Georgia Class 3A 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.
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.
- With 12 qualifiers (all of which finished 4th or better), Bremen is easily the team to beat for the team title. You could see it early this season that Bremen was operating at another level than many programs in Georgia (large or small school). They ventured north to the US Army Indian Classic in Tennessee and finished 3rd to Independence (WV) and Commerce. They went west to Alabama and finished 2nd to Vestavia (the top team in 7A) and ahead of Cleveland (TN), Hoover, and Enka (NC). They snapped Archer's dual meet streak at the Kyle Maynard Duals in late December and so on. This is a team that is performing at a very high level and it would be a surprise if anyone was able to knock them off this weekend.
- Tier 1
- Lumpkin County, Morgan County, and Sonoraville headline the chase group. Lumpkin brings 9 qualifiers and 1 section champ, Morgan County has 7 with 3 section champs, and Sonoraville also has 7 qualifiers and 4 section champs. Lumpkin County has just 3 of their qualifiers that finished 1st or 2nd ... meaning they will need Denard, White, Hopkins, etc. to wrestle well if they are going to take the #2 spot behind Bremen. Morgan County has their 3 section champs, but no one else that finished 2nd and will need 3rd and 4th place finishers to come through if they are going to hold off Lumpkin County and Sonoraville. Sonoraville has 4 champs and a runner-up and sits in the best position to put pressure on Bremen and take the #2 spot. Because these teams are very close in the number of qualifiers they have, bonus points could be the difference.
- Tier 2
- Franklin County, Jackson County, Lovett and Ringgold make up the tier 2 teams that are chasing the top 4. Franklin County, Jackson County, and Lovett each qualified 6 and Ringgold had 4. Ringgold makes the list because they have 2 section champs and 2 3rd place finishers and each could make the finals (Maravilla over Robinson would be a stunner though). Jackson County also has 2 section champs ... add in Gilbreath, Love, etc. and they might have the best shot of the tier 2 teams to break into the top 5. Franklin County has 1 champ (Abe Hafez) and 1 runner-up, but have 3 3rd place finishers that could prove the difference between a top 5 finish and somewhere further down in the top 10. Four of Lovett's 6 qualifiers are runenrs-up ... so like the other teams in tier 2, they are in the mix. Much will come down to how well they wrestle this weekend.
- Tier 1
- Favorite: Jeffery Skeen (FR) - Ringgold
- Landon Galloway (FR) - Fannin County
- Robert Wilkes (SR) - Lovett
- Chris Duck (SR) - Franklin County
- Darkhorse: Allen Stone (FR) - Sonoraville
- Finals: Galloway vs. Skeen
- What to Watch: It appears most of the bracket is underclassmen, and both section champions are freshman (Landon Galloway of Fannin County and Jeffery Skeen of Ringgold). So what do we know? Galloway had 2 falls and an 8-4 win over Singletary en route to the Section A title. Skeen had a fall, a 15-0 technical fall over Oaks and a 6-0 win over Wilkes to capture the Section B title. Wilkes is the only returning State Qualifier from 2016 ... going 1-2 in 2A 106 and finishing 5th. Based on the results we were able to track down ... it doesn't appear that Galloway or Skeen have wrestled this season ... so the "favorite" spot is a toss up. We give it to Skeen because it would appear that Galloway has the tougher road to the finals, but without results - it is difficult to know who is really the leader. Keep an eye on Chris Duck vs. Allen Stone - that will be the 1st round match I will be watching.
