Starting at the 220-pound weight class, which Etowah had to forfeit, the Eagles found themselves trailing by 15 points. But the strength of their middle-weight wrestlers, and the resiliency of their upper-weights, were enough for the Eagles to mount a rally and beat the Hornets 31-30 at Milton High School.
With the win, Etowah qualified for the state duals, which begin Thursday in Macon. Roswell will also be making the trip as the area runner-up.
“We’re really excited, because it’s something that we worked for, and we believe that we have the individuals that can do it, and we put a lot of work in to climb that hill,” Etowah coach Charlie Higdon said. “Roswell has been the team to beat for a while and this was the first time we beat them.”
Woodstock, which had to settle for third overall, needed Roswell to prevail for a chance to wrestle Etowah for true second place. But since Roswell had already beaten Woodstock in the main bracket, the Wolverines were denied the opportunity.
Cherokee lost to Walton in the winners’ bracket and to Lassiter in the consolation.
Roswell made Etowah earn its victory in the final two matches, and the Eagles did.
Bronson Rechsteiner (182) took the mat with the score knotted at 27-all, and he escaped an early first-period pin to even his match against Hill Elliott at 4-all going into the second period. From then on, Rechsteiner started getting points in bunches, starting with a three-point near fall early in the second period.
Rechsteiner’s 15-6 major decision put the Eagles ahead by four going into the final match at 195, leaving Ray Harding with the responsibility to secure the title for Etowah.
Harding needed to either win or lose by fewer than eight points to preserve Etowah’s lead.
However, it wasn’t looking good for Harding at the start. Roswell’s Tyler Johnson started things off with a three-point near fall, and Harding trailed 6-0 early in the second period. The match changed in a hurry, however, when Harding got a second-period escape and a late second-period takedown to cut the lead in half.
Another takedown by Harding in the third period helped him get to 6-5. Even though that would be as close as Harding would get, his eventual 9-5 loss to Johnson only granted Roswell three points for a decision, just enough for Etowah to stay ahead.
“There was a lot of pressure on him,” Higdon said. “It was on him, whether we win or lost, and he did what he had to do, and that’s huge.”
Etowah also wouldn’t have done it without the help of Alex Rusk, who put Etowah on the board with a 9-5 decision over Johnny Bazemore at 119.
Rusk’s win started a five-match win streak for the Eagles.
Dylan Wagner (126) followed up with a pin in 36 seconds, and Joey Payton’s pin in 2:45 at 132 tied the match at 15-all. Zeke Durham (138) won a 7-6 decision over Brian Sienwitze to give Etowah’s its first lead, and Jake Wagner (145) earned a technical fall to stretch Etowah’s lead to five points.
Roswell quickly fought back when Demarco earned a pin in 36 seconds at 152, and Etowah then had to forfeit at 160.
With Roswell now leading by four points, Etowah needed a major decision or better at 170 to have a good shot, and the Eagles’ Brandon Reiby came through with a 10-2 major decision over Jonathan Mann to give Etowah the four points needed to tie it.
While Woodstock was unable to qualify for the state duals, it did have one of its better showings as a dual team.
A pin by Zach Shareef (145) gave Woodstock enough separation to secure a 46-33 win over Walton in the consolation bracket, putting the Wolverines in position to contend for true-second. Woodstock also got clutch pins by Duncan Morris (170) and Daniel Benetez (285).
Earlier in the consolation bracket, Woodstock won a tight battle against Lassiter. Only ahead by five late in the match after a Lassiter run, a pin by Morris at the 1:54 mark gave the Wolverines just enough space to win 38-33.
Woodstock opened the tournament with a 37-25 win over Wheeler in the main draw.
“This is the first time Woodstock has ever beaten Lassiter in a dual meet, and also the first time we’ve beaten Wheeler,” Woodstock coach Mike Powell said. “This is the second year in a row we beat Walton, so to get down and get third is the best Woodstock has ever finished in a region dual competition.”