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Five Tigers advance to GHSA state wrestling tournament
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Dawson County seniors Levi Baggett, Wyatt Smith and Kevin Arias along with juniors DJ Mitchell, Alex Payne, Briana Ray and Danny Phillips traveled to Norcross Feb. 8-9 to compete in the state sectionals, the qualifying event for the GHSA State wrestling tournament.

A two-day, traditional-style event, the state sectionals brackets are comprised of the top four wrestlers in the 14 standard weight classes from each region and area in the state, with the six finalists in each class moving on to the state tournament. This year’s event featured 160 wrestlers.

After a tough first day of competition, Arias ended his season with a seventh-place finish in the 126-pound weight class, while Phillips saw his day come to a close early in the 285-pound bracket. Baggett, Smith, Mitchell and Payne all remained alive as the tournament rolled into the second day.

Smith, who has battled a shoulder injury all season, punched his ticket to state with a sixth-place finish in the 132-pound category and Payne followed suit in the 220-pound weight class with a fifth-place finish.

Mitchell fought deep into the 170-pound bracket only to run into a buzz saw by the name of Dalton Malone out of Pierce County, who shut down the Dawson County junior and ended his day with a fourth-place finish.

Baggett entered the day heavily favored in the 195-pound weight class with a season record of 37-3 and he did not disappoint. Winning his first match with a first-round pin, his second by decision and his third with a second-round pin, Baggett made quick work of his opponents to capture first-place and head into the state tournament in top form.

This year featured the first ever girl’s GHSA State sectionals and tournament, and Ray represented the Dawson County Tigers in the 106-pound weight class. In a field of limited, but talented, competition, Ray wrestled her way into a second-place finished to join the boys in the state tournament.

The four-day GHSA State tournament will begin Feb. 13 in Macon.