By Donald Heath
Special for the Effingham Herald
GUYTON — The fate of the South Effingham and Effingham County wrestling teams held true to form at the Region 2-AAAAAA Duals on Saturday at the Mustangs gym.
Both schools advanced to the state tournament, which begins with first and second prelim rounds next Saturday. SEHS will be a No. 3 seed from the region while ECHS will be on the road as a No. 4 seed.
The eight winning teams from Saturday (Jan. 23) move on to the final eight Class AAAAAA grouping at Lassiter High in Marietta on Jan. 30.
“I think we have an excellent chance to win next week,” Mustangs coach Christopher Bringer said. “I think we’ll be overlooked because we’re a No. 3 seed, but our region is really good. (Brunswick and Richmond Hill) might be top four teams in the state and we’re not far behind them.”
SEHS defeated Statesboro 78-3 and the Rebels warded off Glynn Academy 53-30 in the elimination first round of region duals.
In the semifinals, the Mustangs lost to Richmond Hill 59-15 and ECHS lost to Brunswick 57-18 and for the consolation prize of third place, SEHS defeated ECHS 55-23.
In a wild region championship showdown, Brunswick captured its first wrestling title in school history when freshman Anthony Lowe registered a pin in the 195-pound weight class — the final match of the day — to lift the Pirates past defending region champ Richmond Hill, 33-32.
While not nearly as dramatic, the SEHS-ECHS third-place dual match drew a lot of emotion. After earning a technical fall victory over Jaylen Hosking, Rebels’ 132-pounder Bryce Vanderhoek came off the mats shouting, “This is still my county.”
“It was hard fought. He’s a good kid. I like him, but I had to show out,” said Vanderhoek, now 22-3.
South, however, owned the county this season with its third straight dual win over the Rebels.
Jacob Stellhorn, Jacob Galindez, Anton Blanchard, Isaac Wegman, Ashton Tootle, Brayden Bell, Jabriel Gerido and Brody Corley all had pins and D’Angelo Jackson and Ashton Anderson went the distance for Mustang wins.
Conner Nevin, Vanderhoek, Corbitt Parrish and Nigel Wright won matches for the Rebels.
“We have a lot of youth on this team so we’re bound to make mistakes. At this point, it’s learning from those mistakes and growing from them that’s going to be important for our program,” said ECHS assistant coach Tim Pratt, who coached the team with coach Nico Guggino out.
Bringer pointed to the efforts of Galindez, Nicholas Sessions and Edwin Santana, who recorded wins against Richmond Hill.
Galindez was 3-0 on the day.
“I think we wrestled OK overall,” Bringer said. “We were flat (in practice) this week. I don’t think the kids understood how important it is to qualify for state. Now they do and they’re excited about it, but we still have a long way to go.”