There wasn’t as much drama to this Area 3-AAA duals wrestling championship.
A year after claiming their first area duals crown on criteria, the South Effingham Mustangs had less trouble in claiming a second straight title and another berth in the Class AAA state duals.
The Mustangs thumped Richmond Hill 72-6 in their last match, completing a 4-0 run through their competition for the area crown Saturday at The Corral.
“It was a great win for the program, the school and the kids,” South Effingham coach Tom Onorato said. “They worked hard. They earned it.”
Last year, South Effingham and Benedictine squared off in the final match of the day, with the winner claiming the area title. After bouts in 14 weight classes, the Mustangs and Cadets were still tied. But South Effingham won more individual matches, and that criteria pushed them over the top.
After Benedictine’s Shane Summerlin, the runner-up last year at 112 pounds, beat Brad Boyd 12-5 at 119 pounds, the Mustangs took control of the match.
Alex Wendell (125), Josh Jameson (130), Robbie Collum (145) and Zac Nelson (152) won by pin, while Jason Screen (135) edged Brett McKinnon 5-3 and Chad Tucker beat Trevor Stevenson 9-0 at 140 pounds.
“They knew we couldn’t give up pins,” Onorato said, “and we did a great job of capitalizing and getting falls when we could.”
Even with forfeiting two weight classes — giving the Cadets 12 points — the Mustangs won 43-31.
“They did a great job being prepared and focused,” Onorato said of his team. “We knew (the Cadets) were going to be tough. It was a typical rival scenario. I thought our kids did a great job matching their intensity. A lot of the kids we have grew up in that match, and they kept their composure.”
The Mustangs blitzed Hephzibah 61-10 in their first match and easily downed Burke County 50-18 in their second match.
They didn’t specifically talk about going back-to-back as area duals champs, Onorato said, but the Mustangs — ranked fifth in the Class AAA state coaches’ poll — knew what was at stake.
“We all knew, in the backs of our minds, it was one of the things you had to win to be successful at the state level,” he said. “We go in with the mindset we want to win.”