North Forsyth couldn't prevent Archer from winning its fourth-consecutive GHSA duals state championship on Saturday, but they were close enough in the Class AAAAAA title tilt against the Tigers that athletic director Nathan Turner walked back over to the post-match huddle gleaming from ear to ear.
“(Archer) just said we scared them. That's the number two team in the country,” Turner exclaimed, slightly short of breath. North head coach Travis Jarrard circled his wrestlers on the championship mat after they fell 37-30, and told his team, “we will win a state championship on this mat, right here.”
North opened the match with a pin from Walid Abdullahi, which drew roars from the crowd above the competition floor. The Raiders went up 9-0 after a 6-0 decision in favor of Paul Watkins, and with a 9-9 tie shortly after, Riley Wheeler registered a big upset, forcing a fall of his opponent after a few long minutes of a tough point battle.
Bradley Thomas won a 4-0 decision to re-tie the contest at 18-18, heading into the 160-weight class. That was where the Tigers won the next three fights, with pins in two, to open a 33-18 lead.
North's final true win on the mat came from Connor Cross, who won a late pin to make the score 33-24. Archer clinched the victory in the 220-pound match with a 14-1 decision, with Jackson Bardall's appearance defaulted to a forfeit.
“Going against a Monster like Archer and only lose by seven was unbelievable,” Jarrard said. “They beat us 62-15 earlier in the year, so the effort they gave was amazing. If they can give that kind of effort, we have a shot at winning a state title next year.”
The Raiders finished with a 3-1 record on the weekend. They defeated Brookwood, 33-30, in the first round before rolling through Rockdale County, 44-19, to set up a semifinals match against Mountain View. North managed to defeat Mountain View by just three points on Friday. The win over the Bears came when Hunter Loyd earned a 5-4 decision in the final matchup of the night.
“That match last night (against Mountain View) was one of the best I've ever been a part of,” Jarrard said.
North was also, by far, the closest competition for Archer, which won 67-6 over Alcovy, 38-25 over Collins Hill and 49-13 over Pope. For the Tigers, Saturday's state final was—remarkably--their 96th consecutive victory in a duals format matchup.
The Raiders are slated to return 12 of their 14 starters from a team full of sophomores. Only Loyd and Bardall will depart at the end of the spring season. The lack of seniors made North's performance even harder for Jarrard to believe, but it sure has him excited for the future.
“I'm speechless. These kids, their heart is so big. They fought, fought and fought. You don't know if you're always going to get that out of a bunch of sophomores, but they impressed across the arena and this state with that performance right there.”
Lambert compiled a 3-2 record at the state duals meet, defeating Tift County, 37-36, before falling to Pope by one point and into the consolation bracket. The Longhorns defeated Hillgrove by one, 33-32, then squeeked by Collins Hill, 33-30, before eventually falling to Mountain View by 14 points.
Mountain View finished third in the tournament, with Tift County finishing fourth.