Georgia Class 2A State Tournament Fan's Guide
We are excited to bring you "A Fan's Guide" to the GHSA State Tournaments that are taking place this coming weekend in Macon, Georgia. We are pleased to provide the casual fan an insider's look into each bracket and what may (or may not) happen over the course of the weekend. We make no predictions about who will win. For each weight class we provide a few bulletpoints to watch and then a copy of the bracket (which you can see for yourself on trackwrestling.com). Each weight class features:
- Favorite: Our favorite to win the weight class based on this past season and past performance.
- Contenders: A list of wrestlers that should challenge the favorite for the top step on the podium.
- Darkhorse: A wrestler that did not finish 1st or 2nd in his/her section, but has all the tools to knock off everyone and take the top step.
- Predicted Finals Match: Obviously who we believe will be in the finals.
Individual Notes: SQ = 2016 State Qualifier; 1st = 2016 State Champ; 2nd = 2016 State Runner-up, etc.
A few notes before we have a look at each weight class. First, we provide a copy of the bracket (a screenshot from trackwrestling) at the bottom of each "narrative". Second, it is important to state that much of what is written below is not revolutionary. It has some opinion, but is largely based on data. We are limited in the amount of data we have because not every program in the state uses trackwrestling to provide results. As a result, we collect tournament results throughout the season and pour over those results when trying to construct the Fan's Guide. If wrestler x lost to wrestler y in a dual on a Tuesday night in late January ... it will not likely be reflected in the Fan's Guide. In the Tempest by William Shakespeare, Antonio uses the phrase "What's past is prologue" to suggest that everything that happened before now, has led to the opportunity that now sits before you. As a result, we use a few #'s as context for why we have chosen certain wrestlers in the the categories identified above. Remember ... this is not designed as a prediction. Rather it is designed to help those sitting in the stands understand our great sport and what to watch over the next two days.
- A Favorite will almost always be one of the two sectional champions ... and the list of contenders will have the other sectional champion and both sectional runners-up as well. The list of contenders might include other wrestlers, but it will always include the sectional champions and runners-up. The reason ... 12 of the 14 2016 6A State Champions were Sectional Champions (Elias was a runner-up at sectionals at 160 and Bardall was 3rd at sectionals at 285). In fact, all but 8 of the finalists last season were sectional champions (with many of the non-sectional champions being runenrs-up to the other finalist the week before).
- North Forsyth's Jackson Bardall is a good example of a non-section champion or runner-up coming through on the biggest stage. Bardall lost in the 6A Section A quarterfinals last season, but turned that around and took the top spot at the state tournament ... there is always a chance that a darkhorse will come through and win it all.
NOTE: I have tried to correct any incorrect names or grades, but I'm certain a few have slipped through the cracks. Apologies for anyone that has incorrect information posted in the brackets ... the summaries are written largely from what has been produced in the brackets. Also if an alternative has been included and a wrestler has been removed because of injury ... please keep in mind that it takes several days to write the Fan's Guides and we are unable to go back and check (and correct) anything updated after Monday.
- Social Circle continued their dominance earlier year as they added another state dual title to the trophy case. With the hammers they have in Macon this weekend, they will be tough to knock off. The Redskins bring 12 with 3 section champs. The key to SC maintaining their lead over the pack will be how well their section runners-up wrestle. Howard, Nunnally, Peppers, Thompson, and Morris are the key to another Redskin title.
- Tier 1
- Toombs County, Elbert County, and Fitzgerald are hot on the trail and will pose a challenge for SC thins weekend. Each has fewer qualifiers than Social Circle, but each has the same (3) or more (Fitzgerald has 5) than the defending champs. Fitzgerald appears to have the best opportunity to pressure Social Circle. They bring 5 sectional champs, 2 runners-up, and a 3rd place finisher. If the 5 champs can advance to the finals and the 2's and 3's can find the podium, Fitzgerald is going to be a tough out. Toombs County qualified 9 with 3 section champs (Clark, Roberts, and Santana). The key to Toombs challenging for the top step, and holding off the pack of challengers, is how well Luke Anderson, Cruz Arrendondo, Justin Hall, and Ervin Mincey wrestle. If each of those #3's can get a 1st round win and find the podium, Toombs will be in the hunt. Elbert County qualified 8 with 3 section champs. They also had 2 section runners-up and 2 3rd placer finishers and how high Elbert County places will largely be determined by how well those 4 wrestle. Obviously each of the teams need their section champs do well, but in the end it might come down to well the #2's and #3's wrestle and if any can secure bonus points.
