The final score even caught Jefferson wrestling coach Kyle Baird a bit by surprise.
In what had the makings of a close area duals final, the Dragons won going away instead, beating rival Jackson County 44-18 Friday (Jan. 10) for the 6-AAA title.
“That was fun … That’s not what I expected in terms of the score, but the intensity and the fun and the challenge that was presented to us, that was amazing,” Baird said. “People won matches they weren’t supposed to win. From the first match, I knew they were ready.”
Jefferson won 10 of 14 bouts in the championship match and picked up bonus points in five of those victories, including four pins, in bringing home the title with a 26-point win. That margin exceeded Baird’s expectations.
“About a three-point match is what I was expecting — either way,” Baird said. “My guys were ready and they jumped on it. I couldn’t be more proud of them.”
The Dragons — winners of a record 18-straight state dual titles — began the area duals tournament with an 82-0 win over East Jackson and then beat Monroe Area 63-15 in the semifinals before squaring off against Jackson County in a rematch of last year’s 6-AAA finals.
Avery Nelms opened against the Panthers with a 6-5 win at 170 pounds over Kaden Andreasen, securing the deciding points in the final seconds of the match. The victory provided early momentum for the Dragons.
“That’s a match that wasn’t supposed to happen, but Avery fought and he dug deep and did what he was supposed to do,” Baird said. “We’ve been training for stuff like that. I couldn’t be more proud of him.”
Following losses by Jefferson at three-straight weight classes, Colton Steele secured a 6-4 overtime win over Tyler Vaughn at 285. The Dragons then turned the match over to the bottom portion of their lineup, which responded with three bonus victories in a four-bout stretch. Chaz McDonald secured a pin at 106, Tyson Thurmond won by technical fall (16-1) at 120 pounds and Mason Mingus, who returned to the lineup this week, won via pin at 126.
Prior to this week, Mingus hadn’t wrestled since Dec. 7 due to an elbow injury.
“Having him back made a big difference,” Baird said.
Davis Dollar (113) and Christian Parten (132) picked up wins in the lower weights as well with 12-10 and 6-1 decisions, respectively.
Jefferson closed out the victory with a pin from Dawson Lee (145), an overtime win (6-4) from Grant Hamilton (152) and a pin from Luke Cochran (160) in the final bout of the dual.
Jackson County earned its wins at 182 from Aiden Giroux (8-2 decision), 195 from Tyler Wester (7-2 decision), 220 from Devonte Stephens (pin) and 138 from Nathan McArter (pin).
The Dragons still managed to win the area dual title in a year in which they have dealt with youth, injuries and sickness.
“I feel like we’ve been sick for about a month right now,” Baird said. “And then injuries — I didn’t have Colton Steele starting off. I didn’t have Mason Mingus for a whole month … I’m glad that we’re back and we’re healthy.”
Jefferson will now wrestle in the Class AAA state duals Thursday through Saturday (Jan. 16-18) as it tries to extend its long-running and historic streak of state championships to 19.
“It’s going to be fun,” Baird said. “Like I said, I’m ready for another challenge and my guys are ready.”
See the Jan. 15 edition of The Jackson Herald for a preview of the state duals.