- Favorite: Matt Glenn (SO) - North Hall
- Gavin Thompson (JR) - Sonoraville
- Dre Porter (JR) - Crisp County
- Kelton Lebaron (SO) - Dawson County
- Darkhorse: Tanner Stone (SO) - Ringgold
- Finals: Glenn vs. Thompson
- What to Watch: 8 lines ... half are filled with wrestlers that placed at the state tournament in 2016 and two others are filled with 2016 State Qualifiers. Interesting, one of the section champs (Gavin Thompson) is not one of those placers or qualifiers (probably due to being in the same room last year as Tyler Hunt and Trevor Burdick). Regardless, Thompson beat State Qualifier Brody Smith 11-2 in the semi's and Dre Porter (3rd in 4A at 113) 13-8 in the Section B finals last weekend. Kelton LeBaron vs. Tanner Stone pits two 2016 State Placers against one another in round 1 ... so things will get started quickly for 3A. Matt Glenn of North Hall, 3rd in 4A at 106 in 2016, has been excellent all season and assumes the favorite spot. But the other 3 spots on the top side are filled with wrestlers who have been here and done that previously ... so the road will not be easy.
- Favorite: Tyler Hunt (SO) - Sonoraville
- John Pedraza (JR) - North Hall
- Lucas Ribeiro (SR) - Pike County
- Wyatt Smith (SO) - Dawson County
- Darkhorse: Keegan Smith (SR) - Bremen
- Finals: Pedraza vs. Hunt
- What to Watch: 2016 3A 113 lb. State Champion Tyler Hunt is the easy favorite. He has looked outstanding all season ... only losing to Bradley Bitting of North Paulding in overtime early in the season. With wins over AL 7A #2 Stone Barden, GA 5A State Champion Kyle Gollhofer and others, it is easy to see he is wrestling on a different level than most 120's in the state. Expect Pedraza vs. Ribeiro to be a great semifinal on the top side if both can advance. Pedraza gets 2016 3A 120 lb. State Placer Levi Kinsey in the 1st round. Keegan Smith, 2A 113 lb. State Runner-up took 3rd in Section B behind Hunt and Ribeiro and will look to take out Wyatt Smith (another 2016 State Qualifier) in the first round before taking on Hunt. If you like wrestling ... be sure to watch Tyler Hunt wrestle at least one match this weekend.
- Favorite: Trevor Burdick (SO) - Sonoraville
- Bryson Smith (SO) - North Hall
- Grainger Reeves (SR) - Lovett
- Devan Moore (SO) - Appling County
- Darkhorse: AJ Brock (FR) - Bremen
- Finals: Reeves vs. Burdick
- What to Watch: Two defending State Champions battled it out last weekend in the Section B finals with Trevor Burdick, 1st in 3A 106, of Sonoraville coming out on top over Grainger Reeves, 1st in 2A 120, 6-0. Reeves doesn't have an easy path for a re-match this weekend. His first match comes against Jackson County's Jacob Love who missed being on the podium by one match in 2016. If he can get by Love, his semifinal match will probably be against North Hall's Bryson Smith. Smith captured the Section A title last weekend with a 3-1 decision over Ravenal and a 12-5 decision over Moore. Burdick should handle the bottom side of the bracket ... keep an eye on Moore vs. Brock - almost certainly the best 1st round match at 126.
- Favorite: James Stoudenmire (JR) - East Hall
- Ian Clark (SR) - Sonoraville
- Casey Jones (SR) - Bremen
- Ben Gilbreath (JR) - Jackson County
- Darkhorse: Josh Smith (JR) - Coahulla Creek
- Finals: Stoudenmire vs. Clark
- What to Watch: Five 2016 State Qualifiers dot the bracket, but none made the podium. What that means is ... this could be a wide open weight class. East Hall's James Stoudenmire easily handled the Section A bracket a week ago, but he did finish 2nd to Gilbreath in Area 4 the week prior (he avenged that loss in the finals by pinning Gilbreath in under a minute). Ian Clark of Sonoraville was workmanlike in taking care of business in Section B ... downing Poe 12-0 in the semi's and Casey Jones 5-2 in the finals. So who is the favorite? Without many results to work with ... your guess is as good as mine. Be sure to watch Casey Jones vs. Mokeil Eason in the first round. How well Ian Clark wrestles Kevin Berisko may give you an indication of who is going to emerge (Berisko lost 4-2 to Gilbreath last week ... and was one match from placing last year, so he is far from an easy #4).
