It’s nothing new to Dennis Stromie to coach a top-notch wrestling program. During his 22-year career at Parkview, he coached the Panthers to 12 area titles.
When he took over at West Forsyth last season, the newly opened school hit the ground running with a trip to state as a No. 2 seed.
So it shouldn’t come as a surprise that with a year of experience under the Wolverines’ belts, they were able to one-up last year’s performance and come away with the school’s first Area 7-AAA wrestling title on Jan. 10 at West.
“It’s exciting that we’ve been able to be competitive quickly,” Stromie said of his second-year program. “It’s also gratifying to see all the hard work the kids put into this pay off.”
The Wolverines — seeded third entering the area tournament — defeated No. 4 seed Lumpkin County 45-27 in the final to claim the area crown and vault all the way up to the No. 2 overall seed in Class AAA heading into the state meet in Macon.
“I had my share of good runs at Parkview with taking my teams and winning some down there, but I was already wondering after [Friday] night, if we don’t ... get [at least] second and get to go, am I going to go down and watch [state duals]? I [couldn’t] imagine not going, I’ve been there since it started,” said Stromie, who was instrumental in creating the duals in its current format in 2000.
The coach’s dilemma never became a reality, though, as Saturday’s finals were quite a rebound for West after struggling to pull out a 34-28 win against Creekview in Friday’s second round.
“We went from wrestling as bad as we have all season [Friday], to as well as we have all season [Saturday],” Stromie said.
“I told them, ‘We’ve got to get better today,’ and by golly, we came out and wrestled good against White County ... and wrestled great against Lumpkin. Every break kind of went our way and obviously I’m pleased and excited for the kids.”
The Wolverines made it to the finals with a 37-28 win against White County in the semifinals. West won nine of its 14 weight classes against White County and had a major decision win from Reice Thompson (189) in the final weight classes contested to ensure victory. West Forsyth was leading 33-28 heading into the Thompson’s win.
Stromie said he was hoping to start the finals winning at least one of the first two weight classes (112 and 119). The Wolverines’ coach said he felt it was a great barometer of things to come when Robbie Kudela (112) and Garrett Tedone (119) both came away with wins to put West ahead of Lumpkin County 12-0 right off the bat.
West finished the match with wins in eight weight classes, including pins by Evan Burchette (130), Ross Andersokow (152) and Jeff Sayer (285).
The outcome initially left Lumpkin County as area runner-up and with a spot in the state duals meet for the first time in school history, thanks to a victory over four-time defending Area 7-AAA champion Gilmer in the semifinals. Gilmer finished in third place, seemingly ending the school’s streak of appearances at the state meet.
According to Stromie, however, Lumpkin County later realized that one of the wrestlers it used in the area meet had not met certain academic requirements and was not eligible to participate.
“Lumpkin called this afternoon and informed the GHSA [Georgia High School Association] that they had used an ineligible wrestler,” Stromie said in an e-mail on Monday. “So Lumpkin is [disqualified] and Gilmer comes into the bracket [in its place].”
No. 2 seed West will face LaGrange in the first round of the state meet at noon on Friday.
“I’m not sure we should be seeded that high, but we wrestled well enough to get that seed,” Stromie said.
Sports Editor Jared Putnam contributed to this article.