HOFFMAN

Jackson County's Cooper Hoffman tangles with an opponent from Ware County during a 34-33 win over the Gators during the Class AAAAA state duals. 

Jackson County shifts its focus toward the individual portion of the wrestling season following a fifth-place finish at the Class AAAAA state duals. 

The Panthers will compete at the traditional region tournament Saturday (Feb. 6, 9 a.m.) at Loganville. 

“It’s going to be the same mindset as we took to duals,” coach Jason Powers said of his message to his team. “You believed in each other, now we’ve got to believe in ourselves. You've got to believe you can go out there and get the job done ... You're still wrestling for your team."

Only the top three wrestlers in each weight class will advance at the state tournament Feb. 11-13 in Macon. 

"We're in a very tough individual region," Powers said. " ... We have some weight classes that have three and four state placers in them, which means there's going to be a state placer sitting at home after this weekend is over with."

As for this past weekend, the Panthers went 1-2 at the Class AAAAA state duals at Locust Grove, falling to Cass, beating Ware County and then losing to Ola. Jackson County tied with Walnut Grove for the fifth spot due to no fifth-sixth place match being wrestled.

Tyler Vaughn (285) went 3-0 on the day.

Powers was proud of his team's showing. 

“As I told them after Saturday was over with, we battled and we reached about has high as we could possibly reach this year,” he said. "We ran into Cass and Ola. Both of those teams are very, very tough teams. We just didn't match up as well against them as we have some other teams."

Jackson County was relegated to the consolation rounds after its 67-11, opening-round loss to Cass. Jacob Crumley (170) and Vaughn (285) provided the only wins.

The Panthers then edged Ware County, 34-33, in the first round of the consolation bracket. Down 18-3, Jackson County reeled off seven wins in eight bouts to win the dual. Ethan Logan (195), Vaughn (285), Jose Pacheco (106), Cooper Hoffman (113), Ramon Castillo (120), Jett Gonzales (126) and Nolan Bell (132) all earned victories during that stretch. Crumley (160) also won his bout.

Jackson County fell to Ola 55-9 in the consolation semifinals. Pacheco (106), Castillo (120) and Vaughn (285) accounted for the Panthers’ three wins.

With a young group — the lineup has nine new starters — Powers was encouraged that his team earned a win during its appearance at state.

He said that the group could have easily been left sitting home after region duals and state quads but found a way to return to the state tournament. 

“This team just figured out how to win,” he said. “We expect to win. We expect to overcome adversity, and somebody new stepped up in every match ... I'm extremely proud of this team and everything they've accomplished thus far."

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