MACON - The 2019-20 Madison County wrestling team had already set several school records going into the AAAA State Tournament.
Madison County sent eight wrestlers to the AAAA State Tournament, the most in school history. On Saturday, four of them competed for AAAA State Championships, another school record. Josh Kincaid (126 lbs.) won a state title, becoming the second wrestler in school history to win two state championships.
“This team has to go down as the best ever in Madison County wrestling history,” said head coach Richie Houston. “Four state finalists, that’s a once in a program kind of deal. It’s almost 30-percent of your entire starting lineup in the state finals. So that says a lot about our kids.
“The kids peaked at the right time. We talked about peaking, the last competition of the year is the most important. It’s not where you start, it’s where you finish. Jaxon (Hoetzel), Rowan (Smith) and Hamilton (Cooper) put a great campaign together.”
Kincaid (126 lbs.) defeated a wrestler who beat him twice in previous matches, C.J. Murphy of Pickens County. He led 2-1 going into the last period and put the match away with a late takedown.
Rowan Smith (138 lbs.), Jaxon Hoetzel (182 lbs.) and Hamilton Cooper (220 lbs.) lost in the state finals. Hoetzel won each of his matches by pin fall, including two in the first period. But he ran into the undefeated Brent Carr from West Laurens in the finals and was pinned shortly before the end of the first period.
Smith won his first two matches by pin fall before advancing to the finals with a 6-0 decision victory. He could only muster a point in his finals match against Woodward Academy’s Michael Kilic. He lost by a technical fall 16-1. Cooper started the tournament with a pin fall win and grinded out a pair of decision wins in the next two rounds. His last match was also a grind, but he fell by way of a 12-0 decision to Chase Horne of West Laurens.
“Every one of those three seniors were .500 or below as freshmen,” Houston said. “They difference between middle school and high school is so different, it’s night and day. The came in and busted their bump the last three years wrestling in the summer, spring and fall. Averaging 180-to-200 days a year on the mat, doing those things to be great.
“We’ve got several college coaches talking to us right now. They’ve done what they were supposed to be do. They’ve been a really special group.”
Madison County placed fifth overall in the tournament behind Perry, West Laurens, Gilmer and AAAA State Champions Woodward Academy. Region 8-AAAA rivals North Oconee and Oconee County placed ninth and 21st respectively.
Blake Hooper (106 lbs.), Austin Kerns (160 lbs.) and Nake Krickle (285 lbs.) also won tournament matches, but neither advanced beyond the second consolation round. Tristan Poss lost both of his matches.
“If you asked us in October, or December even, we don’t think we get 10 through (to the state tournament),” Houston said.