By Donald Heath
Special for the Effingham Herald
GUYTON — If gaining experience is the goal for early-season tournaments, South Effingham’s Turkey Duals provided a feast of action for local wrestlers.
The two-day affair, ending the day before Thanksgiving, gave each team and its wrestlers five matches a day.
SEHS’ Jacob Galindez and Anton Blanchard and Effingham County’s Tyler Kesler and Corbitt Parrish started the season right by posting 10-0 marks.
As a team, the Mustangs posted a 6-4 record. The Rebels won four times in 10 dual matches.
A total of nine teams participated. SEHS, ECHS and Richmond Hill wrestled both days. Bryan County, Ware County and Toombs County came only Tuesday (Nov. 24). Benedictine, Screven County and Richmond Hill ‘B’ wrestled on Wednesday (Nov. 25).
Richmond Hill won all nine matches — the Wildcats didn’t wrestle their “B” squad — to win both days of competition.
“Overall, with everything going on with COVID, everything going on with an extended football season, I thought we did very well,” said Mustangs coach Christopher Bringer, who was missing several veterans including Brayden Bell, who placed third at state last season.“I thought (Tuesday) we wrestled well, but (Wednesday), being the first time back-to-back, you could see some of the guys tiring a bit.”
Tiring wasn’t a problem for the 126-pound Blanchard or the 145-pound Kesler. Both made short work of every opponent, finishing each of their matches with a pin.
“I want to set some records at South Effingham,” said Blanchard, a junior who most likely will trim down to 120. “I want to pin as many people as possible. Right now, I’m 10-0, so that’s pretty good. My goal is to be a state champion.”
Blanchard finished the 2019-20 season with a 28-23 record and lost both matches at state last season, but Bringer understands his confidence.
“What’s special about Anton is he wasn’t ranked in the preseason, which is a complete failure by somebody,” Bringer said. “If he stays consistent, he can (win a state title).”
Galindez (37-23 at 106 last season), Kesler (46-18 at 132) and Parrish (42-15 at 120) all advanced to state.
While the returning veterans gobbled up the competition, both Bringer and ECHS coach Nico Guggino saw equally bright spots among their up-and-coming wrestlers.
Freshman Ashton Tootle was 8-2 with six pins and Isaac Wegman went 6-3.
Bringer also praised the efforts of freshmen Devin Corley (155), Ashton Anderson (285), Lane Dowden (132) and Jacob Stellhorn.
“We have an amazing freshman class,” said Bringer, whose team defeated ECHS 48-34 on Tuesday and 52-23 on Wednesday.
For the Rebels, Jaden Evans (182), Conner Nevin (126), Elijah Johnson (106), Cooper Nease (220) will be keys for a rebuilding program.
Nevin, a sophomore, won three matches at Sectionals and a match at state last season as a freshman.
Another sophomore, Mal Santiago at 106 tied a school record at the Turkey Duals with a seven second pin against Screven County.
“What’s exciting for us is we have a lot of young kids wrestling,” Guggino said. “They’re not winning as much as we’d like them to, but they’re competing. They’re going out and wrestling hard and when you have kids wrestling hard like that, they’re going to turn that corner a lot sooner than later.”
ECHS returns to action Friday and Saturday at the Yellow Jacket Duals hosted by Jeff Davis.
SEHS wrestlers will be in Bluffton, S.C., on Friday and Saturday for the May River Invitational.