- Tier 2
- Tier 2 is headline by Jeff Davis, Vidalia, Armuchee, Chattooga and Pepperell. Davis qualified 7, but without any section champs they will need the 2, 3's and 4's to perform. Vidalia has 2 section champs and a runner-up ... but their team success will depend on the 4 #4's and whether they can go 1-2, 2-2 or better. Remember going 0-2 is the same as not being here (from a team perspective) - both yield no points. Armuchee sits in the best position of the tier 2 teams to push into the top 5. They have 1 section champ, Jacob Henderson, but also bring 3 #2's (Conley and Purdy x2). If those 4 can find the podium, Armuchee could push for a top 5 finish. Chattooga brings just 5 with just 1 champ and 1 runner-up. Like many of the other teams in tier 2, they will need the 3's and 4's to perform if they are going to push for a top 5 finish. Pepperell brings just 4 wrestlers, but 3 are section champs and each has the ability to take the top step. With 3 champs (or some combination of champs and runners-up), Pepperrell could be in the running.
- Tier 1
- Favorite: Griffin Jarrett (FR) - Chattooga (but this could easily be Martin ... hard to tell the difference with so few results)
- Kevin Martin (FR) - Fitzgerald
- Deonte Williams (JR) - Berrian
- Riley Purdy (SR) - Armuchee
- Darkhorse: Cruz Arrendondo (SO) - Toombs County
- Finals: Martin vs. Jarrett
- What to Watch: We don't have much to work with here in terms of past performance ... here is what we do know. Two freshmen, Martin and Jarrett, dominated their sectional tournament last week. Martin pinned Cruz Arrendondo of Toombs County in the semi's and Deonte Williams of Berrian in the finals. Arrendondo went 1-2 at last year's 3A 106 lb. state tournament and Williams was 1-2 at last year's 2A 106 lb. state tournament. Griffin Jarrett on the other hand has 3 losses all season and we know two of them ... Luke Frost of Carrollton and Jeremy Holloway of Notre Dame. If there can be "good" losses, then those two would certainly fall in that category. He also has a nice technical fall win over Nick Mills of Cass. Martin and Jarrett seem to be destined for an all-freshman final. Keep an eye on Riley Purdy vs. Cruz Arrendondo and Deonte Williams vs. Tyler Post. Also keep in mind that Kaleb Matthews of Vidalia was a 2016 State Qualifier, so we might learn a thing or two by watching Matthews vs. Jarrett in the last first round bout.
- Favorite: Walker Byrd (JR) - Model
- Nicholas Jordan (FR) - Fitzgerald
- Wesley Conley (FR) - Armuchee
- Kenyon Wilson (JR) - Callaway
- Darkhorse: Martez Huff (SO) - Elbert County
- Finals: Conley vs. Byrd
- What to Watch: Section B. Byrd is a returning 2A 106 lb. State Placer and won Section B over a tough freshman in Wesley Conley and 2016 3A 113 lb. State Qualifier Martez Huff of Elbert County. Fitzgerald's Nicholas Jordan wrestled extremely well to take the Section A title ... it wouldn't be surprising to see Conley vs. Jordan in the top semifinal. Huff vs. Wilson is the best 1st round match, with the winner likely getting Byrd in the bottom semi.
- Favorite: Jamarcus Allen (SR) - Elbert County
- Ricardo Santana (SO) - Toombs County
- Truett Bowman (JR) - Rockmart
- Ethan McKie (JR) - Fitzgerald
- Darkhorse: Kyle Morris (JR) - Social Circle
- Finals: Santana vs. Allen
- What to Watch: Very good weight class in 2A. Six of the eight wrestlers competed in the state tournament in 2016 and four were State Placers. Ricardo Santana of Toombs County and Jamarcus Allen of Elbert County enter as the Sectional Champions and as 2016 State Placers. But both were pushed to the brink in their sectional tournaments. Allen downed Truett Bowman, another 2016 State Placer, 6-5 in the Section B finals and Santana beat Ethan McKie, a 2016 State Qualifier, 3-2 in the Section A finals. Add in State Placer Kyle Morris, 3rd in 2A at 113, and Devonte Williams of Berrien, a 2016 State Qualifier, and you have a loaded bracket. Obviously Bowman vs. Williams and McKie vs. Morris is the place to start ... the semifinals and finals should be close and fun to watch.
