After winning area, GAC wants to continue success

Jeff Harsh isn't sure if his Greater Atlanta Christian wrestling team can dethrone state power Jefferson.

But after winning the program's first area title and qualifying 14 wrestlers for this weekend's state sectional, the chances increased.

"It's gonna be real tough to take out a team like Jefferson," Harsh said. "They are as good a team as any right now in the entire state in all classifications. Everyone in AA is fighting for second place."

Jefferson has won the last 11 traditional state championships in either Class AA or A. The Dragons are ranked No. 38 in the country by Amateur Wrestling News.

GAC will wrestle at the Class AA West Sectional today and Saturday at Blessed Trinity. The Spartans will try to qualify as many wrestlers as possible for the state tournament next week.

The top eight wrestlers from the east and west sectional will meet next week at the Arena at Gwinnett Center for the state championship.

"I really believe that we have a good shot of qualifying 10 or 11 guys for that state championship. Some guys have a tougher road than others at sectionals," Harsh said. "I believe in our guys and now it's up to them to make it through this weekend."

GAC had nine finalists, including five area champions, on its way to its first Area 6-AA title. Defending state runner-up Zach Feuerbach, Carter Clinebell, Caleb Bumpers, Parker Embry and Parker Fair all claimed area championships.

"I've been a part of GAC wrestling for 13 years now," said Harsh, who is in his seventh season as head coach. "I've never seen a group of guys this committed to one goal. To do something that no other wrestling team at GAC has ever done is very special. Years from now, this team will be remembered as the first to qualify for the state duals tournament, and place there, as well as the first team to win traditional area."

Archer was another program to claim its first traditional area title on Saturday. The third-year program qualified all 14 wrestlers for the Class AAAAA East Sectional at Tift County.

The Tigers sent 10 to the finals of the Area 8-AAAAA tournament and had five area champions with Sam Bullard, Grant Aycox, Elliot Lee, Ernest Alexander and Hunter McCleskey.

Brookwood positioned itself to make a deep playoff run by qualifying 11, including tournament champions Wyatt Jozwowski, Troy Long, Stephen Solamon and Blake Cunningham.

Shiloh's Ryan Mosley won his third Area 8-AAAAA title and stayed unbeaten with a 51-0 record.

The senior will likely face his biggest challenge this weekend at the sectional tournament.

Mosley is expected to face Collins Hill's Spencer Rickman, a two-time state runner-up, in the tournament. It's one of a handful of potential exciting matchups, including Valdosta's Darshawn Sharp vs. Collins Hill's Ryan Millhof.

"The main goal is to get kids through," Collins Hill coach Josh Stephen said. "We're going to hit some tough kids that we haven't seen or from Area 8. We need to get 14 through to help us out."

Collins Hill won its eighth straight area title, which included seven area champions. Rickman, Millhof, Sean Russell, Drew Ferguson-Mitchell, Steven Bradtmueller, Matthew Connell and Andrew Krawalski all won area crowns. Those titles were expected. Where the Eagles did their damage was with younger wrestlers like Michael Roquet and Tommy Donaldson.

"That's kind of what I expected for the most part," Stephen said of the seven area champs. "We stepped up at a couple of weight classes."

North Gwinnett was second at the area tournament and qualified 10 for the sectional.

Dalton Daniel, Michael Goulard, Jalen Brooks, Brett Byerly and Alex Stoehr won area titles for the Bulldogs.

Collins Hill is the four-time defending Class AAAAA traditional state champion.

However, the Eagles lost to Camden County by one point in the finals of the state duals last month. Since then the team has been on a mission to prove it is still the top team in Georgia. Camden is ranked No. 35 in the country, while Collins Hill was bumped out.

"They have expectations to win every weekend," Stephen said.