The Effingham County wrestling team faced quite a challenge Saturday in getting back to the Class AAAA state duals tournament.
The Greenbrier Wolfpack, after beating the Brunswick Pirates, had the right to challenge the Rebels for the No. 2 spot and a berth in the state tournament. They threw down the gauntlet, but the Rebels rolled to a 50-22 victory, ending a long day of wrestling at the ECHS gym.
“To be where we are now, with as many freshmen as we have starting, is great,” first-year Rebels coach Chris Hardin said. “They’re buying in into what we’re trying to sell.”
Freshman Brandon Macklunis had a pivotal match in the clash with Greenbrier. With the Rebels ahead 28-10 on points, Macklunis trailed in his match at 152 pounds with Aaron Zamechik, but got a pin to give the Rebels a 25-point cushion.
“That’s just a testament to the work Brandon has put in over the season,” Hardin said. “He stepped up big. He’s a fighter. He wants to win.”
Two matches later, Jordan Ginn secured the victory and the trip to Macon with a pin of Beau Allen at 171 pounds. At last week’s Wildcat Invitational in Valdosta, Ginn weighed 184 pounds and wrestled two matches in the 215 class.
“It’s hard to ask a freshman to cut that kind of weight,” Hardin said.
Josh Barnhill (112), Kevin Ulmer (125) and Bruce Smith (130) also won by pin against Greenbrier. Zach Gilliam (135) won by technical fall and Haisten beat Devin Johnson 5-4 at 140 pounds as Johnson was penalized for a violation in the last second of the match. Desmand Washington beat Caleb Harris 7-3 at 189 pounds.
Glynn Academy captured the area duals title after the Red Terrors edged the Rebels 37-35.
Gilliam’s pin of Sylester Canty at 140 pounds gave the Rebels a 29-12 lead with six matches left. But the Red Terrors won the next five matches, three by pin.
The turning point may have come at the 119-pound match. Wade Hall thought he had been slammed to the mat — which is an illegal move — by Glynn’s Nigel Hamilton, but no call was forthcoming. Hall was eventually ejected, and the result was a loss of the match and a loss of three team points for the Rebels.
Hardin argued with the referees after Hall’s match about the slam, but to no avail. Hall, battling an injury, was only going to wrestle that match Saturday.
“We were winning the match, and they took away three team points,” Hardin said, noting his team lost the overall match by a two-point margin.
Smith and Glynn’s Dakota Fulks turned in one of the most exciting matches of the tournament. Fulks led 11-5 and 13-9 in the third period before Smith pinned the Red Terror wrestler late in the period for the victory.
“Bruce started off like gangbusters this season,” Hardin said. “We need to get him to improve over the next week.”
Effingham defeated Brunswick 59-18 in its other match in the area duals.
The state duals will start Friday at the Macon Centreplex.