LaGrange eyes back-to-back titles
LAGRANGE – They’re hoping for a repeat.
A year ago, the LaGrange High wrestling team was the champion of the Area 1-AAAAA duals, and that served as a springboard to a top eight finish at the state duals.
On Saturday, LaGrange will look to make it two in a row.
LaGrange will be one of the teams competing in the area duals at Starr’s Mill High School, and the top two finishers will qualify for the state duals the following weekend.
LaGrange has a first-round bye before wrestling in the quarterfinals against the winner of an earlier match.
If LaGrange wins its quarterfinal match, it would set up a semifinal showdown against Northgate, with the winner moving on to the championship round.
A win over Northgate in the semifinals would guarantee LaGrange a spot in the state tournament in Macon.
“We need to leave it all out there,” LaGrange head coach Scooter Weathers said. “That way, if we win, we’re in. That’s the bottomline.”
LaGrange heads into the area duals on the heels of a strong performance at the Gary Silva Invitational last week.
The Grangers had nine placers, including individual champion Guy Wegienka, and they captured the team championship.
Since then, the Grangers have been busy working in the practice room, and making sure everyone stays at their proper weight.
One of those wrestlers, senior Dominique Copeland who wrestles at 160 pounds, believes everthing is falling into place for the Grangers.
“We’re confident,” said Copeland, who finished third at the Silva tournament. “Hopefully everybody’s at their weight. I’m confident of everybody in our lineup.”
Another senior on the team, Matt Watford, said he enjoys the dual format where it’s all about the team performance.
“It’s all a team thing,” said Watford, who finished third at the Silva tournament. “You want to win for yourself, all the time, every time. But then again, 10 times more you want your teammate to win.”
When Watford looks at the lineup, he’s confident about the chances of the team earning spot in the state duals next week.
“I feel like we’ll be heading to Macon,” Watford said. “Hopefully we’ll finish top eight (at state) at least.”
The hottest LaGrange wrestler is senior Guy Wegienka, who made it three wins in a row by taking the top spot in the 195-pound division at the Silva tournament.
Before that, Wegienka won the Chattahoochee River Wrestling Association tournament, and the Hardaway Invitational.
On Saturday, Wegienka won’t be wrestling for an individual title, he’ll be trying to help the team succeed.
Wegienka said it’ll be up to each member of the lineup to carry his weight.
“It’s up to everybody,” Wegienka said. “Everybody point matters. We’ve had matches where we’ve won by one point.”
Senior Emmanuel Mann, who won the CRWA tournament earlier this season, believes the Grangers will get it done.
“Everybody is on their weight just about,” said Mann, a state placer as a junior. “We’ve got a pretty good lineup right now. I know we’ll get everything done like we should.”
Another senior member of the lineup is Kane Shirey, who returned from an ankle injury for the Silva tournament and finished third.
Shirey tore two ligaments in his ankle earlier this season and had to miss a significant amount of time.
“I didn’t think it would be that long,” Shirey said. “I was out three weeks. I was ready to get back.”
Shirey didn’t show any rust as he won by pin at 126 pounds in the third-place match at the Silva tournament.
Other standout wrestlers at the Silva tournament included Jordan Ragan, who finished second at 182 pounds, and Richard Gaskins, the runnerup at 285 pounds.
Also reaching the finals at the Silva tournament was Colt Creed, who did a terrific job against Callaway’s Justin Kiss in the 113-pound championship match before losing by decision.
Quindon Dunson had a third-place finish for LaGrange at 132 pounds, and Luke Haynes was third at 120 pounds.
Other standout wrestlers for LaGrange thoughout the season have been John Todd Bohn and Dijon Hart, who both have placed at tournaments.
After the area duals and the state duals, the Grangers will compete in the county championship on Jan. 20, and they’ll have a few other meets before the Area 1-AAAAA traditional tournament on Jan. 19.
The two-day state sectional begins on Feb. 5, and the state finals will be held Feb. 11 through Feb. 13 at the Gwinnett Arena.
Reach Kevin Eckleberry at (706) 884-7311 or on Twitter @lagrangesports