- Favorite: Gage Clark (JR) - Toombs County
- Jackson Wheeler (SO) - Social Circle
- Cameron Mack (SR) - Dublin
- Luke Purdy (SR) - Armuchee
- Darkhorse: Morgan Mitchell (SR) - Fitzgerald
- Finals: Clark vs. Mack
- What to Watch: Clark, Mitchell and Mack are the three returnees that wrestled in the 2016 state tournament. Each is close to the other based on last weekend's Section A tournament where Clark beat Mack 5-2 in the finals and Mack downed Mitchell 5-2 in the semifinals. None of the Section B wrestlers qualified a season ago ... but that doesn't mean they can be overlooked. Wheeler comes from a very strong program in Social Circle and will come ready to battle on Friday. Purdy vs. Mitchell looks like the best 1st round match - it should also give us a good idea of how the two sections compare to one another.
- Favorite: Josh Engstrom (SO) - Social Circle
- Chance Mitchell (SO) - Fitzgerald
- AJ Streetman (SR) - Rockmart
- Camron Kernodle (SO) - Benedictine
- Darkhorse: Nathan Sellers (SR) - Jeff Davis
- Finals: Mitchell vs. Engstrom
- What to Watch: Engstrom is a returning State Runner-up in 2A at 106. He wrestled well this past weekend to take the Section B title 2-0 over AJ Streetman of Rockmart. Streetman, a 2016 State Qualifier, should be a challenge for Mitchell in the top semifinal if he can get by Nathan Sellers of Jeff Davis. Engstrom looks like the man to beat on the bottom side, but he can't look past Dejuan Blackshear.
- Favorite: Christian Grauberger (JR) - Dodge County
- Gabriel Peryam (SO) - Oglethorpe
- Elijah McNickels (SR) - Spencer
- Zack Bolton (SR) - Elbert County
- Darkhorse: Treyton Waters (SR) - Jeff Davis
- Finals: Grauberger vs. McNickles
- What to Watch: Grauberger and McNickles got into a shootout in the Section A finals last weekend with Grauberger coming out on top 15-12. Both looked very good en route to the finals and both are 2016 State Placers. Peryam downed 2016 State Qualifier Zack Bolton 6-1 to take the Section B title. A Peryam vs. McNickles semifinal should be a good one, assuming both can get a win the first round. Bolton vs. Waters is the 1st round match to watch. Don't sleep on Josh Craig - great program and he will come ready to challenge Grauberger from the start.
- Favorite: Jesse Conley (SR) - Vidalia
- Jaxon Croy (SR) - Pepperell
- Douglas Peppers (JR) - Social Circle
- Dustin Armstrong (SR) - Fitzgerald
- Darkhorse: Preston Decker (SR) - Temple
- Finals: Conley vs. Croy
- What to Watch: Hard to know who the favorite is. This is what we do know ... Conley, Croy, Decker, and Hall are are 2016 State Qualifiers. Croy definitely had a tougher time in capturing a Section title than Conley did ... was that because Section B is stronger or because Conley is just that dominant? Peppers vs. Hall and Armstrong vs. Decker should be very good 1st round matches. The winners will likely get Conley and Croy - meaning the semifinals should be close (unless Conley is as dominant as he showed last week).
- Favorite: Kevin Almond (SR) - Elbert County
- Landon Guy (SR) - Fitzgerald
- Stevie Howard (SR) - Social Circle
- Luke Anderson (SR) - Toombs County
- Darkhorse: Gage Cannon (SO) - Heard County
- Finals: Howard vs. Almond
- What to Watch: We have watched Almond wrestle for the last several years and are more and more impressed by him. He finished 2nd to Ballard of Jefferson last year in 3A at 152 and seems to continue to get better every time he goes onto the mat. He won the Section B title over an injured Stevie Howard of Social Circle and enters as our favorite this weekend. If Howard is back and compete at a high level, he will be a tough match for both Mills and Landon Guy ... if not, the Guy seems to have the inside track.
- Favorite: Cade Lackey (SR) - Social Circle
- Carson Roberts (SR) - Toombs County
- John Austin Robinson (JR) - Temple
- Lincoln Gay (JR) - Swainsboro
- Darkhorse: Jared Cannon (JR) - Dodge County
- Finals: Roberts vs. Lackey
- What to Watch: Another good weight class. Cade Lackey of Social Circle, 2nd in 2016 in 2A 170, downed John Austin Robinson of Temple, 3rd in 2A 160, 6-5 to claim the Section B title last week. Robinson was challenged by Davis Day in the semi's ... meaning those 3 should be a tough out. Carson Roberts of Tommbs County, a 2016 State Qualifier, pinned Lincoln Gay of Swainsboro to claim the Section A title. Gay downed a very tough Jared Cannon of Dodge County 9-0 in the semi's. A Roberts vs. Robinson semifinal would be excellent ... but Robinson has to deal with a very tough Cannon in round 1. Lackey seems like to man to beat on the bottom side of the bracket.
