By Donald Heath
Special for the Effingham Herald
SPRINGFIELD -- Preparation for big wrestling events ahead was the bottom line at the Blue Line Duals hosted by Effingham County High School on Saturday.
“We’re young but that can’t be an excuse anymore,” Rebels coach Nico Guggino said.
“We want to wrestle good people to show where we are at state,” South Effingham coach Christopher Bringer said.
Both local teams suffered their only tournament loss to sixth-ranked Richmond Hill.
The Mustangs won four duals before dropping the championship match to the Wildcats 61-15. ECHS lost its first match to Richmond Hill, then won its last two.
Take the Wildcats out of the equation and it was a stellar day for the locals. SEHS handily defeated Ware County, Perry, Glynn Academy and Statesboro en route to the finals.
Mustangs freshman Jacob Stellhorn (at 106) and Anton Blanchard (126) were 5-0. Blanchard improved to 17-0 on the season.
Stellhorn, Blanchard and Nicholas Sessions posted the lone individual wins against Richmond Hill.
Freshman heavyweight Ashton Anderson and D’Angelo Jackson (152) were both 4-1 with four pins.
But Jacob Galindez (113), Jackson and Brayden Bell (170) suffered their first losses of the season Saturday.
“We’ve wrestled (Richmond Hill) twice before but I think this time they sent us a message, that we have a long way to go,” Bringer said. “I think (the losses are) going to show (our wrestlers) what they’re made of -- we’ll find out, how are they going to bounce back?” Bringer said.
The Rebels bounced back after their Richmond Hill loss to beat Statesboro and Benedictine. They expected to wrestle Ware in the fourth round and have another opponent in the challenge round, but when a Ware wrestler suffered a severe arm injury and left the gym on a stretcher, the Gators left early.
Guggino then elected to let the remaining four out-of-town teams participate in the last challenge round.
Individually, Bryce Vanderhoek (138) won all three matches to stay unbeaten at 13-0.
Guggino also praised the efforts of aggressive wrestlers Corbitt Parrish and Mal Santiago.
“I thought overall we wrestled well,” Guggino said. “We have a long way to go before we catch Richmond Hill and guys like that. I’m proud of our guys because they work hard and support each other. With the attitude they have, they’re going to get better. They work too hard not to.”
The Mustangs and Rebels will be back in action Thursday in a three-way meet at Richmond Hill on the Wildcats’ Senior Night.
Looking ahead, the Region 2-6A tournament will be held Jan. 15-16 at SEHS. The Class 6A state tournament will be held Jan. 29-30 at Lassiter High School in Marietta.