Staff Photo: Jason Braverman. Peachtree Ridge's Tsvetomir Petrushev battles Tift's Devon Smith during their 152-pound match of Friday's Class AAAAA quarterfinals at the Arena at Gwinnett Center.
DULUTH -- Tsvetomir Petrushev put his hands over his face and fought back his emotions on Friday at the Arena at Gwinnett Center.
The freshman from Peachtree Ridge had just upset defending state champion Jonathan Rivera from Kennessaw Mountain to earn a trip to the Class AAAAA state finals.
"No. 1 it was a defending state champion and that was big to me," said Petrushev, who moved from Romania nine years ago. "And for everyone that came to support me. I didn't want to let them down."
Petrushev needed triple overtime for the 2-1 win over Rivera. The two-time kids state champion and this year's Area 7-AAAAA champ will face Union Grove's Hunter Gamble in the 152-pound state finals.
"When people say hard work pays off, it does. This is proof," Petrushev said. "I've worked so hard for this."
It's the sixth straight year Peachtree Ridge has put a wrestler in the state finals.
Aiken-Phillips wins No. 60
Central Gwinnett's Jacob Aiken-Phillips laid on his back, gasping for air after his win in Friday's semifinals.
It was one of the rare times the 285-pounder has had to wrestle a full six minutes. He needed all of them to beat Collins Hill's Thomas Delain 2-1 in the semis.
"It wasn't fun," Aiken-Phillips said with a smile. "He's a good wrestler and it was a tough match."
The win improves Aiken-Phillips' record to 60-0 with 51 pins, a Gwinnett County record, this season.
Another Hunt in finals
Dacula's Zeke Hunt is one win away from joining his older brother as a state champion. The senior won 16-3 in Friday's semifinals of the 160-pound weight class to reach today's state championship.
"He put a thumping on me in practice on Tuesday," Dacula coach Jason Holcombe said. "I got up and told him don't let anyone take this from you and keep a family member in the finals."
Hunt's older brother Noah was a state champion for the Falcons two years ago. Zeke Hunt, who only has one loss this season, will face Camden County's Tim Gilbert in the finals.
Johnson pins way to finals
Matt Johnson is hoping to play college football this fall. If that doesn't work out maybe wrestling in college will work. The Parkview senior picked up a first-period pin in the 215-pound semifinals to reach today's state finals.
"It's the greatest feeling ever, probably," Johnson said.
Johnson was an all-county football player for Parkview this season, but drew minimal college interest. The Area 8-AAAAA champ needs just one win to join Parkview's prestigious group of state champions.
"It means a lot to make it this far and all my hard work is paying off," Johnson said.
Wolves' Rindik, Tolman in finals
This time last year Wesleyan's Zack Rindik and Josh Tolman were wrestling for fifth and sixth place in the state tournament.
The duo have come a long way in a year.
Rindik and Tolman advanced to today's Class A state finals with wins in the semifinals on Friday.
"It feels great," said Tolman, who took fifth last season. "I've been wrestling since sixth grade and I wasn't sure if I would ever get this far. Everything you work for, everything you battle through on the mat translates in real life."
Rindik didn't make weight last year and had to forfeit the rest of the tournament to finish sixth in the state. Friday's win was gratifying considering last season's dismal finish.
"It feels great because the last two years I've been sick at state and this time I made it to the finals," Rindik said.
Rindik and Tolman are two of Wesleyan's eight state-placers. Zach Taylor, Alex Sierota, Conor Fitzpatrick, Rhett Delk, Andrew Whited and John Mosley will battle through the consolation bracket for third through sixth place.
Peaks and valleys for Bears
It started off a rough day for first-year program Mountain View, but ended with school history. The Bears' only quarterfinalist, Thomas Adams, was injured in his match at 140 pounds of the Class AAA tournament.
His opponent fell on Adams' head as he was on the ground, giving what his coach called minor whiplash. Adams had to be taken of the mat on a stretcher and taken to the hospital to be evaluated.
"He's all right," Mountain View coach Jim Gassman said. "It was nothing serious. They took him to the hospital and the X-rays were negative. It was his first state tournament, so he wasn't happy about how it ended."
While Adams' injury was a scare for Mountain View, Dallas Brown provided some excitement. The sophomore battled through the consolation bracket to reach today's medal round. He will be Mountain View's first state-placer.
"He's got a loaded weight class," Gassman said. "I can't take a lot of credit for his success. He was a good wrestler before he got here."