MONROE—The East Metro Invitational provided a break in the tension in the preparation for the area dual championships that are looming for the local wrestling teams.
North Oconee High School, Oconee County High School and Athens Academy all made the short drive over to Monroe Area High School for an individual-focused event.
NOHS brought home third-place finish out of the 22 teams tournament. The Titans had a few solid performances by their competitors.
Beau Brenand won the 126-pound weight class and earned lightweight most outstanding wrestler for the event. Sam Johnson won the 145-pound weight class. Dom Lasher finished in second-place in the 106-pound weight class. Owen Correll brought home third place at 113 pounds. Ashton Hefner finished in second at 220 pounds.
OCHS came home in seventh place as a team and featured six varsity placers. Mac Bowen won the 113-weight class. Senior Armn Amirkhanyan finished in second place at 152 pounds. Zach Cartrette placed in fourth in the 120-pound weight class. Ezra Brauer placed in fifth at 106 pounds and Zane Fairbanks earned fifth place at 138 pounds. Heavyweight Nick Saunders also placed in fifth.
Warriors’ head coach Al Yauck came away with his team’s performance pleased. The Warriors still have room to grow and are still adjusting with wrestlers who were on the school’s state runner-up football team still trying to get into wrestling shape.
“I was very impressed with where we are,” Yauck said. “We have a long way to go. We have about a month and a half left in the season. The area duals are this weekend and hopefully we’ll take a step in the right direction.”
With the Region duals on Saturday, Yauck thought the trip to Monroe could act as a bit of a catapult for some individuals like Bowen who had his best tournament of his short high school career.
“Sometimes putting pressure on these kids in these individual tournaments could be good,” Yauck said. “Mac (Bowen) had his best tournament he’s had. That could be huge next week if he steps up and has some of these wins in the area duals. That would be huge for us. The football players playing in the state championship have only been practicing a few weeks. Any chance we can get them on the mat and get them more experience is big for them.”
Yauck feels all five teams in the Region 8-4A are pretty similar and a close win or loss could be the difference between hoisting the region championship on Saturday and finishing in the fifth slot.
“It’s a tight race,” Yauck said. “All five teams could win it. North Oconee is probably the top dog right now, but there’s not much separating the top from the bottom in our region. It’s going to be a tough fight. The kids this weekend did a good job and wrestled hard. I didn’t see anybody go out and be afraid of the moment and back down.”
Athens Academy’s Ethan Connelly placed in fifth place his division.