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January 9, 2014 – In Macon as the second team, we drew another Area’s champion.  It also happened to be one of the best in the state in North Forsyth.  However, like against Collins Hill last year, we did not go down easily.  We were the last two teams wrestling of all 8 matches.  Isaiah barely lost (OT), Brandon won by pin as did Jeron.   Jason, Daniel, Jelani, Abraham all lost.  Brad lost 0-5 to a state placer he wrestled in this same facility last year at the State Individual tournament – but by less margin (small mental victory.)  Will lost as did Dareon.  Alex picked us up and won a tough match  6-5.  Jonathan followed with a victory and then Anthony lost a heartbreaker 6-8 in OT.   Dalton ran up on a superior opponent and we fell 18-42, but everyone, including all the other fans, knew MHS was for real.

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We returned the next day to wrestle Douglas County in the wrestlebacks.  Not really close here with MHS rolling up a 45-15 victory.   Brandon, Brian Marshall, Jason, Daniel all got pins.  Jelani, Abraham and Brad scored decisions.  Will and Dareon lost close matches, but Alex – in his usual squeaker fashion – scored a 4-2 win.  Anthony and Jonathan got pins.  Dalton lost a close one and then Isaiah finished them off with an 11-7 win.
Next up Newton County.  A little pay back at stake here.  Kennesaw Mountain lost to Newton County in the first round, so we had a chance to advance past them and achieve a moral victory over the Mustangs.  Jeron started us off strong with a pin.  Jason had a football score win of 17-13 and Daniel had a pin.   Jelani got a 6-0 win an were up 18-0.  Abraham fell at 126 0-10, but Brad rebounded with a pin.  Will lost a close match 3-4.  Dareon followed with a 13-7 victory.  Alex won 6-2 (hey four point margin – a virtual runaway!)  and then Anthony skunked his man 3-0.  Jonathan got a pin and we were up 39-7.  Dang, we are hitting our stride here.   Dalton lost a close match, but Isaiah scored 6 for the Big Blue with a pin.  Brandon finished them off with a 10-3 victory and some good feelings were had with a 48-10 win.

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We drew Etowah next and all found out why Cobb County is a much better place to live than Cherokee.  On the mats, we started out with a pin from Jason Caldwell.  Daniel got teched then both Jelani and Abraham got pinned.  Not the start we needed – Down 6-17.   It got really bad then – at least for the King family.  Brad drew last years State Finalist at 120 lbs and after 8 matches of wrestling since his shoulder injury, fell on it again in the same way and had to injury default.  We wanted to see how he matched up against Joey Paton, but were devastated when he reinjured his shoulder.   Will, Dareaon and Alex all lost decisions and Anthony got pinned.  This is not looking good.  Jonathan got in a real dog fight and eventually lost 4-6 with their coach getting penalized by the refs for unsportsmanlike conduct.  Dalton got us going with a pin and Isaiah won a major decision.   Brandon won by forfeit and Jeron won the last match of the tournament for the Devils with a 6-5 victory.  We were sent packing 25-40, but feeling good that we advanced further than last year.  Winning two matches down there at the state tournament was impressive and gets us a worst case top eight finish.   However, with a little better wrestling, a few breaks here and there, this Etowah team could have been beaten.
Congrats to all the wrestlers, coaches,  wrestlerettes and sports med folks who were a part of these two tournaments.   Thanks to Karen Neary who spearheaded the hasty travel preparations/hotel arrangements for the team.  Go Big Blue!
January 10, 2014 – Last year, MHS went to the Area Duals not really knowing what to expect.  We surprised ourselves a little bit by beating some strong teams and going to state as the #2 team from our region.  This year was a different story – we wanted to win the Area Dual Championship and felt we could.
We started out against South Cobb beating them handily 72-6.  Unfortunately after that we fell to the eventual winner, Kennesaw Mountain in a very close match 31-34.   Most of our strongest heavy wrestlers did win, but with few pins and we did not perform well in our middle weights.   Winners were Isaiah, Brandon (OT), Jeron, Jason (by pin), Jelani, Abraham (pin),  and Jonathan (forfeit.)   We all felt this loss deeply as we KNOW we are better than them – just not this day.

