The top eight wrestlers from each weight class advanced to next week’s championships, which will be held Thursday through Saturday at the Macon Centreplex.
Cherokee and Etowah each qualified six to the finals, while Woodstock will send three.
Etowah’s Maveric Rechsteiner was the lone wrestler to finish first in his weight class, holding off North Gwinnett’s Brett Byerly to post an 8-6 win at 195 pounds.
Rechsteiner led 5-3 at the end of the second period, but gave up a reversal with 1 minute, and 26 seconds left in the third. But 10 seconds later, Rechsteiner picked up a 1-point escape and quickly took down Byerly for an 8-5 lead with 1:10 left in the match. Byerly earned an escape point 25 seconds later, but Rechsteiner held him off for the victory.
Teammates Josh Thomas, Dylan Wagner, Leonard Payton, Alex Rusk and Brad Morgan will join Rechsteiner in Macon. Payton dropped an 11-2 major decision against sixth-ranked Ryan Milhoff of Collins Hill to finish second at 120 pounds. Thomas (106), Wagner (113) and Rusk (126) were fourth, while Brad Morgan was eighth at 220.
“This is exciting,” said first-year Etowah coach Charles Higdon, who brought eight wrestlers to the sectional. “I have a kid, (Payton) that’s only been wrestling for three months this season and now he’s going to state. We had a lot of tough matches overall (Saturday), but the guys battled. I think we did well, and as a coach, you want to see your kids succeed, so this is great.”
Cherokee’s six advancing wrestlers were Blake Walker (113), Andrew Torrence (126), Dusty Phyfe (152), John Metcalf (160), Brady Sandercock (170) and Hunter Burton (182). The Warriors began the event with seven.
“All six of the guys that were still alive after Friday got through to state (Saturday),” Cherokee coach Lance Riccio said. “That’s the good part. The bad part is we didn’t win a whole lot of matches.”
Of the five Cherokee wrestlers who reached the semifinals Friday to guarantee themselves a state berth, only two — Torrence and Sandercock — made the finals. Walker placed third, while Phyfe, Metcalf and Burton finished sixth.
Torrence lost via pin in 3:24 to Milton’s Phillip Anderson.
Sandercock found himself in a battle with Marietta’s Lawton Ward before falling 10-9 in regulation. Ward took a 9-3 lead with 55 seconds left in the second period before Sandercock battled back. An escape and takedown with 5 seconds remaining pulled Sandercock to within three at the end of the frame.
The rally continued in the third period, after another escape and 2-point takedown tied the contest at 9-all with 1:30 left. Ward, however, earned an escape point 15 seconds later and held on for the one-point victory.
“We had three sixth-place matches, and I thought we could have won some of those and gotten fifth,” Riccio said. “That would have been nice to see. Now, everybody has to battle at state. Hopefully, we’ll be able to come out of there with some placers next week.”
Woodstock qualified three of its seven wrestlers, with Tristan Watson, Zach Shareef and Wes Pella advancing.
Watson was fifth at 113 pounds, while Shareef placed sixth at 138. Pella lost to Roswell’s Hunter Hill at 285, via a pin in 4:55.
“I think our guys did a really good job,” Woodstock coach Michael Powell said. “We have a sophomore at 138, a junior at 113 and a senior at heavyweight. I think they’ll all be ready to go.”