harris County. Powers believes his team should handle North Springs, but he expects a very tough match against Harris County.
“We’re going to have to go to war, we’re going to have to wrestle hard,” he said. “We’re going to have to focus on scoring points. I feel like there’s going to be a lot of matches in that dual that are one or two-point match-ups and you have to win more one-to-two-point matches than you lose to win a dual like that.
“I feel like it’s going to be a real tight dual, it’s going to be a really hard contested dual but I have faith in our kids that we’ll have a great week of practice and be ready to go by the time Saturday gets here.”
With success at the state quads, Jackson County will reach the AAAAA State Duals in Macon next Saturday (Jan. 22). The Panthers’ next traditional event is the Region 8-AAAAA Tournament on Jan. 29 at Walnut Grove.