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We had to recover because the Area Duals is not only a double elimination tournament, but there is wrestling to determine the “true second”.  We next beat up on Hillgrove 57-19 with most everyone winning.   Next up – Harrison.  We rolled to a 52-21 victory with Brandon and Jeron starting out with forfeits and then Jason pinning his man.  We faltered at 113, 120 and 126, but Brad scored 6 team points when his man could not continue after a legal naked headlock resulted in a neck injury.  Will, Dareon and Alex all racked up 6 points each and hen Anthony Neary won a tough 6-5 match.  Jonathan scored a major victory, Dalton faltered and Isaiah finished us off with a 7-3 victory.
This set up a match up against McEachern which lost to KMHS in the finals.  So, we get a shot at them for true second place and a trip to Macon to be one of 16 teams in the State to wrestle for the Dual State Championship!

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Jeron began with a pin, followed by Jason and Daniel both getting the mat slap 6 points each!   Jelani won 6-1.   Abraham drew a senior veteran, Alex Noble.  who finished second in Area last year and was second in Cobb County last weekend. He got teched 3-18.   Brad, with a hurt shoulder, used his legs to cradle his opponent and got a most unorthodox pin.   Will and Dareon both lost, but Alex  scored a lot of points (for a change haha inside joke) in his 9-0 victory.   We were now up 31-14.  Jonathan and Anthony Neary both got pins and Dalton won a hard fought 7-4 decision.  Isaiah got a pin and we were up 52-14 and the match was long since decided.  Brandon nevertheless wrestled his heart out and lost a Double OT 2-3 loss to a great wrestler – Could be a preview to the State Finals.
So, MHS rolls out of the tournament with a 52-17 victory and  is on their way to State for the second year in a row!
December 7, 2013 – The Devils Varsity team motored out West to East Pauling for a return to the East Paulding Crossbone Duals – another team tournament. 
We began in our pool by wrestling Chapel Hill.  It was a romp with all our wrestlers that won winning by pins except for Isaiah who teched his man.  We lost one match at 145.  Of note, Jason Caldwell wrestled at 106 for the first time this season.  Things will get easier for him after Christmas with the extra 2 lbs. 
Then we got to wrestle the home team, East Paulding.  But, they were no match for the Big Blue this day.  Jason led us off with a pin at 106.  Daniel Leon (brother of Abraham) got a forfeit and Jelani as well as Abraham scored 6 pts each by pinning the EP wrestler.  Brad and Rashad both got forfeits.  Caleb was wrestling up a weight class and was defeated.  Alex Ambio scored a pin fall and then Anthony Neary won the closest fought bout of the match 3-0.  Jonathan Gates delivered at 170 with a 7-1 victory.  Dalton Brans held a 182 man down with his shoulders firmly planted on the mat for the pin and the 6 team points.  Isaiah won 11-7 as he continues to transition from football conditioned to wrestling conditioned.  As a former lineman, I can attest to how hard it is to try to stay heavy for football and then lean out for wrestling.  At least my football line position coach was also the head wrestling coach!  Brandon then got us a forfeit at 225 and Brian Marshall pinned his man to finish up this 69-6.

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Against Cartersville we had a more competitive match. 
We began slightly behind with Daniel Leon giving up a pin at 113.  But, his teammates fought back and Jelani Miller got a pin to even it up and Abraham revenged the family loss and pinned his Cartersville wrestler.  Brad wrestled and got a decision at 12-5.  So, at this point 15-6 Devils.  We shed some points as Caleb and Rashad were both pinned and Alex lost by 3 points.  Anthony Neary scored 10 points in his match, but gave up 19, so Cartersville was now up 25-15.  At 170, we hit our stride with Jonathan Gates getting the pin, Dalton Brans collecting a forfeit and we now led 27-25.
Our big men really performed and put it out of reach with Isaiah, Brandon and Brian all three pinning their men and we surged out to a 45-25 lead.  Jason Caldwell capped the match with a nail bitter 6-5 match.  If you have never wrestled, nothing is more challenging than holding on to a one point lead.  On top you have to try to be aggressive enough to make the ref happy, but not give up a reversal or escape.  On bottom you have to make sure you don’t get turned and give up any back points and in either position a stalling penalty could tie the match.  Good Job Jason. 