- Favorite: Chandler Saine (SR) - Jackson County
- Koby Cook (SO) - Bremen
- Montay Glee (JR) - Crisp County
- Nolan Wheeler (FR) - Lumpkin County
- Darkhorse: Frank Houser (JR) - Pace
- Finals: Saine vs. Cook
- What to Watch: 2016 3A 132 lb. State Placer Chandler Saine has had a terrific senior season and will look to climb to the top step this weekend. 2016 2A 132 lb. State Runner-up Frank Houser of Pace comes in as the darkhorse after finishing 3rd in Section B (lost 6-3 to eventual champ Koby Cook of Bremen in the semifinals). Houser is a tough first match for Nolan Wheeler and a win could setup another showdown with Cook in the semi's.
- Favorites: Josy McAlister (SR) - Morgan County and Griffin Green (JR) - Ringgold
- Rogerick White (JR) - Lovett
- Cole Hopkins (SR) - Lumpkin County
- Darkhorse: Eshun Hall (SR) - Franklin County
- Finals: McAlister vs. Green
- What to Watch: Perhaps the most anticipated finals match in 3A. Defending State Champion vs. Defending State Champion seems like the likely final. It would be a surprise if it wasn't the final. Both McAlister, 1st in 3A at 138, and Green, 1st in 3A at 145, have been outstanding this season and picking a favorite is virtually impossible. McAlister's losses have come to 7A favorite Denton Spencer of Camden and 5A favorite Charlie Darracott of Buford. Two of Green's losses came at the McCallie Invitational in December (to Pittman of Northwest Whitfield and Stephenson of Hillcrest South Carolina). Jack Polhemus, Eshun Hall, and Cole Hopkins have all been to the dance, but their chances of taking the top step in 2017 seem slim. Keep an eye on bout 3026 and 3027 ... they should be fun to watch.
- Favorite: Antonio Robinson (SR) - Morgan County
- Chris Eriquezzo (SR) - Bremen
- Ian Politz (SR) - Greater Atlanta Christian
- Mark Lewis (SO) - Crisp County
- Darkhorse: Christian Hardin (SR) - Franklin County
- Finals: Robinson vs. Politz
- What to Watch: Very balanced weight class. Robinson and Politz each finished 2016 as runners-up and both will be looking to right that wrong in 2017. Robinson beat Politz 5-3 in the Section A finals ... and a re-match isn't out of the question. Politz will need to handle a tough Chris Ocana first and then probably (and I say probably because beating Hopkins of Lumpkin County isn't a given) Section B Champ Chris Eriquezzo of Bremen in the semi's. Robinson appears to have the easier path on the top side, but keep an eye on Christian Hardin of Franklin County - he was 1 match from placing in 2016.
- Favorite: Drew Cook (SR) - Bremen
- Abe Hafez (JR) - Franklin County
- Grant Garrett (SR) - Lovett
- Dalton Malone (SO) - Pierce County
- Darkhorse: Bryce Burgess (JR) - Adairsville
- Finals: Hafez vs. Cook
- What to Watch: Hafez, 3A 145 lb. State Placer, and Cook, 2x State Champ, have been dominating 3A 160 all season and they will finally (in all likelihood) lock horns on Saturday afternoon. Neither should look past the talented Section Runners-up ... Dalton Malone and Grant Garrett. Both have been to the big dance and Malone made the podium in 3A at 152 in 2016. Keep in mind that Malone beat Heriot in overtime last week, so Cook's path looks a little more difficult on the bottom side.
- Favorite: Noah Liles (JR) - Bremen
- Sean McElligot (SR) - Morgan County
- Cody McKinney (SR) - Pike County
- Shawn Cain (JR) - Cook
- Darkhorse: Anthony Wingfield (SR) - Jackson County
- Finals: McElligot vs. Liles
- What to Watch: Liles, a 2016 State Placer in 2A at 182, headlines the bracket. He has been dominant all season, including in last weekend's sectional where he pinned each of his 3 opponents in the first period. There is no reason to think he will not be in the finals on Saturday afternoon. Morgan County's Sean McElligot has also put together a nice season and captured the Section A title last week with a 9-3 decision over Wingfield and a 3rd period pin of Shawn Cain. Keep an eye on McKinney vs. Wingfield ... they are the only other state qualifiers in the bracket and they will battle it out in the first round.
