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Sunday February 5th, 2023 9:29PM

Wrestling: Chestatee boys, girls lead strong contingent into Duals Championships

By Jeff Hart Sports Reporter

Not only do Chestatee wrestling coach Scott DeGraff and his group of War Eagles have a chance to win a state title, but they could also do it twice and on consecutive days.

Not many programs have ever had that chance. Even fewer coaches have had the opportunity.

But that’s what could await DeGraff and the boys and girls wrestling teams this weekend. Both teams will take part in the Duals Championships set for Friday and Saturday around the state.

“We’re very proud of both of our groups to get to this point,” DeGraff said during the week as they prepared for the finals. “I feel like both teams have a solid chance and are ready to go. We’re excited, for sure.”

Overall, seven Northeast Georgia-area programs, including both Chestatee programs, will go for Duals state titles over the weekend. The girls will hold their championship at The Buford Arena on Friday beginning at 2 p.m. All boys finals will be on Saturday beginning at 10 a.m. at seven different venues around the state.

The format is a quarterfinal bracket for all finals, with the winners advancing through three rounds to the finals. The losers will drop into the consolation bracket to fight for third place.

Both Chestatee teams were Area 8-4A champions. Both will have tough opening-round matches.

The Lady War Eagles, who come in as the No. 1 overall seed, will open against Campbell. If the heavily-favored Lady War Eagles can get past the Lady Spartans, they could set up an anticipated matchup with a young and talented Carrollton team that is seeded third.

The Chestatee girls are no strangers to the process. They won the 2021 state title and probably would have done so in 2022 if the Georgia High School Association had decided to keep score.

Seniors Isabella Redlinger (235 pounds) and Ashley Godinez (170) were part of the 2021 squad and lead another talented group. Fellow seniors Courtney Hawkins (105), Rylee Etris (125), Charlotte Wheeler (140), Jaden Lee (190), and sophomore Abby Plemons (135) give them a solid lineup.

“These girls have worked hard all season, and I think they’re ready to go,” DeGraff said. “Campbell does not have a full roster of 14, so we probably have the advantage there. But Carrollton and Greenbrier (the No. 2 seed) will be very tough if we can keep moving forward.

“The key for us, no matter who we go against, will just be the girls wrestling well and up to their abilities. There are a lot of good teams, and we can’t look past anyone.”

The Chestatee boys come in as the No. 2 seed behind Class 4A host Lovett. The War Eagles will open against perennial power Sonoraville in the opening round. Sonoraville finished third in Class 3A in 2022.

Chestatee is expected to better their best-ever sixth-place finish a decade ago in 2013. Seniors Alexis Guardado (120), Chris Pruitt (126), and Daniel Zaleta (215), and juniors Ely Raines (132) and Angel Garduno (157) will lead the way.

“The Sonoraville matchup is one of the toughest in the first round anywhere,” DeGraff said. “They lost some guys from last year, but they still have experienced guys. I expect there will be state placers on both teams at 120, 126, and 132, and that may be where the key to the match is.

“But we feel like we’re good enough to get to the finals. The guys have wrestled with a lot of confidence all year. They are prepared.”

Defending Class 2A state champion Lovett, despite moving up two classes this season, is probably the team to beat. The Lions return 12 of their starting 14 from last year’s title-winning squad.

“Lovett is very, very strong,” DeGraff said. “Again, we feel confident, but if we can get that far, it will take our best effort. But we believe in our guys. Hopefully, we’ll get to find out.”

Class 7A also will be held at Buford, where the defending Class 6A champion Wolves are the No. 2 seed in Class 7A.

Buford, who won the title in Class 6A in 2022, takes on Brookwood in the opening round in Class 7A. The Wolves are one of five Gwinnett teams to make the finals in the classification.

North Forsyth, the No. 1 seed from Area 8-6A, takes on Lee County in the opening round in Class 6A, which will be held at Gainesville High School.

Area 8-5A champion Jefferson will battle with Locust Grove in the first round in Class 5A. The Dragons finished as Class 4A runners-up in 2022.

In Class 2A, East Jackson, the No. 3 seed out of Area 8-2A, will grapple with Landmark Christian in the first round.

In Class A, Area 8-A champion Commerce takes on East Laurens in the opening round.

  • Associated Categories: Sports, High School Sports
  • Associated Tags: High school wrestling, Chestatee wrestling, Buford wrestling, Commerce wrestling, Jefferson wrestling, north forsyth wrestling
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