By Donald Heath
Special for the Effingham Herald
GUYTON — Six wrestling teams come in, four come out and head to state when the Region 2-AAAAAA Duals are completed Saturday at South Effingham High School.
South Effingham and Effingham County will be in action in the all-important first round. With a win against Statesboro, the third-seeded Mustangs will pin down their second straight appearance at state. The fourth-seeded Rebels have an elimination match against Glynn Academy.
Top-seed Brunswick and Richmond Hill will await the winners for semifinal action.
The winner of the region will host a four-team grouping of the state bracket Jan. 22 while the other three qualifiers will be on the road.
The eight remaining winners advance to Lassiter High on Jan. 30 to determine the Class 6A state championship.
“Our region is tough. I think we’d be a No. 1 seed in any other region we’d wrestle here in (South Georgia),” Mustangs head coach Christopher Bringer said. “People overlook us a lot. As long as we’re healthy, we’ll be alright.”
Last season, SEHS defeated Statesboro to finish second in the region when only two teams advanced to state.
But this is a younger Mustang team which won’t be able to count on points from 285-pound state champion Austin Blaske or 182-pound, third-place state finisher Hunter Tindall. Both Blaske and Tindall graduated.
Brayden Bell, a third-place finisher in traditionals at 170 last season, has been injured most of this season.
So Bringer will count on his lighter weight classes for team scoring. Jacob Galindez (113) and D’Angelo Jackson (152) have only one loss since the season started at SEHS with the Turkey Duals in November.
Anton Blanchard, Stephen Tootle and Nicholas Sessions are also experienced Mustangs to watch.
Effingham County’s strength also stems from the lighter weight classes with Mal Santiago (106), Conner Nevin (120), Bryce Vanderhoek (126), Corbitt Parrish (138), Tyler Kesler (145) and Nigel Wright (182) leading the way.
“I think we’re getting better, but we’re not there yet,” said ECHS coach Nico Guggino, whose squad is coming off winning a six-team tournament at Greenbrier and a strong showing Saturday at the Sweet Onion Memorial at Toombs County.
Last season, the Rebels finished third in the region behind powerhouses Richmond Hill and Brunswick. The Wildcats advanced to the state championship match in Class 6A before losing to Pope. Brunswick, last year’s region second seed, also lost to Pope in the second round.
The Wildcats and Pirates switched places for this year’s region tournament. Brunswick, with a team record of 23-1, stunned Richmond Hill 48-30 at the Brantley Bash on Jan. 2.
Potentially, South Effingham and Effingham County could wind up wrestling for third place in the region. The Mustangs have defeated the Rebels twice in head-to-head meetings.
“We all wrestle each other enough to know where we’re all standing,” Bringer said.