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Anderson doubles down as state champion
Ashton Anderson
In this file photo from 2023, Ashton Anderson celebrates after an exhausting four-overtime 4-3 win over Woodward Academy's Jaylin Tate to win the Class 6A state championship in the 285-pound weight class.

By Donald Heath

Special for the Effingham Herald


Familiarity bred stress for South Effingham wrestler Ashton Anderson.

The senior met Brunswick’s River Creel in the traditional finals of the Class 6A 285-pound weight class Saturday night at the Macon Centreplex.

Creel beat Anderson at Region. The next week, Anderson won at Sectionals.

“We’ve definitely wrestled a lot,” Anderson said. “It was going to be a pretty tough match. You know how it’s going to play out (with a close ending) but that doesn’t make it any less stressful.”

Anderson needed two overtimes, but forged ahead for good with an escape and a late takedown to beat Creel 4-1 and become the first Mustang to win two individual state championships.

Earlier in the day, teammate Eli Wood won a title at 138 pounds to add another first in the SEHS wrestling record book – two teammates winning individual titles in the same year.

“It was exciting to make school history and the team won so I was relieved it ended the right way,” said Anderson, who finished his season with a 59-5 record.

Anderson, who is heading to Newberry College in the fall, said his first state championship was still his favorite. He was an underdog who accomplished the unthinkable as a junior.

This year, expectations for a repeat followed Anderson and opponents like Creel had their sights set on the defending champion, who had won a title in 2023 with an overtime showing filled with heart, grit, and determination.

“Ashton has a fun personality but he comes in and knows how to get it done,” SEHS coach Christopher Bringer said. “He’s usually lighter and faster and much more athletic than his opponent and that serves him well.”

Anderson remembered being an eighth grader and meeting Bringer, who brought a disciplined approach to practice.

“I remember thinking, ‘dang, he’s a little mean,’ but it was a good first impression because I realized he could take me farther,” Anderson said.

Anderson wrestled at 248 pounds – 37 under the maximum for the weight class. The lighter weight had its pluses and minuses. He was quicker than most heavyweights, but had a harder time moving the heavier weight from the bottom.

Creel used his advantage at region.

“I think it was a little wakeup call. I just had to get it together,” Anderson said.

At state, a 1-1 deadlock through six minutes of regulation time just meant Anderson had to fight a little longer. Neither wrestler scored in the first one-minute overtime.

The second overtime consisted of two 30-second segments. In the first 30-second segment, from the top, Anderson remained in control to ride out the time and the score remained tied.

In the second 30-second segment, Creel chose to wrestle from a neutral position (in hopes of getting a takedown).

But the choice also gave Anderson a 2-1 advantage for the escape. As time ticked down, Creel was forced to gamble and Anderson circled to Creel’s back for a two-point takedown as time expired.

Six South Effingham wrestlers entered Saturday night with shots at state championships. Anderson ended the night on a high note despite four teammates falling short.

“My emotions are about half and half right now. I’m excited to win a state championship but a lot of my teammates lost their last match so it hurts for them,” Anderson said.