- Favorite: Jeremy Whalen (SR) - Dawson County
- Jacob Miles (JR) - Bremen
- Eric McKnight (SO) - Calhoun
- Jaylen Eley (SR) - Monroe Area
- Darkhorse: Davey Jennings (SR) - Jackson County
- Finals: Whalen vs. Miles
- What to Watch: Are you a fan of chaos? Well if there is one bracket that might produce a bit of chaos ... it is 182. Jeremy Whalen of Dawson County won the Section A title, but entered the tournament after finishing 4th in Area 4. Cole White of Lumpkin County was the Area 4 winner, but finished 4th in the sectional tournament. Whalen pinned Jennings in last week's semifinals ... so if the two meet again, is that what we can expect? White was injured in his semifinal match Eley and then beat Renard Matthews before forfeiting to Jennings. What does this all mean? Probably that Jacob Miles will have a tough match vs. White in the first round, assuming White has recovered and McKnight vs. Jennings could also be a very good match.
- Favorite: Brice Craig (JR) - Calhoun
- Kyle Graham (SR) - Jackson County
- John Knight (SO) - Sonoraville
- Ian Kessler (SR) - Pierce County
- Darkhorse: Isaiah Sellers (SR) - Kendrick
- Finals: Graham vs. Craig
- What to Watch: Very good weight class with 4 2016 State Placers - all of which are on the bottom side of the bracket - and 2 State Qualifiers that are up top. Graham has the easier path to the finals, but this weight class could get crazy quickly. You have two first round matches that pit State Placer vs. State Placer ... Kessler vs. Sellers and Denard vs. Craig. On paper, Craig looks like the pick on the bottom side. But in reality - it could go to any of the four. Whoever brings their "A" game this weekend could be standing on the top step on Saturday evening.
- Favorite: Zach Matthews (SR) - Lumpkin County
- Austin Harper (SR) - Bremen
- Daniel Lopez (JR) - Coahulla Creek
- Jeffrey Pickney (SR) - Cook
- Darkhorse: Maurice Hayes (JR) - Towers
- Finals: Matthews vs. Harper
- What to Watch: Matthews is the defending 3A 220 lb. State Champion. He is an impressive 31-1 on the season and easily took care of business in last weekend's Section A tournament ... recording 2 falls and a 9-1 decision over Pickney. Lopez, a 2016 State Qualifier, lost to Harper in the Section B finals a week ago and now gets Matthews on his side of the bracket ... a tough draw. Harper had two very close wins last week, but was able to find a way and now is in a great position to make the state finals. He can't look past Hedden or the winner of Pickney vs. Hayes, but the path is easier to the finals without Matthews in the way.
- Favorite: Paul Robinson (JR) - Bremen
- Cody Drake (SR) - Monroe Area
- What to Watch: Robinson, the defending 2A 285 lb. State Champion, is an absolute beast at heavyweight. He downed 2x State Champ Levi Seabolt of Gilmer earlier this year and is arguably one of the top 285's in the Southeast (perhaps behind Nick Boykin and Sammy Evans of Tennessee, but not many others). It looked like it would be a Maravilla vs. Robinson final last week until Tyler Seagraves pulled the upset on Maravilla 5-4 and moved into the finals. Maravilla, the 3A 285 lb. State Runner-up in 2016, is now on the same side of the bracket as Robinson and that should be a good semifinal to watch. On the top side, Cody Drake, a 2016 4A 285 lb. State Qualifier, won Section A with a 3-1 decision over Bradley Chrestenson and will likely get Seagraves in the semifinals on the top side.