With the pool wrestling complete, We lined up across from North Paulding for the semi-final match.  NP has the largest student population of any of the Paulding High schools and is the only one to wrestle in AAAAAA classification.  It was a battle.

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We started one weight class further down the roster with 120.  Jelani won with a big pin and we were off to a quick 6-0 lead.  Abraham lost a close match 0-2, but Brad pinned his man so we were up 12-3.  Caleb lost a decision and Rashad was pinned, but Alex won a 3-0 decision and we now held a 15-12 lead.  Anthony  wrestled another tight match but fell 5-4 and the team score was tied at 15.  At 170, Jonathan pinned his man and Dalton wasted no time scoring his 6 points with a 41 second pin.  Isaiah and Brandon  also scored pins and we are up by a substantial  39-15 score – which is enough to secure the team victory. That was a good thing because  Brian,  Jason and Daniel were all pinned, so with a 39-33 victory and sigh of Wheww, we moved on to the finals against Cass. 
FINALS of CROSS BONE DUALS:  Marietta High versus Cass High
126 lbs:  Jelani Miller drew one of Cass’ true stars, Blake Walker, a 3 time state qualifier and finalist in two different weight classes for Cherokee.  He did not get pinned, but 1-16 was final score. 
132:  Brad also ran up on a state finalist in Rashad Williams who placed 6th last year at 126 and was pinned. 
138: Caleb fought hard, but was also pinned. 
145: Rashad was pinned.  So, after 4 matches we are getting skunked 0-23. 
152: Alex won his usual tight match, 9-6 which got us on the board.  3-23
160: They forfeited!  We are now down 9-23.
170: Jonathan got a roll going with a pin and we are in this match at 15-23.
182: That Brans kid does it again and with a pin, we are down 2, 21-23
195:  Isaiah PIN 27-23 MHS
225: Brandon PIN 33-23 MHS
285: Brian Marshall gave up a pin, but we are still in the lead 33-29
106: Jason was defeated by pinfall and we were slightly behind 33-35
113: Daniel was outscored 1-12 which is a major decision.  33-39 Cass
120: Jelani was outmanned and the match was lost 33-45. 
Finishing as runner up in this team tournament is something to be very proud of.  And, with just a little more production in this match, we could have won this match and been champions.  And, to wrestle 5 wrestling matches in one day is just beyond my comprehension.  My hat is off to them.   Congrats to all the coaches, wrestlers, managers and sports meds help.
December 4, 2013 – The JV and Varsity had a dual meet at Hillgrove.  First the JV had a match with wrestlers that the coaches matched up as well as possible.  Some of the wrestlers we did not know and for that I apologize.  I will try to get some more details from the wrestling managers.  But, suffice it to say, we beat them and several up and coming grapplers had solid matches.  Caleb Evans wrestled well and won a decision.  Josh McMahon scored a lot of points and defeated his opponent 16-11.  Max Bose also won 10-6.  Mitchell Krier was impressive at 160 lbs with a 48 second pin.  We had 3 other wins and they had some luck, so by our count it was 33 – 24. 

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The Varsity Captains, Brad King, Jonathon Gates, Isaiah Borne and Brandon Hill met the ref and Hillgrove Capts at the center circle.   We began wrestling at 126lbs.  Abraham drew one of Hillgrove’s most experienced wrestlers, but did not get pinned or teched.  Brad was up next and scored a major decision with a 16-4 victory.  After dealing with a serious shoulder injury, Will Turner returned to the mat at 138, however he was wrestling probably Hillgrove’s best wrestler – or at least the one with the strongest pedigree – Carlin Powell.  Many people may remember Carlin’s sister, Kristi who was one of the best female wrestlers on the mat the past few years.  Their Dad, Chris, was a state champion back in the early 80s when Sprayberry was the Archer of today.  Anyway, Will lost 0-9, but held up well and did not give up very many team points.  We also lost at 145 to Bret Kelly, who was a strong wrestler for Hillgrove last year at 126.  Alex battled as always, but lost a 4-8 decision at 152.
