MARIETTA – Jordan Schaller stayed on one knee for just a moment with wide eyes and a broad smile, savoring a pair of accomplishments that dovetailed perfectly for the Forsyth Central senior.
He did not want to be wrestling in the semifinals at 182 pounds, but if he had to, he wanted it to be against this Cambridge wrestler who had pinned him earlier at the Area 7-AAAAA traditional tournament Saturday at Kell.
Schaller and his opponent wrestled to a 4-4 tie at the end of regulation. In the one minute overtime, Schaller made his move at the very end, executing a reverse take-down to seal the match and finish third.
“I just waited patiently,” Schaller said. “When I had the chance, I took it. I knew what I had to do because I had lost to him earlier.”
Schaller’s compelling victory was the most dramatic sign of progress for Forsyth Central wrestling on a day when the Bulldogs made plenty. Central finished fourth overall in the team standings behind Cambridge, who upset defending champion and runner-up Pope, and Creekview, while the Bulldogs had five wrestlers qualify for the Class AAAAA East Sectionals next weekend for the chance to make the state tournament.
“We’ve got young guys with a lot of heart who are coming in with the right mindset,” Central wrestling coach Jeremiah Walker said. “That’s what it’s all about. … A lot of our young guys made up their minds that they wanted to wrestle one more week.”
Central entered the tournament – indeed, the entire 2013-14 season – with just one returning sectional qualifier, junior Nathan Kistler, who finished third at area traditional last season. Kistler made progress of his own this time, advancing to the finals at 113 where he lost a tight 2-0 decision to Pope’s Josh Tazetta.
“It was really exciting,” Kistler said. “It was also a lot more fun that I got to do it with Knight [Bankston] in the finals, too. That was a lot of fun.”
But the most significant sign of progress came in Schaller and Central’s three other first-time sectional qualifiers. There was Bankston, who reached the finals at 152 where he lost to Pope’s Davis Burson. There was Hunter Kurowski, who finished fourth at 106, and Carson Pillow, who finished fourth at 170.
And there was Schaller, the senior whose sophomore and junior seasons were ruined by injuries – first two broken collarbones, then a torn labrum in his shoulder. Schaller recovered from the torn labrum this past summer knowing he had one last chance to become a state tournament-caliber wrestler. He embraced that urgency, he said. It made him work harder.
Schaller had plenty of work to do after losing early Saturday. The loss sent him to the consolation bracket, but he worked his way back to secure one of the top four spots and qualify for sectionals.
“It feels great,” Schaller said. “Finally.”
With one challenge left, Schaller avenged his previous loss in Central’s final match of the day.
“We’ve progressed a lot this year,” Schaller said. “Just hard work, working harder this year. Everybody has the same goal and we’re all putting in the work to get it.”