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Dawson County wrestlers eliminated from state tournament
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After the threat of ice and snow moved the tournament forward by 24 hours, the Dawson County Tigers wrestling team traveled to Fannin County on Jan. 11 to take part in the area duals competition.

A first or second place finish in the event would propel the Tigers into the state duals that take place Jan. 17– 19.

Wrestling is unique among Dawson County sports in the fact that there are two state-level tournaments during a season, a team tournament (known as a dual match) and an individual tournament (known as a traditional match). 

The Tigers faced off against the Pace Academy Knights out of Atlanta to start the day and found themselves on the wrong side of a 24-12 score early in the match, despite a first-period pin from team captain and senior Levi Baggett during his bout.

The teams traded forfeits in the 120 and 128-pound weight classes to bring the score to 30-18 and then the Tigers rallied to win the final five fights (all by first-round pins) to remain in the championship bracket with a final score of 48-30.

Lumpkin County was next up for the Tigers and the rivalry was on full display as the opening five matchups went deep into the third period. Unfortunately for the Tigers all but one went in favor of the Indians and Dawson County trailed 29-6 at the halfway point.

Kevin Arias pinned his opponent at the one minute mark of the first period followed by bout victories from Wyatt Smith and Elliot Woodcock to bring the Tigers within striking distance, but Lumpkin County answered with back-to-back wins to retake the momentum and extend their lead to 36-24 with two matches remaining.

Knowing he needed a win to keep the Tiger’s hopes alive, Will Whalen came out aggressively in the 160-pound weight class match and quickly gained the upper hand, forcing his opponent to the mat and looking poised to capture the much needed pin.  A well-executed kick-out and roll from the Indians’ Z. Dooly turned the tables in a matter of seconds and the Tigers were dropped into the consolation bracket to face the Fannin County Rebels.

After the heartbreaking loss to Lumpkin County, the Tigers knew that their dream of competing at state was over as they could finish no higher than third on the day. Fannin County, on the other hand, entered the bout with the ability to wrestle back into the championship bracket and an opportunity to finish second.

Despite opening the match with wins from Alex Payne and Danny Phillips (220 and 285-pound weight classes respectively) along with another win from Baggett at 195 pounds, the Tigers turned in an overall lackluster performance and were eliminated from the bracket by a final score of 57-24.

“We wrestled our best match of the year,” Assistant Coach Andrew Grigsby said. “Then we followed it up with our worst match of the year.”

The Tigers will celebrate Senior Night by hosting a tri-meet with Clarkston and Johnson High Schools on Jan 15. The event kicks off at 5:30 p.m. at Dawson County High School.