It was a long drive out to Columbus, but it proved to be worth it for the South Effingham Mustangs wrestling team.
The Mustangs finished fifth in the team standings and took home three first-place medals, including Adam Morse’s very satisfying win at 189 pounds.
Morse, named the most outstanding wrestler at the 30th Annual Hardaway Invitational, defeated Hardaway’s Nick Burks in the finals. Burks is the defending Class AAA state champ at 189 and beat Morse 5-4 in the semifinals of February’s state tournament.
“This was a match he had been waiting for for a long time,” Mustangs coach Tom Onorato said.
Josh Jameson (130) and Robbie Collum (145) also captured crowns in their weight classes. The Mustangs had two third-place finishes — Jason Screen at 135 and Zac Nelson at 160 — and a fourth with Alex Wendell at 119.
South Effingham had 162.5 points, 1.5 points behind fourth-place Troup County. Gilmer County won the event with 225.5 points, with Columbus taking second with 188 and host Hardaway in third of the 20-team tournament at 166.5.
“I thought we wrestled really well,” Onorato said. “We wrestled with good intensity. We made some mistakes, but it was a great tournament in being able to see a lot of the other AAA teams.”
While South Effingham’s schedule is rigorous, the Mustangs don’t get to see many of the other prospective state championship contenders throughout the season. Four of the top 10-ranked teams in AAA — including No. 4 South Effingham — were in the field.
“We were able to see Gilmer, Columbus, Hardaway, Apalachee, so there were a lot of good, quality kids,” Onorato said. “It was a good trip for us.”
The Mustangs will take part in the Camden Duals this weekend at Camden County.