- Favorite: Jake Ross (SR) - Pepperell
- Chris Jones (SR) - Vidalia
- Micah Thompson (JR) - Social Circle
- Jeremy Solomon (SR) Jeff Davis
- Darkhorse: Efrain Hernandez (SR) - Chattooga
- Finals: Jones vs. Ross
- What to Watch: For Social Circle coaches it has to feel kind of like plug and play ... so many new faces and yet they claimed another 2A dual title and have their team ready for another run. Micah Thompson is the latest example of the dominance of Social Circle. Thompson finished second to Jake Ross of Pepperell in Section B, but he is another Social Circle wrestler than has the opportunity to push for a finals spot. Thompson vs. Jones looks like a great semifinal .. but Thompson can't look beyond Hess. Ross has two falls and a 6-0 decision en route to the Section B title ... expect Solomon or Hernandez to challenge in the semi, but it would be a surprise if the 2016 State Qualifier wasn't in the finals on Saturday afternoon.
- Favorite: Jacob Henderson (JR) - Armuchee
- Zyshonne Holliman (SR)- East Laurens
- BJ Bradford (SO - Elbert County
- Tahjah Watts (SO) - Vidalia
- Darkhorse: John Brooks (SR) - Banks County
- Finals: Holliman vs. Henderson
- What to Watch: Very good weight class that is headlined by Zyshonne Holliman and Jacob Henderson. Henderson finished 2nd in 2016 in 2A 182 and Holliman was 1-2 at the same weight. Henderson has dominated all season long and comes in as the favorite, but don't sleep on Holliman giving him a run for his money. Keep an eye on Elbert County's BJ Bradford and Vidalia's Tahjah Watts as well. Don't be surprised if Carson Boyd is a force ... nothing like being a #4 in a sectional and finishing on the podium at state.
- Favorite: Markelyn Lundy (JR) - Fitzgerald
- Terrance Walker (SO) - Banks County
- Sam Butikofer (SR) - Rabun County
- Lavaderick Turner (SR) - Dublin
- Darkhorse: Cam'ron McCloud (SR) - Dodge County
- Finals: Lundy vs. Walker
- What to Watch: 195 features four wrestlers that wrestled in the 2016 State Tournament, but did not finish in the top 4. The group is led by Markyln Lundy of Fitzgerald. Lundy, a 2016 State Qualifier in 2A at 170, downed Lavaderick Turner of Dublin, another 2016 qualifier, 4-3 to take the Section A title. Terrance Walker of Banks County posted 3 falls to take the Section B title (but the week before he was 2nd in Area 4 to Sam Butikofer of Rabun and Butikofer beat Almond 8-6 in the semifinals in Section B). What does it all mean? Lundy and Turner should be tough to beat. Butikofer and Walker should give them a run for the top step.
- Favorite: Ashton Gibson (SR) - Elbert County
- Dequan Thornton (SR) - Spencer
- Alex Mears (FR) - Chattooga
- Zackery Ferguson (SR) - Lamar
- Darkhorse: Ervin Mincey (JR) - Toombs County
- Finals: Thornton vs. Gibson
- What to Watch: Chaos. Thornton and Gibson each won their sections in dominating fashion, but Thornton did not win his area the week before. There are some impressive records on display, but a lot of unknowns about the level of competition. We do know that both Thornton and Gibson had 3 consecutive pins en route to their section titles. Gibson and Mincey are the only two 2016 qualifiers in the bracket and Gibson finished one match from placing. Mears vs. Mincey looks like the best 1st round match.
- Favorite: Hinton Bolinger (SR) - Pepperell
- CJ Wright (JR) - Screven County
- Renard Swiney (SR) - Jordan
- Rod Nunnally (FR) - Social Circle
- Darkhorse: Marco Brown (JR) - Josey
- Finals: Wright vs. Bolinger
- What to Watch: Pepperell's Hinton Bolinger has wrestled some very good competition this season and has amassed a 35-2 record. His 4th place finish in 3A 285 last season shows he knows how to win close matches and advance to the podium. He should be the man to beat this weekend. He will face some solid competition from unbeaten CJ Wright of Screven County, the Section A Champion, Renard Swiney of Jordan, a 2016 State Qualifier, and others. Keep an eye on Nunnally vs. Dumas and Swiney vs. Brown in the 1st round.