DULUTH - Perfect.
Wesleyan's T.J. Mitchell had the perfect end to his perfect season. The freshman pinned Mathew Hines from Lovett to win the 103-pound Class AA state championship and helped Wesleyan to a second-place finish Saturday at the Arena Gwinnett Center. Not only did Mitchell finish go 50-0, but he was never taken down and didn't give up a reverse all season.
"It feels to great (to be Wesleyan's first wrestling state champ)," Mitchell said. "I think it really helps the program and the kids coming up. I had a real good season and I had fun."
Mitchell didn't give himself too much time to have fun during the week. He pinned every wrestler he saw in the first period, including Hines in 1:23. He had already scored 10 points before the stick.
And for a moment it looked liked Mitchell would have company atop the medal podium. Teammate Sam Ball came back from 4-0 deficit to force a sudden death overtime match with Ryan Wilson from Calhoun. But Wilson took Ball down with 27 seconds left in overtime to take home the 119-pound title.
But it was the move that tied the match that appeared to win it. With 25 seconds to go in the third period, Ball took down Wilson and spun him on his back. It appeared that he had him on his back long enough to pick up three points and take the lead. The official gave Ball two.
"That official missed it," Wesleyan head coach Jeff Bedard said. "We watched the tape and he was down for seven seconds. It cost the kid a state championship, but I tell them don't make it close if you don't want the ref to have a hand in it."
Ball finishes his career as the winningest wrestler in school history and the first four-time state placer. Besides the controversial match, Bedard couldn't be much happier with his team's performance.
"I'm real proud of this team," Bedard said. "If you would have told me we would have placed nine wrestlers and finished second I would have said you were crazy."
Those nine placers are a record for Wesleyan. Two of them took third. Kip Thompson earned a bronze at 135, while Bobby Bolyston took third at 152. Michael Douglas (189) finished fourth. Chris Alexander (171) and Colin Genthart (145) each took fifth, while David Kasycki (160) and Brendan Patterson (140) finished sixth.
Buford's Harford wins with a pin
Nick Harford had never made it to the state tournament. So the 140-pounder might have been an underdog in his state championship match against Will Weldon.
But the senior wrestled hard and pinned Weldon with five seconds left in the second period to earn the first state championship for Buford in 10 years.
"I can't remember what move I used. I'm just so happy right now," Harford said. "He's the toughest guy I have ever wrestled. He just left an opening and I took it. I'm very blessed."
Neither Harford nor Weldon could find an opening until midway through the second period. With the match scoreless Harford went for a throw and put Weldon on his back.
"It's a very special moment for him, it's his first time placing at state and it's just exciting to watch," Buford head coach Garry McCroskey said. "This is a great moment for Buford High School."
Harford was joined in the finals by 160-pound teammate D.J. Johnson. Johnson got taken down by Ian Stephens of Lafayette early in the first period and never recovered. The senior lost 10-5 to take the silver.
Buford finished in eighth place in AA. Chris Harford took fourth at 171, while Scottie Forrester (152) took fifth. His older sister Tia became the first girl to qualify for the state tournament three times, but just missed out on a medal. She lost 5-4 in overtime, and McCroskey said no girl has ever placed in the state tournament.
A near miss for Dacula's Miller
Dacula's Frankie Miller overcame a cut on his left cheek and a chipped tooth to make it to the championship, but he couldn't overcome Southwest DeKalb's Dequan Warner.
Miller took second at 112 pounds in AAAA, falling to Warner 10-5. Miller didn't qualify for the state tournament last year. But Dacula head coach Jason Holcombe wasn't surprised with the junior's performance.
"He faced every tough wrestler in this tournament," Holcombe said. "This time last year he was in the stands, now he's on the podium. I expected him and Noah (Hunt) to do well today."
Hunt finished fifth at 119 pounds.
GAC's Hoover earns bronze
Locke Hoover missed out on the state finals but he still earned a win in his last match. The 103-pounder from Greater Atlanta Christian knocked off Ky Hart from Lafayette to take third place in Class AA. He had one pin and one technical decision during the tournament.