By Donald Heath
Special for the Effingham Herald
South Effingham wrestler Brayden Bell moved up in weight. Effingham County’s Conner Nevin moved down, and Rebels Corbitt Parrish stayed right where he was.
Three different approaches by three different wrestlers ended at the same destination — Region 2-AAAAAA championships.
Bell, who finished third at the state level in the 170-pound weight class last season, won a region title at 182 with a wild, overtime decision victory against a Glynn Academy wrestler at Brunswick High School on Friday.
Nevin, who has wrestled between 120 and 126 during the season, captured the 113-pound class. And Parrish continued his solid season at 132, winning with two pins.
All three earned first-round byes at the upcoming state tournament that begins in Macon on Thursday and concludes Friday.
“This region tournament was probably one of the most exciting I’ve seen. The energy in the building was amazing,” Mustangs coach Christopher Bringer said.
With the top three places in each weight class advancing to state, consolation matches took on added importance and amped up excitement.
In the past, the top four wrestlers from the region went to Sectionals and the top eight from two different Sectionals went to state.
“There was a lot on the line. It was pretty exciting,” ECHS coach Nico Guggino said.
SEHS finished with nine wrestlers earning spots at state — Jacob Galindez (second at 113), Anton Blanchard (third at 126), Jaylen Hosking (third at 132), Enrique Santana (third at 152), D’Angelo Jackson (third at 160), Louis Hicks (third at 170), DaMyon McFarlin (third at 220), Ashton Anderson (second at 285) and Bell.
ECHS will be taking eight wrestlers to Macon — Mal Santiago (third at 106), Cameron Baca (third at 120), Bryce Vanderhoek (second at 126), Tyler Kesler (second at 138), Josh Kleckauskas (third at 195), Jackson Blaine (third at 285), Nevin and Parrish.
The Rebels’ Mia Bernacki (197-pound weight class) will be competing in the female state wrestling competition Wednesday.
Bringer said the decision not to cut weight by Bell helped Hicks gain a spot at state. Hicks had an 8-15 record while competing at 182 in team competition during the season.
McFarlin provides another surprise performance for the Mustangs. The freshman was just 1-2 during the dual season but won the team’s wrestle-off to earn the 220 spot and won three of four matches at region.
“I don’t think DaMyon understands what a big deal it is,” Bringer said. “He’s a super tough kid and he just wore guys out.”
For ECHS, Nevin turned in some surprising performances by defeating a Richmond Hill wrestler who pinned earlier in the year. Nevin won his region title by decisioning SEHS’ Galindez 7-3 in the finals. Galindez entered the tourney with a 29-2 record.
Baca’s finish was another stunner. Baca rallied in the third-place match to beat a wrestler who defeated him earlier in the night.