By Brandon Brigman
NORCROSS - Andrew Sartain has had the worst luck at the county meet the last three years. Saturday the Peachtree Ridge wrestler finally got over the hump.
Sartain won his first county title with a 15-0 victory over Parkview's Clint Jones in the 112-pound match.
"It feels great to finally win it," Sartain said. "I've had the worst luck the last three years in the semifinals getting pinned, so it was great to finally win it."
Sartain joined teammate Kendall Albert as the Lions' only county champions. Albert won with a 9-3 victory over Brookwood's John Matyac.
"It's nice," Albert said of his third county title. "Matyac is a good kid. It was a lot closer than it showed. Everything I did I had to work hard for."
Sartain wasn't even sure if he'd be healthy enough to wrestle at county. Last week at the McCallie Invitational in Tennessee, he hurt his shoulder and had to back out of the tournament. After getting treatment on his shoulder, Sartain then got sick.
In the end, last year's Class AAAAA state runner-up was able to overcome both injury and illness to get that elusive title.
"He's gotten a lot better," Albert said. "It wasn't a surprise to me that he won. He's going to win state."
While Sartain and Albert were the Lions' only two county champions, Peachtree Ridge did finish with seven placers - the most in the school's five-year history. The Lions also placed fifth as a team.
"I really didn't pick a number on how many county champions we would have," Peachtree Ridge coach Daniel Sinnot said. "But it's kind of where I thought we would finish."
Izzy's signature move
When Jon Isburgh transferred to Grayson, Rams' coach Steve West showed the senior a move he'd never used before.
After the way Isburgh used it in the finals of the 125-pound match it looks like he's perfected it.
Isburgh pinned Collins Hill's Allen Willard in the first period to capture his first county title.
"It's been my signature move this year," Isburgh said.
Isburgh calls the move the weasel and uses a front headlock with a back flip to put his opponent on his back. West teaches the move as the Chipparelli, which is after former Iowa wrestler Rico Chipparelli. After placing fifth at county last season, it's nice for Isburgh to finally get a county title.
"It feels great. It's worth all the running and working out to finally win a county title," Isburgh said.
It also wasn't a bad day for younger brother Nick as he placed third in the 119-pound weight class.
Bulldogs get two champs
County champions have been tough to come by for North Gwinnett in recent years. Before Saturday's tournament, the Bulldogs had only had two this decade - Duane Bradford in 2002 and Travis Sheehy last year.
So having two in one season is even more of a rare feat.
North Gwinnett accomplished that this year when Sheehy won the 152-pound title and Jamal Shelton won at 130 pounds. It's the first time since 1994 that the Bulldogs have had two county champions in the same year.
"It was great to win another one," Sheehy said of his second title. "Gwinnett County championships have been tough for North Gwinnett wrestlers, so it was nice to get two this year. Jamal winning is just awesome."
After losing to Collins Hill's James Smithson 9-8 earlier this month, Shelton bounced back with a 9-5 win and improved to 17-4 for the season.
"There was a lot of talk about it being me and Smithson in the finals. I was just glad I was able to come through with a win," Shelton said. "I just tried to pick up the pace and wrestle my style and try not to be sloppy."
Sheehy, a two-time state runner-up, defeated Collins Hill's Cody Parker 8-0.
Shiloh's Merfert off to great season
Shiloh junior Billy Merfert took advantage of his first trip to the Gwinnett County tournament.
The Newton County transfer used a 5-0 victory over North's Alex Reffett to secure the 171-pound title.
"I was seeded second, so I thought I could get up there," Merfert said. "It was a pretty tough match. I knew I couldn't pin him, so I had to use technique and endurance and I think that showed in the third period."
Merfert missed last season with an injury, but has come back strong this year with a 16-2 record this year.
Wesleyan's Smith gets title
When Wesleyan wrestler Kelby Smith was growing up he always viewed the county meet as one of the hardest tournaments around.
Saturday he conquered the 215-pound weight class with an 18-6 win over Parkview's Brent McFall.
"This has been on my mind since last year when I got second," Smith said. "This was one of my goals coming into the season and now I can move on."
Smith's record improves to 21-1 with the senior's only loss coming to a wrestler from Hillcrest, S.C.