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10 county wrestlers to compete in Macon
EC vs. SE

By Donald Heath

Special for the Effingham Herald

The county’s high school wrestling programs will be well-represented in Macon this week.

Six South Effingham wrestlers and four from Effingham County survived Sectional B competition in Brunswick on Friday and Saturday will be headed to the Macon Centreplex with hopes of being crowned a champion when the two-day state tournament ends this Friday night.

“Now is the time to peak. We talk about it all year,” said ECHS coach Nico Guggino.

For the Rebels, Mal Santiago, Nigel Wright and Mia Bernacki and Mustangs’ Jacob Galindez topped their weight classes at Sectionals.

ECHS’ Conner Nevin and SEHS’ Jacob Stellhorn, Anton Blanchard, Brandon “Moose” Bringer, Jaylen Hosking and Enrique Santana placed in the top six to advance.

Ashton Tootle will make the trip as an alternate in the 160-pound weight class.

“People ask how I think we did and for me, it’s 50-50. I’m happy for the kids that made it, but I was hoping we’d have more going (to state),” said SEHS coach Christopher Bringer, who had 12 wrestlers advance from region competition a week earlier.

It was a happy Mustang moment for Galindez (39-10), a senior, who stunned Cambridge’s undefeated Hunter Keane (then 50-0) with a first-period pin in the finals to win the 113-pound weight class.

Galindez, a four-time state qualifier, is a finalist for the Fellowship of Christian Athletes’ Wrestler of the Year honor statewide.

“A coach came up to me and said, “You must be pretty happy. Your kid just beat the best guy in the gym.” But to me, Jacob was already the best guy in the gym,” Bringer said.  

ECHS’ Santiago, Wright and Bernacki felt similar senses of accomplishment. Santiago raised his record to 54-2 by defeating SEHS’ Stellhorn (41-15) 6-1 in the finals of the 106-pound weight class.

“Mal is really looking strong. He’s trying new things and evolving a nice system. He’s really wrestling well,” Guggino said.

Wright (63-6), a No. 4 seed who captured a region title last week, added some more accolades with two pins and two decisions en route to the 195 crown.

“He’s confident and wrestling aggressively and those are big things for his success,” Guggino said.

Bernacki (17-9) competed in the girls’ 197-pound weight class and surprised defending Class AAAAAA state champion Amariah Marenco 8-3 in the finals.

“Mia has been wrestling boys all year so she’s not going to be intimidated,” Guggino said.

At 106, Stellhorn had a bye and won two matches before falling to his nemesis Santiago in the finals. Stellhorn lost to Santiago in the region finals.

Nevin (54-8), who placed third at state last year, had a bye and two wins to advance to the finals at 120.

Blanchard (43-13), a region champion at 126, went 3-2 to place fourth and qualify to state for the fourth time.

At 132, Brandon Bringer lost to defending state champion Jacob Seymour of South Paulding by a decision but won four matches overall to capture third.

Jaylen Hosking (37-15 at 145) and Enrique Santana (52-6 at 152) won three matches and four matches respectively to place fourth and fifth in their weight classes.

SEHS’ Nicholas Sessions (37-21 at 138), William Christmas (29-15 at 170), Gavin Anderson (31-16 at 182) and Ashton Anderson (40-12 at 285) each won a match but failed to advance to state.

Stephen Tootle (37-14 at 120) suffered an injury in his second match and was unable to continue. 

Ashton Tootle won three times and placed seventh to make the trip to Macon as an alternate.

ECHS’ Landon Harper (35-17 at 126) and Anderson Scarborough (30-22 at 285) won two matches apiece. Jared LaFontaine (27-31) lost both of his matches at 152.