North Forsyth wrestling coach Travis Jarrard hadn't been bashful about facing pressure as returning champs at the Area 6 duals meet, or the fact his team was much younger than it had been during those first four successful rodeos.
His expecations never waivered, but he couldn't help but feel more elated than usual after his youthful crew stormed back to edge Lambert, 36-28, in the finals match to win the Raiders' fifth-consecutive area championship on Saturday at West Forsyth.
North and Lambert, which placed second, will advance to the state duals meet next weekend in Macon.
“It was an awesome day,” Jarrard said. When asked which wrestlers stood out to him the most, he simply responded with: “every single one of them.”
North cruised through its first two matches earlier in the day, defeating Centennial 72-12 and West 53-6. But the Longhorns were coming off a sizzling win over South Forsyth in the semi-finals, and early on in the championship tustle it appeared they were primed to unseat the Raiders.
The Longhorns won six of the first seven duals against North, with Payton Mitchell, Eric Diemert, Matthew Sheetz, Robbie Powell, Daniel Morin and Kyle Hall each finishing with an arm raised. Mitchell and Sheetz had pins, while Cole Tenety in the 120-weight class was North's only winner during that stretch—a pin over Michael Miller.
North completely flipped the match, winning six of the final seven to earn the edge. The Raiders were helped by three forfeits, including forfeits in the last two weight classes as Lambert wanted to prevent injury in inevitable mismatches.
“I thought our kids wrestled great,” Lambert head coach Kevin Contardi said. “We had not given North a lot of competition in the past. They had some crucial pin points, and then we ended up forfeitting late. We definitely had a shot to win, but overall I was very proud.”
North's Connor Carroll, Brantley Little and Connor Cross had late wins for North, with Carroll's coming in a pin. Little's victory came over the recently-returned Will Kohlins, while Will's brother, Eric, had a 6-4 decision over Andrew Leggett as the Longhorn's last individual win of the match.
“This was the year to beat us,” Jarrard said. “West had some strong seniors, Lambert brings state wrestlers and then with the talent South has, we were so young, but we did it today. Today a group of young kids became men.”
Lambert quickly turned around to earn a true second-place finish, defeating West 44-15. West had to defeat South in the third place match. All four Forsyth schools competed in semifinal action, rounding out the 10-team field.
“This is one of the best counties when it comes to wrestling,” Jarrard said. “I think this is the toughest region in the state.”