WRESTLING | Six wrestlers qualify for sectionals 2-3-16

Qualifying for AAA Sectionals are (l-r): Devin Smith (132), Dalton Malone (152), Ian Kessler (195), Brandon Jernigan, Bill Fuqua (160), Austin Cothren (220), Renard Matthews (182).

Six Pierce County High School wrestlers qualified for the Class AAA state traditional sectionals after posting Top 4 finishes in the Area Traditional tournament over the weekend.

The sectional tournament will begin Friday and conclude on Saturday at Morgan County High School in Madison with the Top 8 advancing on to the Class AAA state finals next week in Duluth.

PCHS, which finished fourth in the 11-team event at Toombs County High School in Lyons, had three wrestlers grapple for individual titles with one winning a gold medal. Advancing to the sectional tournament were Ian Kessler as champion of the 195-lb. weight class, runner-ups Bill Fuqua (160) and Renard Matthews (182), third-place finishers Dalton Malone (152), and Austin Cothern (220), and fourth-place finisher Devin Smith (132).

Host Toombs County piled up 266.5 points in the tournament with Brantley County finishing with 189.5. Appling County was third with 187 while Pierce County (147) and Islands (133) rounded out the Top 5. The rest of the field included Dodge County (131), Jenkins (86.5), Savannah Arts Academy (86), Johnson (56), Savannah (22) and Beach.

Kessler needed just two matches to captured the six-person, 195-lb. weight class. He pinned Charlie Pettigrew of Savannah Arts and nipped Brantley County’s Tyler Daniels 6-5 in the championship match.

Fuqua (2-1) reached the championship after posting a 11-0 major decision over Jack Pettigrew of Savannah Arts in the quarterfinals and pinning Brantley County’s Caleb Taylor in the semifinals. Fuqua was pinned by Toombs County’s Nathan Belch in the finals.

Matthews (2-1) opened the tournament with pinfall wins over Oren Morgan of Toombs County and Tyler Montford of Dodge County. He was pinned in the championship match by Brantley County’s John Herrin.

Malone (3-1) began the tourney with a pinfall of Johnson’s Umonte Fripp. He lost a 6-2 decision to Appling County’s Dalton Brannon in the semifinals. Malone bounced back in the losers’ bracket pinning Lucas Langford and Jared Cannon of Dodge County to finish third.

Cothern (3-1) recorded a pin over Ty Bellflower of Dodge County before dropping a 16-10 decision to Ervin Mincey of Toombs County in the semifinals. Cothern posted a 17-2 technical fall decision over Colin Floyd of Islands and pinned Alex West of Savannah Arts in the third-place match.

Smith (2-2) opened the tournament with a 17-2 technical fall over Gareth Cagey of Jenkins before losing a 16-0 technical fall decision to Toombs County’s Justin Hall in the semifinals. Smith pinned Dennis Evans of Savannah Arts before being pinned by Will Folger of Islands in the losers’ bracket finals.

Dalton Cowan (113 lbs., 0-3) was pinned in all three of his matches by Brantley County’s Josh Johnson, Savannah Arts’ Trey Butler and Raymond Morris of Islands and finished sixth in his weight division.

Matthew Womack (126, 1-3) was pinned by Dodge County’s Christian Grauberger in his opening match. He outscored Will Pitts of Islands, 11-10, to advance in the losers’ bracket. Womack was pinned by Sabastion McKee of Toombs County and Antwan Venning of Johnson in his next two outings and finished sixth in the tournament.

Clay Parker (145, 2-3) also finished sixth. He was pinned by Savannah’s Joseph Simpson during a first round matchup. Parker pinned Appling County’s Colby Covington and Zach Sherman of Jenkins in the next two matches in the losers’ bracket. He was pinned by Graeme Sharpe of Islands and Brantley County’s Colt Crosby in the next two matches.

Seth Bryant (170, 2-2) missed qualifying for sectionals by one match. After pinning Tayon Vereen of Johnson in the quarterfinals, Bryant was pinned by Brantley County’s Joseph Whisenant in the semifinals. He was pinned by Jordin Olinger of Jenkins in the losers’ bracket semifinals. Bryant won the fifth-place match over Toombs County’s Jonathan Morales by forfeit.

Keanu Miles (285, 0-3) forfeited a first round matchup with eventual weight champion Aaron Spires of Dodge County. He was pinned by Jonathan Quintero of Toombs County and Jamir Gardiner of Jenkins in the losers’ bracket matches.