It will be a welcome respite for the Effingham County and South Effingham wrestlers.
ECHS hosted the Rebel Duals on Saturday, with 10 teams taking part in a day-long affair. Effingham went 2-2, beating Benedictine and Lakeside-Evans and falling to Stockbridge. South Effingham downed its cross-county rival 48-30, beat Lakeside-Evans 54-35 and Cross Creek 50-21. The Mustangs fell 47-28 to Stockbridge, ranked No. 3 in Class AAAA, and 51-18 to Union Grove, No. 2 in the Class AAAAA state coaches poll.
“Overall, I was pleased,” said Rebels coach Chris Hardin of his No. 8-ranked team. “We had a couple of guys hurt and a couple of guys sick.”
Both the Rebels and the Mustangs took to the mats short-handed. Effingham started 10 freshmen in its lineup, and Josh Barnhill and Wade Hall sat out the day after wrestling in the team’s first match. Haisten White and Brandon Macklunis also were out. South Effingham was minus Alex Wendell, Zac Nelson, Chad Tucker and Cameron Collum.
“We’re tired and I’m glad we survived the day,” Mustangs coach Tom Onorato said. “That’s part of being this late in the season. We’ve got some sick and some banged up.”
Like Hardin, Onorato turned to wrestlers who don’t normally get a chance to wrestle in tournaments.
“It was a great opportunity for young guys to get varsity experience,” Onorato said.
“It was great to be able to wrestle one of the top AAAA teams and great to be able to wrestle one of the best AAAAA teams. Win or lose, it makes you better for the experience.”
Effingham’s final match of the day came against Union Grove, but the coaches agreed to wrestle just one match —Kevin Ulmer vs. Ryan DeVito. Ulmer pinned DeVito. DeVito had beaten South Effingham’s Josh Jameson earlier, and Jameson had handed Ulmer a rare loss in the Mustangs-Rebels match.
“It’s all about matchups. We were trying to get good guys matched up with other good guys. There were a lot of high-profile wrestlers in matches.”
Effingham will take part in the Crossbone Classic at East Paulding this weekend, its last tournament before the area traditionals Feb. 15-16.
South Effingham is off this weekend and travels to Vidalia for the Sweet Onion Classic before its area traditionals.