The South Effingham wrestling team will shoot for an even bigger prize at the Class AAA state wrestling tournament.
The Mustangs defended their Area 3-AAA traditional title, qualifying all 12 wrestlers for the state tournament and winning four individual titles.
“It’s just a great testimony to these kids and their willingness to work hard,” said Mustangs coach Tom Onorato. “It’s a step in what we’re trying to accomplish in winning the state.”
The Mustangs entered the area tournament knowing they would forfeit the 103-pound and 112-pound classes. Even without those points, they had no problem breezing past rival Benedictine.
“It was something that concerned me,” Onorato said. “But I couldn’t have asked for a better effort out of our kids. Knowing we qualified everybody for state in the first two rounds is a tribute to them and to their focus and to how much this meant to them.”
Said Zac Nelson, who finished second in the 160 class: “It feels great. To come back and win it again was a great experience, especially to have everybody who wrestled qualify.”
Josh Jameson (125), Brad Boyd (130), Chad Tucker (140) and Adam Morse (189) had first-place finishes for the Mustangs. Alex Wendell (119), Jason Screen (135), Tom Medlin (152), Nelson and Brandon Huggins (275) had second-place finishes.
Medlin’s place at the state tournament will be taken by third-place finisher Jacob Fox of Richmond Hill. Brandon Millage of Cross Creek, the first alternate, will go as the fourth-place finisher. Medlin died after a two-car accident Saturday evening, not long after the conclusion of the area tournament.
Robbie Collum was third at 145 and Matt Holt was third at 215. Avery Bragg took fourth at 171.
The area title gives the Mustangs confidence going into the state tournament, which starts Wednesday.
“They take a lot of pride in how hard they work,” Onorato said. “It’s great to see that hard work pay off.”
The Mustangs who took part in last year’s state tournament are hoping to improve on last year’s seventh-place finish.
Nelson and his teammates will be remembering a wrestler who pushed him to be better every day in practice.
“We’re going to go out and give 110 percent,” he said.