MACON – Moments after shaking his opponent’s hand and those of his coaches, Matthew Sheetz threw his headgear down and walked off the mat.
The Lambert junior continued off the floor of the Macon Coliseum, visibly upset, eventually finding his way to an empty room where he could process his 120-pound GHSA Class AAAAAA state championship loss.
Unlike last year’s title defeat, for which he was looking for redemption, it took all three periods and three overtimes to be downed by North Gwinnett’s Todd Smith. Sheetz eventually fell 4-3 in the second 30-second overtime after a frantically paced first few periods which saw both wrestlers force their way out of bounds several times.
“Matthew’s always had close matches with that kid,” Lambert head coach Kevin Contardi said. “That’s their fourth time wrestling in a real match, and they’ve probably wrestled each other in the summers as kids and stuff like that. …
“(Sheetz) didn’t get into the situations that would favor him. Probably wasn’t active enough.”
Eric Diemert faced a similar fate at 106 pounds, falling 6-4 to Bradley Bitting of North Paulding. The match was close, as the two traded takedowns in the first two periods. Tied at 4 until 23 seconds remained in the third, Bitting scored two more on a takedown and kept Diemert at bay until the buzzer sounded.
In front of a packed and noisy crowd, nearly every wrestler participating in the championship matches anxiously walked around or jogged in place upon introduction. Sheetz, who followed Diemert on the AAAAAA mat, continued pacing alongside his coaches while cheering his teammate on.
“Both of them let their nerves probably get the best of them,” Contardi said. “It didn’t look like their best performances, and I mean most kids don’t have their best performance on that stage, you know. It’s a high-pressure situation. … At this point it’s not about what they can do and what they can’t do. It’s about the emotions they can control and stuff like that.”
Both juniors had highly successful seasons to get to this point, Sheetz with a 41-2 record and 46-4 for Diemert.
Despite finishing without titles, there’s one more year the two can try to claim the individual state championship that has now eluded six Longhorns since the school opened in 2009.
“They had great seasons, but you want to end it that way, on top, and that didn’t happen,” Contardi said. “They’re hard workers, they’re going to continue to work hard. They’ll have one more shot.”