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Turkey Duals whet appetite for rest of wrestling season
Effingham County’s Zach Gilliam tries to escape during the Turkey Duals on Wednesday at South Effingham High School. - photo by Photo by Pat Donahue

South Effingham wrestling coach Tom Onorato got just what he wanted out of the Turkey Duals on Wednesday.

The Mustangs hosted in-county rival Effingham and a slew of other top-notch programs, including three-time state champ West Laurens, area rival Benedictine, Elbert County and Camden County to start the season.

“It was a good day,” Onorato said. “The kids wrestled hard, and we’ve got a lot to work on. We got a lot of good competition, and that’s what we wanted. I was real pleased with the teams we brought in, how hard they wrestled and how well-coached they are.”

The Mustangs went 3-2, beating Elbert County 38-33, Effingham County 42-30 and coming from down 22-0 to knock off BC 45-28. West Laurens, the defending three-time state champs, won all five of its matches, topping South Effingham 48-22, and Camden beat the Mustangs 35-31.

“I just wanted to evaluate the kids and see where we were at,” Onorato said, “and see how they are progressing and make corrections.

“It’s not about wins and losses but about competing hard. We all walked away with a good challenge.”

The Rebels wrestled Wednesday without Josh Barnhill, who was sick. That meant a young team was even less experienced without one of its top wrestlers.

But newcomer Chris Hamilton, a senior, had an explosive debut, notching four first-round pins.

“The young guys are getting a lot of mat time, and they are showing improvement,” Rebels coach Chris Hardin said.

“The main goal is to get mat time.”

The Rebels finished 1-4, beating Elbert County 39-36. They fell 43-36 to West Laurens, 54-28 to Area 3-AAAAA champ Camden and 35-30 to Benedictine.

“I’m pleased,” Hardin said. “We’re losing tough matches."

During the Rebels-Mustangs match, one of the best matchups was Desmond Washington against Adam Morse. Morse won by pin, with Washington up by two points in the third period.

“We knew he was tough, and that’s why we through Desmond in there,” Hardin said.

The first-year coach also was impressed with the efforts of Bruce Smith at the 135-pound class and expects big things if Hamilton and Smith continue to improve.

“On their feet, they can go,” he said. “On the mat, they’re not sure what they’re doing.”

Freshman Wade Hall lost to Benedictine’s Shane Summerlin, and the Rebels newcomer thought he should have beaten the Cadets’ star, who was a state runner-up.

“He thinks he should beat everybody,” Hardin said of Hall.

Kevin Ulmer lost to two-time state champ Blaine Harvey of West Laurens — who beat Summerlin in the Class AAA 112 in the state finals in February — but Michael King at 275 won five of his first six matches of the year.

Harvey also beat South Effingham’s Alex Wendell 14-5 at 125.

The Rebels opened their season Tuesday at home against Glynn Academy and Greenbrier. They beat Glynn. Glynn beat Greenbrier and Greenbrier then beat Effingham County.

“It came down to the last two matches,” Hardin said.

Wednesday wasn’t just limited to the varsity programs — there were also 105 JV matches in the auxiliary gym.

“All the kids got some good mat time,” Onorato said.