NGAC Wrestling: Gordon Lee dominates at Social Circle tournament
When it comes to high school wrestling, Jefferson and Commerce are two of the biggest names in the state of Georgia.
Jefferson has won 15 consecutive GHSA State Duals and 16 consecutive GHSA State Traditional championships in three different classifications and could be on pace to win it all in a fourth classification (Class 4A) later this season.
Meanwhile, Commerce has become one of the big dogs in Class A where they have won three last three dual and traditional state titles. In the GHSA Traditional last season, the Tigers had 11 state champions in Class A and scored 283 points, the most of any team in any classification.
And those type of championship teams are built through their respective middle school programs.
While it’s hard to predict what will happen down the road, Saturday’s Redskin Rumble at Social Circle might have given a small glimpse of the future – and that future looks really bright for the Gordon Lee Trojans.
The Navy-and-White claimed the tournament championship and did so in a big way, racking up 280 points. Jefferson was second with 246, followed by Elbert County with 227.5, Commerce with 201.5 and Madison County with 140.
Host Social Circle (61.5) placed 12th. The Redskins have won two straight GHSA State Duals and Traditional titles in Class 2A.
“Placing second in an all-divisions combined middle school state dual tournament last year was probably the (biggest) accomplishment ever for GLMS wrestling,” said head coach Bret Bradford. “But this victory may top that one given the teams that we beat and what that means for the future moving forward. These boys have to be favorites to own Class A in the near future.”
Jefferson led Gordon Lee by seven points after the second round, but the Trojans took the lead in the team standings after putting seven in the semifinals, compared to just four semifinalists for Jefferson.
Gordon Lee then put all seven of their semifinalists into the finals, increasing their advantage, while Jefferson and Commerce each finished with four finalists.
The Dragons proceeded to pick up big points with 10 wrestlers in the consolation semis, but Gordon Lee kept them at arm’s-length by winning four or six matches in that round and added to their lead as four Trojans won individual titles. Gordon Lee finished with 13 wrestlers placing in the top four of their weight classes.
“I was afraid (Jefferson) might make a run back at us with so many in that big point scoring round (consolation semis),” Bradford said. “But our wrestlers negated most of the ground they would have made up on us and after that it was smooth sailing.”
The first champion was Bryce James, who faced Commerce’s Dawson Thompson in the 80-pound finals. Thompson, a multiple-time Greco-Roman and Freestyle Georgia state champion, came into the finals holding the 2016 Southeast Regional and 2015 East Coast National Champion titles.
But James forged a 4-3 lead after two periods then prevented Thompson from escaping in the third period to score the win.
Cade Peterson (103) won Gordon Lee’s second championship by dominating his weight class, including a major decision in the finals.
The 119-pound final was an anticipated battle between Gordon Lee’s highly-decorated Garrison Dendy and Joshua Kincaid, a four-time USA state place winner and a one-time champion, who also owns two Georgia state Greco-Roman titles and the 2016 East Coast National Championship.
Kincaid, though, failed to score a single point on Dendy, who recorded a pin with a spiral half in the first period.
The final champion was Kameron Oliver at 147, who pinned his way through the semifinals before holding on to an early lead in the finals to win his first tournament title.
Connor Fine (85 pounds) went into the tournament unseeded, but finished in second place. He also pinned the top-seed in the quarterfinals. Penn Askew (90) also placed second, losing in the closing seconds of the finals. He knocked off No. 2-seeded Davis Dollar of Jefferson in the semis. Garrett Morton also placed second at 190.
Unseeded Troy Plemons (112) took third, pinning the top-seed in the weight class in the quarterfinals and again in the consolation finals. His lone loss was to Commerce’s Dawson Legg, a four-time USA state champion. Logan Butler also placed third at 130.
A first-year wrestler, Cody Thomas, took fourth at 157, while Dylan Burnett was fourth at 285.
Wil Tumblin (75) and Wyatt McDonald (125) each won two matches, but neither placed. Jackson Moore (171) lost in the consolation semis, just one round from placement. Tanner Wilson (95) had one pin and Justin Cruise (138) also competed for the Trojans.
Gordon Lee is currently 11-0 in duals matches this season and also won the Raider Rumble Duals at Southeast Whitfield to start the season. The Trojans are looking to win an unprecedented third straight NGAC traditional championship in December. Gordon Lee won it last year by scoring a league-record 288.5 points.
“This year’s eighth graders have been the nucleus of the middle school team since they were sixth graders and (a third straight NGAC title) is what they have their sights set on,” Bradford added. “If we can do that, I’d say they’ve accomplished as much or more than any group ever in the NGAC, and this (Social Circle) tournament win would turn into a great little feather in the hat for them.”