While the Georgia High School Association does not sanction the sport, the top programs in the state gather each year for their own title competition, organized by the Georgia Athletic Coaches Association.
With 74 team points, Etowah edged Milton by a point. North Forsyth finished third with 55 points, followed by Cherokee (28), host Lambert (27), Berkmar (20) and Dacula (12).
A total of 16 Class AAAAAA schools participated, with Cherokee a first-time entrant.
The event is scored like a track meet, with first place earning 10 points. Second place is good for eight points, third is six points, fourth is three points, fifth is two and sixth is one.
Etowah coach Dave Svehla, the school’s football coach, said he didn’t keep track of the team scorers until the medals were being awarded for the individuals. At that time, he began tallying up scores of the teams he expected to be near the top and quickly saw that the title would go to either Milton or Etowah.
Svehla said it all came down to the 246-and-up weight class, in which Milton took the top two places — giving it a five-point lead over Etowah. Svehla, however, knew that Nick Searcy finished third in the event and would earn six points.
“I just didn’t know if (Milton) would have any other guys in the top six to earn more points,” Svehla said. “When they read off the sixth-places and fifth-place and fourth-place, and it wasn’t a Milton athlete, I knew that we won.”
Etowah produced three individual title winners, while Cherokee had one individual champion.
Leading Etowah were champions Stanlee Logue (161-170 pounds), Brandon Fortgang (141-150) and Michael Hunt (under-140). Cherokee’s lone title-winner was Tunde Ayinla (226-245).
The weightlifters competed in three events — power clean, bench and squat — with the combined weight of their lifts determining their places.
Also placing for Etowah were Jakob Hassan (second, 226-245), Michael McCauley (second, 171-180), Raishod Devezin (second, 161-170), Dalton Trogstad (fifth, 161-170) and Austin Franzen (second 151-160).
Etowah excelled at the 161-170 category, where Devezin, Trogstad and Logue all placed.
Other placers for Cherokee were Talley Redmond (third, 191-205), Brady Sandercock (third, 181-190), Hunter Burton (fifth, 181-190), and Devon Mercer (fourth, under-140).
Ayinla led all local lifters with a total weight of 1,200 pounds — more than five times his body weight.
Each wrestler was given strength to weight ratio, which measured how much they lifted against their body weight. Hunt, with a 6.13, was the only competitor to lift more than six times his body weight.
Others who excelled in strength-to-weight were Fortgang (5.8), Logue (5.68), Franzen (5.67) and Devezin (5.5).
“We have a committed group of kids who like to compete in the weight room,” Svehla said. “We aren’t going to intimidate anyone when we walk into a room, but we have a number of kids, particularly in the lower weight classes, who are exceptionally strong for their body weight.”
Many of the lifters from both Etowah and Cherokee are football players, but it isn’t just the linemen scoring points.
“We had some of our skill guys — running backs and defensive backs — get points for us,” Svehla said. “Milton has a lot of big linemen and got the bulk of their points there.”