 Anthony Neary, better known at NAGA, opened up a can of whoop A__ on his man and pinned him early in the 2nd period putting us back on the winning track and bringing us to within 3 points.  Hillgrove forfeited the next 3 matches with Jonathan, Dalton and Isaiah all collected the points for the Devils.  At 225 Brandon’s man stayed alive for quite a bit, but he succumbed like most do mid-way through the second period.   Brian Marshall, at 285, also pinned his opponent about halfway through the second.   We forfeited at 106, but that would be the last points Hillgrove collected as Jason Caldwell and Jelani Miller both overwhelmed their opponents and pinned them at about the 2 minute mark.    Final Score 52-19.
November 23, 2013 – We opened up the Cherokee Duals against Parkview, which has been a great wrestling school for many years and a previous state champion.  We had a different lineup than what is wrestling varsity today which makes some of these victories even more impressive.
Starting wrestling at 182lbs, Dalton Brans led us off with a 3rd period pin.  Wrestling at the same weight class he wrestled last year, Dalton is heavier and at his natural weight this year.  With the experience he gained last year and being in the right weight class as well as his natural ability/will to win, Dalton is off to a great start.  Andres McClesh lost at 195, Jonathan Goldwine won a major decision at 225 and Brandon wrestled up at 285 taking a forfeit.   We forfeited at 106.  Jason Caldwell, who is returning this year at 106, but was wrestling up at 113 lost a tough match.  Jelani Miller rebounded for MHS and won a real nail biter 10-8.  Abraham Leon collected a forfeit at 126.  MHS led 25-18.1123-07
Brad King took FOREVER to get it done, but he finally pinned his opponent late in the 3rd period and Caleb collected a forfeit at 138.  Dareon and Alex Ambio both bog pinned as well as Max at 160.  So, going into the last match we were up by only one point 37-36 with the match resting on the shoulders of Jonathan Gates.  I was not worried as Gates is one of our veteran, most talented wrestlers.  He did not disappoint and pinned his man in the 2nd period securing the win 43-36.
We next faced Milton, which had given us all we could handle last year, but they forfeited 6 matches which tells you they were not here expecting to win.   We trounced the rest of their men with Jonathan Goldwire, Brandon, Caleb, Anthony Neary and Andres all collecting pins and Dalton Brans shutting out his opponent 7-0.  My opinon:  Teams should not come to tournaments unable to fill most of the roster with wrestlers – it cheats the opponents (and their fans) of a chance to compete.  MHS wins 69-6.
Next up:  Meadowcreek; a very strong team from Gwinnett County.  We started out well with Brandon scoring a pin at 285.  After a forfeit again at 106, Jason Caldwell lost a tough decision 9-13.  Jelani fought really hard, but gave up a 3rd period pin and we were down 6-15.  Abraham collected a forfeit and Brad scored a decision at 132 lbs  8-2 to even up the team score at 15-15.  We gave up another 3rd period pin at 138, but Dareon got that back with a pin at 145.  Alex battled at 152, lost 3-8, but only gave up 3 points.  We did get pinned at 160, but both Gates and Brans pinned their men at 170 and 182 and we were up 33-30 with two matches to go.  Andres gave up a pin late in the 2nd period and we were down 33-36 with on match to go.  Jonathan Goldwire wrestled hard, but with a 3rd period pin, Meadowcreek secured the victory 42-33.
Our last match of the tournament was against Brookwood, another Gwinnett County wrestling powerhouse.  It could have been a let down from the close loss against Meadowcreek or just bad match ups, but we got soundly defeated 56-18 and sent on our way back to M-Town.  After forfeiting 106, Jason Caldwell had a nice pin at 113.  Then we lost three decisions, Jelani (7-17), Abraham (2-8) and Brad (2-4.)  It got worse when Dareon, Alex and Max all got pinned and we were down 6-40.  Jonathan scored for us at 160 collecting a forfeit, but we were pinned again at 182 and 225 and lost a major decision at 195.  Brandon collected a forfeit at 285, for a final of 18-56.   Not the way we wanted to end the Cherokee Duals, but this was a good learning experience for many and a helpful benchmark for others as they feel out their competition as well as their own skill set/conditioning level.
After Thanksgiving break, the team went to Archer for another Duals Tournament.   Note:  Archer is the defending State Traditional Champion and has an amazing program going right now.  It is not surprising that the level of competition at their tournament was stiff.
