Lambert had little information about the wrestlers Matthew Sheetz could face in the 106 pound bracket at the Class AAAAAA East Sectional on Saturday in Lowndes. Sheetz had not faced the likes of Hasan Krigger of Central Gwinnett, Eduardo Jarquin of Newton, Vinny Artigues of Archer and Adrian Hughes of Camden County this season.
But, one by one, Sheetz took them down – a pin over Krigger, a technical fall over Jarquin, a 6-5 decision over Artigues, a 7-4 decision over Hughes. The sophomore was the only individual champion among 24 Forsyth wrestlers who qualified for the 2014 State Traditional Wrestling Tournament on Friday and Saturday at Gwinnett Arena.
"He had a great tournament," Lambert wrestling coach Kevin Contardi said. "We knew he could [win it]."
North led Forsyth teams with nine qualifiers, led by fourth-place finishes from Chase Tenety (106), Luke Slaton (126), Shane Cross (138) and Keigan Radake (182). Justin Lioti (113), Jake Nash (120), Tanner Buggs (160) and Austin Thornton (195) placed fifth, while Julian Benton (132) placed sixth.
The Raiders have the third most qualifiers among Class AAAAAA schools heading into the state tournament.
"From the outside looking in, it’s a great number," North wrestling coach Travis Jarrard said. "Based on bracket draws every single one of them has a chance. I’ve been harping on all the kids the last couple of weeks that in the postseason anything can happen."
South Forsyth had five wrestlers qualify, led by Benjamin Lemay (106) and Daniel Rech (145), who each placed fifth. Felipe Hayes (138) and Bryan Troye (160) placed sixth, while Brennan McCrum (152) placed eighth.
Lambert had three others qualify in Joey Salgado (sixth, 170), Eric Diemert (seventh, 113) and Andrew Morin (seventh, 120).
Denver Stonecheck (120) and Austin Sanders (170) finished runner-up in their respective weight classes to lead West Forsyth. Jacob Miller also qualified for the Wolverines at 126 finishing seventh.
Forsyth Central had three qualify at the Class AAAAA East Sectional in Carson Pillow (sixth, 170), Jordan Schaller (sixth, 182) and Nathan Kistler (seventh, 113).
Sheetz’s impressive run underscored the significance of the sectional tournament, not just that only the top eight wrestlers from each weight class qualified for state but that a wrestler’s finish impacted the difficulty level of his potential opponents.
Sheetz earned the No. 1 seed at 106 in Class AAAAAA which helped him potentially avoid tougher wrestlers until the later rounds. In fact, Sheetz may have already faced his toughest opponent in Artigues, who had been considered the favorite for most of the season and a key piece in Archer’s chances of repeating as state champions.
Others from Forsyth won’t be so fortunate. But, Jarrard said, they will be undeterred. Of the Raiders’ nine qualifiers, eight have never placed at the state tournament. Former state placers await, maybe reigning state champions.
"They’re hungry to get on that podium," Jarrard said. "They’re hungry to get in that top six. If they do find themselves in the loser’s bracket in a tough draw, previous records don’t mean anything when a kid’s mental focus shifts like they do in the state tournament."