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.

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