Cherokee’s Blake Walker and Brady Sandercock finished second in Class AAAAAA at 113 and 170 pounds, respectively, while Etowah’s Joey Payton (120 pounds) and Maveric Rechsteiner (195) were also runners-up.
Creekview’s Joseph Sorrentino was the Class AAAAA runner-up at 182 pounds.
As a team, the Grizzlies posted their highest traditional championship finish after taking home fourth place with 75 points. Pope won its third consecutive title with 215.5 points, followed distantly by Ware County (99) and Ola (90).
In Class AAAAAA schools, Etowah (56) edged Cherokee (55) for sixth place. Archer took home its first state title with 250 points, beating out Collins Hill (118.5), Camden County (117.5), Roswell (59) and North Gwinnett (58).
Sandercock dropped a 7-4 decision to Marietta’s Lawton Ward in the 170-pound championship. He pulled to within 4-3 with 1:08 left in the second period but found himself falling behind in the third.
Ward collected an early escape point 7 seconds into the frame, then scored a takedown with 1:20 on the clock for a 7-3 lead. Sandercock earned an escape with 51 seconds remaining, but couldn’t overcome the three-point margin.
Walker’s match at 113 was the closest of any Cherokee County wrestler in a final. Despite matching up against the sixth-ranked wrestler in the nation, Sean Russell of Collins Hill, Walker performed well and nearly pulled off the upset, losing in a close 3-2 margin.
After trailing 2-1 at the end of the first period, Walker picked up an escape point early in the second and finished the period tied at 2-all. However, Russell earned an escape 7 seconds into the third and kept Walker scoreless the rest of the way, resulting in the final.
Andrew Torrence also performed well for Cherokee, placing fourth at 126 pounds.
“For us to say this weekend wasn’t a success just wouldn’t be right,” Cherokee coach Lance Riccio said. “We had three guys on the podium, which I don’t even know if that’s happened before, and we finished in the top 10 in the state.
“It was a great weekend. I’m so proud of our seniors, and Blake’s a junior, so he has another year left. I’m just really proud of our kids.”
Etowah was right in line with Cherokee in terms of its success.
Rechsteiner has steadily improved throughout his four-year career at Etowah. He reached his first state final Saturday and came away with runner-up honors after losing to Archer’s Ernest Alexander via pin in 1:52.
Payton never led in his championship match against Collins Hill’s Ryan Milhoff, who is ranked sixth in the nation at 120. Milhoff led 2-0 at the end of the first period and 2-1 at the conclusion of the second before pulling away for a 5-2 victory.
Dylan Wagner finished sixth for Etowah at 113.
“I’m really excited about this weekend,” Etowah coach Charles Higdon said. “These kids did some neat things this year. They’re some of the best we’ve had in the program. The guys did a great job. I don’t remember the last time we had two guys in the finals at the same time. To finish in the top 10 and almost get top-five is amazing.
“You hurt a little bit for the kids who made it to the finals, because they worked so hard to get to this point, and now the season’s over. They wrestled against some of the best kids in the state and came up short.”
Woodstock’s Wes Pella was fifth at 285 pounds.
Creekview scored big with five state-placers, including Sorrentino, who lost 24-9 to Pope’s Brooks Climmons, the top-ranked wrestler in the nation at 182 pounds.
Grant Slater was sixth at 113 pounds, while Justin Pettyjohn (152) was fourth, Hunter Smith (160) sixth and Hunter Udall (170) finished fifth.
“By every standard, we had a great weekend,” Creekview coach Wyatt Wilkie said. “This is the best we’ve ever done, finishing fourth. We had five state-placers, including a finalist, so it was a great weekend.
“I would have loved to have had all 13 or 14 guys on the podium, but I’m proud of the ones who made it and proud of the ones who didn’t because they were in the weight room, too, fighting hard to get better every day. The team, as a whole, is what I’m most proud of.”