After a long regular season spent overcoming inexperience and injury, the Dawson County Tigers sent seven wrestlers to the Georgia High School Association two-day qualifying tournament over the weekend of Feb. 7-8.
Out of those seven, sophomore Kincaid Schuette and senior D.J. Mitchell, fought their way into the final weekend of the GHSA State Finals with a pair of top-5 finishes.
“Schuette and DJ will both enter the final weekend of the state tournament Thursday,” Head Coach Aaron Haynes said. “This will be (Schuette’s) first trip to the tournament and (Mitchell's) last opportunity.”
Bringing an overtly aggressive tenacity to everything he does, Mitchell has served as a team captain for the course of the 2019-2020 campaign. His ability to stay “focused on the next match” has served as an inspiration to himself and his teammates throughout the difficult season.
Wrestling in the 182-pound weight class, with a regular season record of 41-13, Mitchell overwhelmed his first-round opponent, pinning him in 19 seconds, to advance to the second round of the championship bracket.
After a grueling three round match, in which neither wrestler could gain a clear advantage, Mitchell found himself on the losing side of a 2-0 decision and was forced into the consolation bracket due to the loss.
Winning his next two matches via fall, Mitchell gave himself every opportunity to move into the top-3 of the tournament only to, once again, lose to decision, this time by an 8-1 margin to fall to the fifth place slot in the weight class.
Schuette, who spent his season battling through a shoulder injury, followed a similar path through the 170-pound bracket of the tournament.
Winning his opening match by pinning his opponent in the first match, Schuette succumbed to a second-round pin in his second match to move into the consolation bracket.
After pinning his next two opponents to secure his spot and securing his spot at the state finals, he pulled himself from his final draw of the day due to injury.
“(They) will wrestle until they win it or they get eliminated. Either way, this is it,” Haynes said. “I am super excited for DJ and Kincaid... I think both will get after it all weekend.”
Overall, Dawson County’s entire contingent of wrestlers fought well as every qualifying member finished in the top-10 of their weight class.
Juniors Ethan Powell (126-pounds) and Bradley Newton (220-pounds), along with sophomore Trevor Cowart (113-pounds) all finished in the top-8 to earn the designation as alternates for the state tournament.
“It’s a long shot that they get in,” Haynes said. “But believe it or not, with such a physical sport alternates are called on a lot.”
The single elimination, GHSA State finals will take place between Feb. 12-15 at the Macon Centreplex in Macon, Georgia. Daily passes will cost $12 (plus a $2 facility fee), and a three-day pass will run fans $30 (with a $4 facility fee).