We began against South Forsyth again forfeiting at 106.  Daniel Leon was in the lineup at 113 and gave up a pin.  Jelani, Abraham both lost decisions and we were down 0-18.  Brad got us on the board with a 7-2 decision.  Rashad wrestled for the Devils at 145, but gave up a pin as Joshua McMahon did also at 145.  Alex Ambio scored a decision at 152, but we gave up a pin at 160.  Jonathan Goldwire and Dalton Brans proved to be our sweet spot in the lineup with both pinning their men.  Down 18-36 with 3 matches to go, it was all up to the next man up to keep us alive in this match:    Andres gave up a decision and we were defeated.    Brandon, wrestling at his 2012 weight class of 225, scored a pin for us, but Brian Marshall at 285 was pinned.  MHS 24-45.
The next match was against Archer, the top wrestling program in Georgia.  Without replaying the horror movie, we lost 0-81 with Jonathan Gates being the only Blue Devil not being pinned.  Ouch and Wow.1130-49
Banks High School was the next opponent.  We began at 126 with Abraham collecting a forfeit.  Brad lost a heartbreaker 2-5 and Rashad and Josh McMahon both got pinned and we were down 6-15.  Alex Ambio got us going at 152 with a technical fall, but we gave up a very late 3rd period pin at 160. Gates was strong at 160 scoring a 9-2 victory followed by Dalton Brans mid-second period  pin fall.  Match is very close with Devils down one, 20-21.
We gave up a pin at 195, but Brandon delivered with a grueling 3-1 victory in overtime.   With Brian Marshall scoring a huge 1st period pin, we were up 29-27 with 3 matches to go. However, we forfeited at 106, so now we are down 29-33.  Jason got that back for us when he pinned his man at 113 and we went into the 120lb match with the team victory on the line holding a slim 35-33 lead.  Unfortunately, we got pinned and lost the match 35-39.   It is important to note that unlike the old days when meets either started at the lightest weights or went up or at the heavy weight and came down, now wrestling begins at all weight classes based on a draw/rotation.  So, in a close team meet every wrestler can find themselves not only trying to win, but having the additional pressure of having the whole team win all on their shoulders making an already very tough sport even tougher.
Close matches also bring to light the importance of team points, even if you lose.  Staying off your back and losing a decision only gives up 3 points where getting pinned results in 6 points for the other team.   Winning by 8 points scores 4 points for team and getting to 15pt margin of victory will get you a technical fall and score 5 points for the Big Blue.   So when you win, try to win big.  If you lose, try not to get pinned or give up too many points.
Our Devils, known for never giving up, rebounded by spanking Milton again by a larger margin than at Cherokee, 72-0.  Rashed collected his first win of the season 15-9 at 138 to start us off.   3 forfeits later, we were up 21-0.  Jonathan was up 4-0 when his man tapped out due to injury.   Dalton, Andres and Brandon all scored pins and Bryan collected a forfeit.  Dual forfeits at 106  as well as forfeit victories at 113, 126 and 132 along with Jelani Miller’s 7-0 win at 125 finished up the match.  I repeat my earlier rant; I feel strongly if a team is going to forfeit 7 of 14 weight classes in a team tournament, stay home.1123-27
Our last match was a good one against Tift County with all weight classes except 106 having wrestling settle the score.  Caleb started us off at 138 pinning in the 2nd period.  Alex Ambio followed suit and also had a second period pin.   Max scored a 7-3 decision with Jonathon Gates doing likewise 9-3 and Dalton Brans really turning up the heat with a technical fall 18-3 putting the Devils up 23-0.  We were pinned at 195 when Brandon took the mat at 225.  It took 2 overtimes, but he secured a 2-1 win followed by Brian Marshall’s pin at 285.   Another double forfeit at 106 (neither team gets points)and MHS held a 32-6 lead.  Jason gave up the second period pin in one of his last matches wrestling up at 113.  Jelani got us back on the right track winning a tough 8-4 decision , but we slipped at 126 with Abraham losing 5-10.  However,  Brad scored a technical fall 17-2 for a 40-15 team score.  Rashad lost a close match, but victory was secure and Blue Devils win 40-18; a good way to end this tournament and this Thanksgiving week of wrestling which had our Devils wrestling 9 dual team matches within 8 days including 5 at Archer.
 That is a lot of wrestling folks!  Congrats to all the coaches, wrestlers, managers, sports medicine and fans  for a tremendous effort that will pay off later in the season.