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Bulldogs wrestling heads to state
The Rockdale County wrestling team qualified for the GHSA State Wrestling Duals after clinching the area tournament. - photo by Darrell Everidge

The Rockdale County wrestling team will once again represent Region 2-AAAAAA at the Georgia High School Team Dual Wrestling Championship, edging Luella and Newton at the Area 2-AAAAAA duals this past weekend.

Newton will join the Bulldogs, defeating Luella to advance to the state tournament.

Rockdale defeated the Lions 65-3 before besting the Rams 53-12.

“We wrestled really well,” Rockdale coach Craig Hargrove said. “We’re really looking forward to this upcoming weekend and going down to Macon and having a good performance down there.

“We were pretty confident that we would qualify for the state tournament again,” he said. “We entered the season with high expectations and we know that we want to reach Macon every year. Once we get down there though, it will be tough.”

In the title contest against the Rams, the Bulldogs jumped out to a 14-0 lead behind wins from Tyrone Hearn, Clifton Casurra and Ronzell Teague.

Newton’s Akil Maolud broke the Bulldogs’ opening streak at 152 pounds, cutting Rockdale’s lead to 14-3.

Rockdale claimed three of the next five matches before winning the final five matches of the bout, including wins from Sean Mer, Luis Galindo, Moises Mendez, Michael Mason and Lenny Mejias.

In their opening match, the Bulldogs ran through Luella’s lineup, opening up a 53-0 lead before the Lions secured their only win of the match.

Mejias, Hearn, Teague, Mer, Mason, Keythone Robinson and Cole Lewis earned victories for Rockdale County before the Rams broke the Bulldogs’ streak. Alonzo Allen and Stephen Hart closed the match with a pair of wins at 113 pounds and 120 pounds, respectively.

Rockdale also picked up four wins by forfeit over the Lions.

Newton qualifies
After falling to the Bulldogs, Newton rallied to beat Luella in a true second contest, topping the Lions to qualify for the state duals.

Newton rallied to take a 39-0 lead to start the match, with Maolud, Forbes, Matthew Torres and A.J. Palomino registering pins in the Rams’ early run. Victor Medina also picked up a victory for Newton at 160 pounds before the Lions forfeited three matchups.

Luella roared back, however, winning four consecutive matches, including three by forfeit, closing the Rams’ lead to 39-24.

Newton closed with a pair of wins, including a pin from Michael Anderson, to clinch the win and advance.

“My kids worked very, very hard to get to where we are at this point,” Newton coach Ryan Angel said. “They’ve really taken our coaching to heart and they’ve worked hard to do the little things right. One thing that we have preached to them is that if you do the little things right, success follows and things take care of themselves,” he said. “If you do what you’re supposed to do, success comes to you.”

Newton reached the championship bout with a 42-25 victory over Druid Hills. The Rams won seven of their first eight matches against the Red Devils, with pins by Maolud, Anderson, Kameron Wallace, John Forbes and Shaidren Carter.

Angel said that he wanted to see heart in his wrestlers when they make the trip to Macon.

“I want to see effort and I want to see how much they want it,” Angel said. “We talked this morning and had a small team meeting. They said they didn’t want to disappoint me. I told them that nothing they do Saturday could disappoint me. They’ve battled to get where they are, and I couldn’t be more proud.'' .

“We’re going to be wrestling some good teams, and I want to see us battle through adversity,” he said.

Tigers disqualified
Not competing in the area duals this past weekend were the Alcovy Tigers.

Due to transportation issues, the Tigers waited three hours to make the trip, missing the duals regularly scheduled weigh-in.

Due to missing the weigh-in, the No. 2 seeded Tigers were disqualified from competing at the event. Angel said that teams that do not make weigh-in after the event’s head official closes the event’s weigh-in time are barred from competing by GHSA rule.

"It was an unforeseen accident," Alcovy assistant athletic director Kirk Hoffman said. "It's something you don't want to see happen, but we need to move on and get ready for the individual tournament."

Official weigh-in time began at 7 a.m. and was closed at 8:30 a.m. after a 30-minute extension.

“You always want the two best teams to compete in the state tournament,” Hargrove said. “It’s no secret or surprise that the two top teams in the region were Rockdale and Alcovy. ... It’s unfortunate.”

Newton claimed the second qualifying spot in the region.

“The Georgia High School Association rules are the rules,” Angel said. “The decision to close weigh-ins was made by the head official.''

Area coaches were approached by an Alcovy representative to take a vote to allow the Tigers to wrestle, but the unsanctioned vote would not have been valid under GHSA rules.

Rockdale County and Morrow voted in favor of the Tigers, while Newton, Druid Hills and Luella voted against the Tigers.

“I didn’t vote against Alcovy; I voted to adhere to the rules,” Angel said.

If the Tigers had competed, the GHSA would have been petitioned to overturn the decision, a source stated.
Newton County will face Kennedaw Mountain in the first round of the Class AAAAAA Team Dual Wrestling Championship, while the Bulldogs will open against Roswell.

State dual wrestling action will be Thursday through Saturday.