A new year means a new title for Oconee County High School wrestling.

Last Saturday, Jan. 8, the Warrior squad clinched the Area 8-AAA championship with a 39-33 defeat of Hart County High School.

It is the program’s first region championship in duals since 2011.

Saturday’s tournament began with a first-round bye before the Warriors took on Monroe Area in the semifinals.

“The kids wrestled really well,” said Warriors head coach Al Yauck, who has held his position for 16 years. “The kids went out and got bonus points with 10 people and fought really hard and we beat Monroe Area pretty soundly. I can't remember the final score, but it wasn't close.”

The Warriors advanced to the finals where they faced Hart County, a team they had beaten previously during the season, but now lacked two crucial starters due to injury.

Nevertheless, Oconee County quickly secured the win with a few matchups remaining, which were then forfeited to avoid injury.

Still, the Warriors came out on top with a 39-33 victory.

The team made noticeable improvement from last season in order to win the championship title this time. The program came in third in the area tournament in early 2021.

“The team just grew,” Yauck said. “It was a younger core team last year and, this year, it's a veteran-led team and they were very confident coming in and they wrestled like they believed they're gonna win.”

It hasn’t been an easy journey, either.

This season has been full of adversity for the Warriors. The team had to rebuild confidence in itself while battling through injuries to key leaders and performers.

“The kids have just been able to step up and do what they needed to do and wrestle well and perform,” Yauck said. “We've wrestled through tough times and they've been able to do it in the past and helped us with this weekend as well.”

The area championship title makes for an easier transition into the state matches.

For the first and second round on Jan. 15, Oconee County will host Lafayette, Greater Atlanta Christian and Mary Persons.

With a win in that quad, the Warriors will be in the group of the top eight teams and can make a final run for this year’s state title.

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