By Donald Heath
Special for the Effingham Herald
SPRINGFIELD – It’s early in the high school wrestling season, but not too early to realize South Effingham has a shot at being a dominant power in Class AAAAAA.
For the second straight Saturday, the Mustangs swept their five dual competitions, claiming the Blue Line Duals’ trophy – an event hosted by Effingham County High School.
“We’re wrestling well right now. We have a bunch of kids wrestling very consistent,” said SEHS coach Christopher Bringer, whose third-ranked squad had little problem knocking off Class AAAAA’s third-ranked Greenbrier 56-9 in the finals Saturday.
The strong start and the banishment of state champion Buford and region toughie Richmond Hill – both moving up to Class AAAAAAA – should give the Mustangs an opportunity to better their chance at state after getting paired with Buford in the second-round last season.
South has an experienced nucleus returning led by region champions Enrique Santana, Ashton Tootle and Ashton Anderson and region finalists Brandon “Moose” Bringer and Jacob Stellhorn.
Stellhorn, Bringer and Santana all finished among the top five in their weight classes at state last season.
This year, a returnee and a newcomer have had notable performances. Anderson captured SEHS’ Hammer of the Week team honor, an award publicized by high school wrestling Internet site SoutheastWrestling, after registering five pins at Ware County’s Swamp Duals on Nov. 12.
Coach Bringer said his “Hammer of the Week” this week was Eli Wood, who went undefeated in five matches. He beat Greenbrier’s top-ranked wrestler Cris Martinez and fifth-ranked Alex Salser.
Wood (10-0) is only in his second year of wrestling.
“He’s put a lot of work in and he’s been consistent,” Bringer said. “I’ll make him the primary captain (for upcoming Turkey Duals).”
Effingham County has top wrestlers who should make waves during the traditional (individual) season. Mal Santiago is off to a 10-0 start. Santiago finished second in the 106 weight class at state last season.
Connor Nevin is also undefeated at 9-0. Santiago and Nevin were the only Rebels to win matches in a 63-9 loss to South Effingham to start Saturday’s 10-team competition.
“It doesn’t matter as much until after Christmas,” said ECHS coach Nico Guggino, whose squad won four dual matches after falling to the Mustangs. “Right now, this is a learning experience and we have a young team. We talked to the kids about the desire to win and having confidence in yourself. We wrestled better after that.”
The Rebels and Mustangs are back in action this week at the two-day Turkey Duals, hosted by South Effingham. The tournament began Tuesday and ends today.