SUGAR HILL – Three wrestlers led Madison County to its best sectional performance in school history.

Rowan Smith (138 lbs.), Jaxon Hoetzel (182 lbs.) and Hamilton Cooper (220 lbs.) won championships at the Class AAAA A-Sectional on Saturday. Two more Red Raiders made it to the championship round and a total of nine qualified for the AAAA State Tournament this week in Macon. One more will head to Macon as an alternate.

The State Tournament begins Thursday, Feb. 13 with the opening round, quarterfinals and first round of wrestle backs. The action on Friday, Feb. 14 decides who will wrestle in the finals on Saturday, Feb. 15. matches for fifth place begin at 9 a.m. on Saturday, followed by third place matches at 11 a.m., then the championship rounds at 2:30 p.m.

Smith won three of his four matches by pin fall across both days of the tournament at Lanier High School. His win by decision was his only match to last past the second period. He won the championship with a pin fall over Gilmer's Diego Jacinto late in the second period after making a take down with just 26 seconds on the clock.

Hoetzel won all of his matches by either pin fall or technical foul. He pinned his opening round opponent in the first period before defeating his second round opponent 17-0 with 30 seconds to spare in the second period.

His championship match against North Oconee's Gavin Bloom lasted through two periods and ended with a pin a minute into the third period. Hoetzel trailed 5-4 at the end of the first period. He took a 6-5 lead with a reversal seconds into the second period, but fell behind again 7-6 when he conceded a reversal. Hoetzel finished the period with another reversal and a near fall to go ahead 11-7. After a near fall early in the third period, he pinned Bloom down for good to win the title.

Cooper won his title with two pin falls, a decision and a major decision. The major came in the first round when Cooper turned a 6-2 lead after two periods into a 14-2 victory. He scored eight points in the third period with a reversal and two near falls. Cooper didn't score many points in his title match against Oconee County's Nick Saunders, only four through the whole contest. That's all he needed as a takedown early in the second period led to a pin fall just seconds later.

Josh Kincaid (126 lbs.) and Austin Kerns (160 lbs.) lost in the championship round by decisions. Smith lost to Pickens County's C.J. Murphy in the finals 6-0, he previously lost to Murphy in the Hook Em' Tournament at Lambert. Kerns lost 6-1 to Northwest Whitfield's Jordan McCamish.

Blake Hooper (106 lbs.), Bryer Autry (152 lbs.), Tristan Poss (170 lbs.) and Nate Krickle (285 lbs.) also qualified for the state tournament. Jace Jachimski will go as an alternate.

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