GUYTON — South Effingham’s Austin Blaske is a state champion.
Last year’s Class AAAAA runner-up cleared the championship hurdle in Macon on Saturday, becoming the school’s second state titleist since 2009.
“It’s definitely big time for me,” Blaske said. “This is every wrestlers dream.”
Prior to the state tournament, Blaske came out of the sectionals with a third-place finish. The setback helped his gain the right mentality to not let anyone pull an upset over him at the state meet.
The heavyweight champion said he’s always been committed to representing the Mustangs athletic program with class.
"Blaske winning the state title was great for the school, the team and him and his family,” South Effingham head coach Christopher Bringer said. “We are all super proud of his accomplishments.”
“It means to me that I am representing the school, but not just on the wrestling mat, but everywhere I go,” Blaske said. “It means a lot to represent my team, the school, the coaches and the community.”
Blaske pinned his way through the first three matches and secured his fourth and final pin in the second round of his title match. He stayed true to his techniques, knowing he would need to stay true to his moves to eliminate his opponent and avoid a potential third round of wrestling.
“I was going to have to snap him down,” he said. “I knew I needed to keep him there and I kept riding him out.”
The team finished eighth as a whole, with Brayden Bell (170), Hunter Tindall (182) and Malkolm Stephens (195) having impressing showings in their own way.
For Tindall, however, it was a heartbreaking tournament as he finished just one match shy of advancing to the finals.
"Hunter Tindall, the team's leader in wins and pins, wrestled with a lot of heart and emotion,” Bringer said. “Tindall gave his life to win a state title and when he lost to now two-time state champ Blaine Bergey from Buford in the semifinals, he was devastated. I am so proud of how he picked himself up and beat Chase Sippola with a pin to reach the third-place match against a wrestler that beat him the week prior and was ranked No. 1 in the state.
“In the third-place match, he dominated with a quick pin. What was really impressive is the way he came back from a setback to win two matches and cheer on his teammate, Austin Blaske, to earn a state title."
Bell was stopped short in the semifinals. He and Stephens finished third and sixth, respectively.
Bringer believes the sky is the limit for both wrestlers, who will return next year for what could be their turn to take the podium as state champs.
"Brayden Bell earned a third-place finish, beating a lot of ranked wrestlers on the way to the match,” Bringer said. “The scary thing is I don't think Brayden is even close to wrestling at his potential. Once we tweak some small things, he comes back as a top contender, along with Jacob Galindez, Malkolm Stephens, D'Angelo Jackson and Hunter Slater to compete for a state title next year."