As is the case seemingly every January, several members of the Bremen High School wrestling team have kept their individual state championship hopes alive with impressive outings at areas.
Hosting the 3-AAA Traditional Tournament on Friday and Saturday, the Blue Devils qualified seven grapplers and two alternates for next week's Class AAA West Sectional, which will also be hosted by Bremen.
Finishing second as a team behind Sonoraville, which led the field with eight sectional qualifiers, the defending state traditional champion Blue Devils felt they could've delivered an even better performance than what they showed during the two-day event.
BHS assistant coach Joseph Bexley, a former three-time Blue Devil state champion himself, indicated that the remaining guys will go back to the drawing board and hit the mats hard in preparation for sectionals this week.
"We had a good, but hard day on (on Saturday)," Bexley said. "We just have to go back Monday and learn from our mistakes. We just have to get all of the guys ready for sectionals and see what we can do."
Leading the way for Bremen with first-place finishes were Kobe Cook (160), Noah Liles (170), Jacob Miles (195) and heavyweight Paul Robinson, who took less than 30 seconds to pin Coahulla Creek's Walter Richards in the finals.
Also getting through to sectionals were A.J. Brock (138) and Jacob Stephens (220), in second place and Luke Chandler (152) in fourth. Finishing fifth and sixth, respectively, Brandon Oaks and Joseph Lyons will also be on hand as alternates.
With Area 3-AAA hailed as one of the more difficult areas in the state out of any classification, the Bremen staff understands that all of its sectional qualifiers stand a chance to advance to Macon.
"This is one of toughest regions in the state, so getting the guys through here definitely gives them a shot at reaching state," Bexley said. "The most important thing is to finish up next weekend."
The Blue Devils won't be alone for sectionals as rival Haralson County will also have a presence at the two-day event.
Not having anyone qualify for sectionals last year, the Rebels got four grapplers through this time around. That group includes runner-up finishes by Daniel Muse (113) and Blake Rice (126), alongside fourth-place finishes from Jacob Wilson (106) and Adrian Wilson (120).
Relieved to redeem themselves from the disappointment of last year's area tournament, head coach Nick White talked about Haralson County's weekend on the mats.
"We had some guys that lost some close ones (Friday) that could've put them in it," White said. "Adrian Wilson won a match against a kid that had beaten him badly a few weeks ago to get into the sectional tournament, which was big. Jacob Wilson also did some good things, but I think he's good enough to finish better than what he did."
The Rebel head coach also talked about his two second-place finishers in Muse and Rice.
"We had two guys in the finals, which that's something that we've never had before," White said. "They didn't wrestle bad, they just lost a couple of positions and a one-point match is the difference. We would've liked them to come out on top to put us in a better spot for next week, but we're in. You win a couple next week, you have a shot at getting to the state tournament and I would like to get all of those guys in there."
Getting four guys through the 3-AAA gauntlet, White and his guys will now prepare for a return trip to Bremen for sectionals, where they hope to keep their season alive.
"I'm hoping that we've got a chance to make some noise next week going up against that other area that we match up with," White said. "I'm feeling pretty good about it."