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GAC headed to state duals for first time

NORCROSS — After nine years of falling short, Greater Atlanta Christian will compete for the Class AA state dual meet title for the first time.

The Spartans, hosting the Area 6-AA tournament, will be at the Macon Centerplex next Friday after placing second on Saturday.

AREA 6-AA DUALS

Lovett 41, GAC 24

At Greater Atlanta Christian

119 pounds: Caleb Bumpers (GAC) pin Jonathan Kopelman (Lovett)

125: Trent Scates (GAC) dec. Carter Ward (Lovett), 7-4

130: Spencer Lee (Lovett) major dec. Parker Embry (GAC), 12-4

135: Jack Young (Lovett) pin Will Parker (GAC)

140: Will Hemby (GAC) dec. Jack Bradford (Lovett), 7-1

145: Connor Johnson (Lovett) pin Ethan Tolbert (GAC)

152: David Cowles (Lovett) dec. Dalton Duriez (GAC), 11-7

160: Zach Feuerbach (GAC) pin Forrest Bell (Lovett)

171: Jared Hemmings (GAC) dec. Corey Erdoes (Lovett), 1-0

189: Patrick Emerson (GAC) pin Hunter Martin (GAC)

215: Parker Fair (GAC) dec. Daniel Rue (Lovett), 1-0

285: Hunter Rich (Lovett) pin Brayden Long (GAC)

103: Jason Hite (Lovett) pin Brandon Bradley (GAC)

112: Rich Niehaus (Lovett) major dec. Carter Clinebell (GAC), 11-3

“I’m really excited,” GAC head coach Jeff Harsh said. “It’s the first time we’ve been to Macon. I’m proud of our kids.”

The Spartans had never finished better than fourth in the area before 2011. However, the road to the Spartans’ inaugural appearance at state was not easy. After blowing out Clarkston 75-6, GAC trailed 2010 region runner-up Blessed Trinity 25-23 with three matches remaining in the semifinals. Still, with three of his best wrestlers yet to come, Harsh felt his team had the Titans right where they wanted them.

“We bumped some kids up (in weight class),” Harsh said. “It was really these last three matches, we knew if could bump some kids around and win we would be fine.”

It started in the 171-pound match where Zach Feuerbach, who usually does his work at 160 pounds, earned his keep rather efficiently. The Junior won 15-0, the match was called by technical fall in the first period, to give the Spartans five points and the lead 28-25.

Next was the bell cow Jared Hemmings. The 171-pounder, who took fourth in state last season, wrestled up at 189 pounds. No problem. The senior pinned his man with seven seconds left in the first period for six more points.

“When he got the pin we knew we had it,” Harsh said. “The guys were hoopin’ and hollering.”

Junior Parker Fair finished it off with another pin at 215 pounds to give the Spartans a 40-25 win. Feuerbach, Hemmings, and Fair had a combined record of 9-0 with six pins in the tournament.

The upstarts challenged defending region champion Lovett in the finals, but lost 41-24. GAC trailed by one point after Parker Fair won 1-0 in the 215-pound bout, but the Spartans lost the next two matches by pin and the last by a major decision.

“This is the first time we have ever come close to beating Lovett,” Harsh said. “We really gave them a run for their money.”

Blessed Trinity finished third, ensuring the Spartans would not have to wrestle off for a true second place and giving GAC (15-6) its elusive ticket to Middle Georgia.

“We are much stronger than we have been in the dual meet because we are much stronger as a team,” Harsh said. “This year we are more spread out and more talented than we ever have been before.”

Caleb Bumpers (119) also went 3-0 in the tournament with a pin, while 140-pounder Will Hemby also went 3-0.

The coaches will seed the qualifiers today. Jefferson has won the Class AA title the last two seasons after winning seven in a row in Class A.

Buford lost its first round match to Westminster and finished fifth.