The New Manchester and Lithia Springs grapplers opened their 2014-15 wrestling season on Friday with a tri-meet at NMHS, which included nearby Osborne from Cobb County.

The hosting Jaguars won the county battle against the Lions in exciting, come from behind fashion, 33-30.

New Manchester was trailing Lithia Springs by three heading into the final weight class at 152. Justin Swanson managed to get a quick first period pin to give the Jaguars the win.

“The victory against Lithia Springs showed the growth of our program,” said NMHS coach Raymond Leonard. “We have a lot of guys who have wrestled since the school opened and this win shows their commitment and dedication.”

Lithia Springs entered the day being four weight classes short of a full squad and had to give up 24 points to start.

“We were up against a much more seasoned team and we had maybe three that had dressed before,” said new LSHS coach David Dalton. “Their experience paid off.”

Both schools defeated Osborne. Lithia springs dominated the visiting team, 54-30 behind a freshman group that is looking for a starting spot in one of four open weight classes.

“They did a wonderful job and really stepped up,” Leonard said. “Everyone wrestled hard and we had a lot of wrestlers that are still undefeated. It was a complete team effort.”

In a second close match for the school, Lithia Springs edged out Osborne, 42-40.

“They obviously had a young team but their coach has done a lot of work with them,” Dalton said. “What paid off for us was conditioning.”

Standing out in the meet for the Lions were Justin Harris (145), Manny Laidlaw (170) and Malik Jones (220). All three went undefeated.

“Justin has a little bit of experience and a whole lot of conditioning. What puts him over the top is he won’t be dominated. He has the spirit of a warrior, and is not going down,” Dalton said. “Manny is a tough kid with a good personality and he has the will to dominate. You just can’t go up against him because he wants to subjugate his opponent to his will.”

“Malik is a beast and a force of nature,” Dalton added. “He is heading to the Army Rangers and from experience he has the mindset to fit in very well.”

Dalton added that overall he was very proud of his guys.

“I gave each one a hug win or lose, and I looked each in the eye and of course corrected their mistakes when needed. I just feel extreme pride.”

New Manchester will be back in action on Wednesday when they travel to South Cobb. New Manchester will compete in a tri-meet on Dec. 5 at Northgate.

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