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STATE WRESTLING NOTES: Rider battles injury to reach finals

Photo: David McGregor <br> Dacula's Aaron Reynolds, top, defeated Ryan McFall of Parkview in the 145-pound Class AAAAA quarterfinals Friday at the Arena at Gwinnett Center.

Photo: David McGregor
Dacula's Aaron Reynolds, top, defeated Ryan McFall of Parkview in the 145-pound Class AAAAA quarterfinals Friday at the Arena at Gwinnett Center.

DULUTH — The last two weeks have been agonizing for North Gwinnett’s Carl Rider.

After pinning defending state champion Mac Bennett in the Area 7-AAAAA finals, Rider has had to endure a dislocated elbow.

The injury forced Rider to injury default at last week’s East Sectional.

All the pain and physical therapy the last two weeks was worth it. Rider beat Bennett again in the Class AAAAA 189-pound semifinals on Friday and earned a trip to the title match today.

“He’s one of, if not, the toughest kids I’ve ever known,” North Gwinnett coach Phil Daniel said. “He’s been hurt the last part of the year, but nothing seems to faze him.”

Rider used a pin to beat Bennett two weeks ago, but showed the win wasn’t a fluke on Friday. He got a reversal in overtime to pull out a 4-2 victory.

“Last time I wrestled him I had nothing to lose,” Rider said. “This one it was my right to win.”

Rider, who was undefeated prior to last week’s three injury default losses, will face Camden County Gray Jones in the finals.

Millhof faces friend

Archer’s Ryan Millhof and Collins Hill’s Sean Russell grew up traveling to wrestling tournaments across the country.

The duo will meet in today’s Class AAAAA 103-pound state final.

Millhof defeated Walton’s Jacob Murphy 13-0, while Russell got a 9-4 victory over Cherokee’s Blake Walker.

“We beat him last week, so I have a good feeling about it,” Archer coach Tom Beuglas said. “But a lot can happen in a week. They’ve wrestled a lot in the past. I’m sure it’s a match a lot of people in the state want to see.”

Millhof sports a 52-0 record, which includes Gwinnett County, Area 8-AAAAA and an East sectional title. Russell has been equally impressive competing in a national schedule. His only loss to a Georgia wrestler this year was to Millhof last week.

Brown sleeps easy

Dallas Brown couldn’t sleep Thursday night. All the Mountain View wrestler could think about was getting to the Class AAAAA state finals.

“I’ve been dreaming about this my whole life. I couldn’t sleep,” Brown said. “All I was thinking about was how there was one more stop from me reaching my goal.”

Brown used a 4-3 victory over Milton’s Phillip Anderson to advance to the 119-pound state finals. He’ll face Camden County’s Nigel Hamilton, who beat Dacula’s Tevin Timmons in overtime.

Brown was Mountain View’s first state placer last year when he finished third in Class AAA. He can become the second-year school’s first state champion with a win today.

“He was a good wrestler before I got him,” Mountain View coach Jim Gassman said. “He loves to wrestle and works hard.”

Brown is 39-2 this season, which includes Gwinnett County and an Area 7-AAAAA championships. He placed third at last week’s sectional, losing to Timmons.

So how did Brown calm his nerves, so he could go to bed?

“Before I could fall asleep, I put the Bible under my pillow,” Brown said. “I slept good then.”

Dacula’s Reynolds breaks through

Aaron Reynolds has been on the cusp of being one of Georgia’s top wrestlers the last two years. The Dacula senior will finally get his chance to shine on the state’s biggest stage.

Reynolds won his semifinal match in the Class AAAAA 152-pound weight class to advance to today’s championship.

“He was on the brink last year,” Dacula coach Wes Cooper said.

Reynolds was a fourth-place finisher at Newton County last year. He transferred over the summer and the level of competition at Dacula has helped him this year.

Reynolds has a 45-4 record, which includes an Area 8-AAAAA title. He placed second at last week’s East Sectional, losing to Valdosta’s Jovon Scott. He’ll face Scott again in today’s finals.

“It’s a dream come true to be in the finals,” Reynolds said. “Ever since I was a freshman, I’ve dreamed about walking down those stairs.”

Lions put two in finals

Peachtree Ridge’s Tsvetomir Petrushev will get a chance to defend his state championship in today’s 171-pound final.

The sophomore will be joined by teammate Michael Chapman in the 189-pound final. Chapman will face Collins Hill’s Nick Holbert, who he’s beaten the last two weeks.

Hawks’ Hagen gets third shot

Mill Creek’s Austin Hagen’s only two losses this year were to Central Gwinnett’s Jacob Aiken-Phillips. Hagen will get a third shot at Aiken-Phillips in today’s Class AAAAA 285-pound state final.

“It would be nice to not get my butt whooped again,” Hagen said.

Aiken-Phillips is the defending state champion and hasn’t lost a match in two years. Both matches against Hagen have been very tight, though.

“It would be nice to beat him,” Hagen said.

GAC tries to snap streak

Greater Atlanta Christian has had five state runner-ups, but never a champion. The Spartans will get two cracks at a title today.

Zach Feurbach (160 pounds) and Jared Hemmings (171) will wrestle for championships in the Class AA finals.

“The whole team has worked hard this season, but those two deserve a shot to win,” GAC coach Jeff Harsh said.

Wolves’ Rindik gets title defense

Wesleyan’s Zack Rindik will go for his second-straight Class A state championship today. The Wesleyan senior is in the 125-pound finals.

He’ll be joined by teammate Kevin Brou in the 285-pound championship.

The Wolves qualified eight wrestlers for the tournament and all eight are in the placement rounds.

Conditioning pays off

In the third period of Chip Ness’ semifinals match, the Buford wrestler took a deep breath during an injury timeout. For the last month Ness ran 20-25 sprints after practice.

The conditioning paid off at the state tournament. The freshman easily won his semifinals match 14-6 to put him in the Class AA 152-pound finals.

“I was thinking in the third period, I’m not tired,” Ness said. “I’ve been doing sprints after practice after getting my butt whooped by Scottie Forrester and it paid off.”

Ness entered high school as a decorated youth wrestler with five kids state championships. But it’s the opportunity to win his first high school state title that he’s excited about.

“All the kids stuff is good, but this is the one tournament I really want to win,” Ness said.