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North, West passage
Raiders, Wolverines front Forsyth's success at area
Wrestling OConnor 5 es
North Forsyth’s Chris O'Connor grapples with Chattahoochee’s Bradley Klug on Saturday during the Area 7-AAAAA traditionals at North Gwinnett. O’Conner won the area championship in the 135-pound weight class. - photo by Emily Saunders

North Forsyth and West Forsyth are leading the way into this weekend’s state sectionals, as both schools qualified nine wrestlers during area traditional tournaments over the past weekend, with four Wolverines and one Raider crowned area champs.

In all, Forsyth schools have 28 qualifiers for the upcoming sectionals, which will be held Friday and Saturday, with two different sites hosting each classification.

Competing in the Area 7-AAA traditionals at Creekview, West finished second as a team behind Gilmer, placing nine wrestlers in the top four at their respective weights.

Of those, Evan Burchette (130 pounds), Tyler Everton (145), Jeff Sayer (215) and defending state champion Dane Magnussen (285) all pinned down area titles. Matt Hatcher (160) finished second in his weight class.

Also qualifying from West were Tyler Lott (125), who finished third, and Cody Westray (103), Garrett Tedone (119) and Ross Anderskow (152), all fourth-place finishers.

Wolverines coach Dennis Stromie said the team had hoped to finish on top after winning the area duals last month, but put itself in a hole with a lackluster Friday showing.

“We came back after looking at it on Friday night and came back and wrestled pretty well on Saturday,” Stromie said, noting the team went from three state qualifiers to nine over the past year, and from one area champ to four.

“I think we’ve definitely made some improvement and made some strides,” the coach said.

West will compete in the East Sectional for Class AAA this weekend, to be held at Eagle’s Landing High School in McDonough.

Over at North Gwinnett, North Forsyth also qualified nine wrestlers from Area 7-AAAAA, finishing third in the team standings.

Chris O’Connor (135) had the best showing for North, bringing home an area title. The junior earned a 6-5 decision over Duluth’s Evan Greer in the final on Saturday.

“He’s been wrestling real well lately, so we’ve just got to keep it going for a couple more weeks ... and hopefully he can just keep it rolling,” North coach Travis Jarrard said of O’Connor, who is the school’s first area champion since joining Class AAAAA in 2006.

Dylan Cross (103), Alex Lanier (140) and Ronald Kennedy (189) all finished second at their weights. Tristan Bourque (125), Ryan Cross (130) and Elliot Bourne (160) were third-place finishers, while Chris Ray (145) and Zach Wilson (171) came in fourth.

South Forsyth placed four wrestlers in sectionals, with Ryan Marionneaux (103) and Ryan Prisco (112) coming in third, and Nick Bonet (140) and Devon Polsin (152) finishing fourth.

Collins Hill won the title at 11 of the 14 weights and made the finals in 12, so it was tough for other schools to make a dent in the results at the 7-AAAAA area tournament.

“They’re something else,” Jarrard said of the Eagles.

“They’re not ranked in the top 20 in the nation for nothing. We just go out there and get after it best we can.”

North and South are now set to travel together to the Class AAAAA East Sectional at Camden County High School in Kingsland. As representatives of the toughest region in the sectional, Jarrard hopes his guys will benefit from the competition they’ve faced all year in the region.

“We’ve got the proving ground ahead of us. ... Time to put the icing on the cake,” Jarrard said.

Forsyth Central played host to the Area 6-AAAA tournament, and in the process qualified six wrestlers for the Class AAAA East Sectional this weekend, to be held at Glynn Academy in Brunswick.

Bulldogs making it to sectionals were Marco Vanderwant (125), Gary Freeland (130), John Taylor (152), Charlie Maynard (171), Randy Bolinger (189) and David Esbeck (215).

The top eight finishers in each weight class from the sectional sites will move on to the state finals, slated for the Arena at Gwinnett Center Feb. 19-21.