Six Bremen High School wrestlers punched their ticket to Macon, while the rising Haralson County program captured a historic triumph en route to pushing three grapplers through the Class AAA West Sectional on Saturday afternoon.
As the sectional host, the Blue Devils had six wrestlers reach the finals with Koby Cook (160), Noah Liles (170) and Paul Robinson (hvy.) all claiming sectional titles — Robinson needed just seven seconds to pin his opponent in the finals — followed by runner-up finishes from A.J. Brock (138), Jacob Miles (195) and Jacob Stephens (220). Bremen's other sectional qualifier, Luke Chandler (152), placed fifth and will serve as an alternate in the Class AAA bracket of the GHSA Traditional Wrestling State Championships next weekend at the Macon Centreplex.
Haralson County, meanwhile, delivered its first-ever sectional champion in Year 3 of the program when Blake Rice won the 126-pound weight class to mark his second trip to Macon, while Jacob Wilson (106) and Daniel Muse (113) both placed fourth to qualify.
Bremen head coach Tony Armas, who was honored during the sectional showcase for recording the 500th dual win of his career this year, isn't necessarily taking the overall numbers that he's accustomed to on the final weekend of the season, but he feels like every one of his qualifiers has a great shot of getting on the podium, as well as his top guys defending their state crowns.
"I was really hoping to get about five (sectional) champs. I thought we had a good shot at a couple of them. We just didn't wrestle well. Maybe we can turn them around next week and do well. That's important," Armas said. "It's been a struggle year all year for us, really. We had kids that we were counting on that didn't come out and some other kids that decided to leave us. It's just been a struggle year this year."
For Rebel head coach Nick White, the sectional competition brought about mixed emotions for his four wrestlers who cleared the tough area hurdle.
Of course, the third-year head man was especially proud of Rice for his historic victory and what it means for his chances to reach the podium next week.
"This is the week you want to finish first. I told him, 'Look, it would have been nice to have been an area champ, but winning the sectionals is more important than winning the area,'" White said. "It puts him in a really good position next week to become a state-placer."
White thought both Muse and Jacob Wilson had good shots of reaching the finals on Saturday, as well, but they suffered tough setbacks in the semifinals to drop into the consolation finals.
"We were close. Little Wilson lost a two-point match to the Adairsville kid in the semifinals and that would have had him in the finals. Then he has a match where he doesn't wrestle well in the consolation finals. With Daniel Muse, he was basically in the same boat," White said. "So they're in, which is obviously an improvement. This is Daniel's second trip to state, but the first time coming out of a real competitive area."
White really felt for his senior leader wrestling the final match of his career on Saturday, as Adrian Wilson (120) came up just shy of qualifying for state.
"That kid has been our heart and soul. For him to be here this week, he had to win a big match last week. We knew he was going to be fighting an uphill battle this week and he made it to the consolation semis and he lost a tough match there," White said. "He's our leader. He's the guy that sets the Sunday practices and leads in the room. So that was hard. Anytime a senior wrestles his last match, it's very hard. But I'm very proud of his effort."
Two of Bremen's top-level guys will turn the focus toward defending their state titles, as Robinson is gunning for a third individual state crown, while Liles is seeking his second in a row. Even though they'll be heavy favorites, Armas said nothing is guaranteed once you hit Macon.
"First you've got to make weight and you've got to be healthy when you get there. We hope to have a few fellas join them on the board this year," Armas said. "We're hoping our 220 Jacob Stephens will do well and then we do a little better than we did last year with some of them."