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Bardall, Sheetz, Stonecheck bring home wrestling state titles
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Lambert senior Matthew Sheetz celebrates after winning the state title at 132 pounds Saturday at the GHSA Wrestling State Championships. - photo by Lily McGregor Photography

DULUTH – They rushed off the matt, toward an empty hallway in the Infinite Energy Arena, where Jackson Bardall collapsed on his back.

The North Forsyth senior had no energy left to defend the onslaught of Raiders coaches who jumped on him and howled around him in euphoria. He’d spent it all struggling with Kennesaw Mountain heavyweight Kobe Gadsen in the Class AAAAAA 285-pound finals at the GHSA Wrestling State Championships on Saturday. After grappling for 8 minutes 30 seconds to a victory in a 3-2 decision by ultimate tiebreaker, the only celebration Bardall could manage now was to lift his arms straight in the air with fists clenched.

North head coach Travis Jarrard had fallen to his knees when Bardall finally clinched, awestruck that it was a college football-bound heavyweight ending the Raiders’ state title drought.

In the empty hallway, Jarrard looked down at Bardall still amazed.

“Thirteen years since we’ve had a state champion,” Jarrard said, “and he doesn’t even like wrestling.”

Bardall gave out an exasperated chuckle.

“I sure do like winning though,” he said.

Bardall was one of six from Forsyth County to wrestle in the state finals Saturday, and three left as champions: Lambert’s Matthew Sheetz (132), West Forsyth’s Denver Stonecheck (138) and Bardall.

“I can’t really explain it yet,” Sheetz said. “I’ve watched my video already. I’m just so excited. I know I’ve worked too hard, and to finally reach my goal is amazing.”

“Relieved, relieved,” Stonecheck said. “I was nervous coming in, but the pressure is off me now.”

Perhaps Sheetz and Stonecheck felt more pressure than most. Both dedicated wrestlers in their senior seasons, each had come close to a state title before. Stonecheck placed fifth as a sophomore and third last season. Sheetz had lost in the finals each of the past two seasons.

This was their last chance, and both were tested.

Sheetz trailed Tift County’s Quen Campbell 2-1 after the first period and 5-4 midway through the third. But Sheetz managed one final takedown with seconds to spare to win a 7-5 decision and become Lambert’s first wrestling state champion in school history.

“I let him score early, and that kind of made me mad,” Sheetz said. “I started working on my shots and trying to get in on him. I was having trouble finishing but then I kind of got in the groove and pulled it out.”

Stonecheck came out the aggressor against Newnan’s Jason Moore going up 4-1 after the first period and leading by as much as 9-4 in the second. Moore closed to within 9-8 going in to the third period, but Stonecheck made two moves to pull away for a 15-8 decision for the Wolverines’ first wrestling state champion since Tyler Everton in 2011.

“It was a tiring match,” Stonecheck said. “He was strong, so I tried to pace myself, drag the match out kind of. I was wrestling a little conservative so I didn’t have to use all my energy in the beginning. I went in spurts so I could get the job done when I had to. Kind of kept the score a little close, closer than I expected or anticipated. But I scored when I needed to and got the job done.”

The night ended with Bardall, the Eastern Kentucky University football signee, in a marathon against Gadsen.

The two grappled their way to a scoreless first period. Gadsen got an escape to go up 1-0 in the second period. Bardall responded with an escape of his own to tie it 1-1 and force sudden victory overtime in which the wrestler who scored the first point would be declared the winner. Neither scored.

Bardall took a 2-1 lead in the first extra tiebreaker period when he flipped out of Gadsen’s grasp for an escape, but Gadsen scored on an escape in the second tiebreaker to tie it 2-2. Only the 30-second ultimate tiebreaker was left.

“I’ve been preparing ever since I got [to state] that probably every match was going to be eight and a half minutes,” Bardall said. “So I was expecting that. I’m used to it. Coach [Jarrard] says I’ve been in more overtimes than any heavyweight he’s ever coached.”

Starting on top, Bardall hung on to Gadsen and never let go. Neither scored a point, but Bardall was declared the winner for not allowing Gadsen to score from the bottom position.

“Wrestling isn’t my love,” Bardall said. “I just hate losing. Hate every part of it. It gets deep under me, and I can’t ever let it go. So it means I didn’t lose.”

Bardall helped North to a second-place finish in the Class AAAAAA team standings with 106 points behind Archer (172.5), which won its fourth consecutive state title. The Raiders had five state placers in all, including senior Hunter Loyd who lost in the 195 finals to Hillgrove’s Carlin Powell. Paul Watkins placed third at 113 for North, while Connor Carroll placed fourth at 152 and Bradley Thomas fifth at 145.

Lambert finished fourth as a team on the strength of putting three in the finals, led by Sheetz and his redemptive title at 132. Eric Diemert finished runner-up at 113 for the second straight season, while Eric Kohlins made a run to the 182 finals where he lost to Archer’s four-time state champion Daniel Bullard. Payton Mitchell placed third at 106.

Complete state placers for Forsyth County

Forsyth Central

Abraham Perez, 106, 5th

Lambert

Payton Mitchell, 106, 3rd

Eric Diemert, 113, 2nd

Matthew Sheetz, 132, 1st

Eric Kohlins, 182, 2nd

North Forsyth

Paul Watkins, 113, 3rd

Bradley Thomas, 145, 5th

Connor Carroll, 152, 4th

Hunter Loyd, 195, 2nd

Jackson Bardall, 2285, 1st

South Forsyth

Brennan McCrum, 160, 4th

West Forsyth

Denver Stonecheck, 138, 1st

Team results

Class 6A

1. Archer 172.5

2. North Forsyth 106

3. Mountain View 94

4. Lambert 88

5. Lee County 83

16. West Forsyth 36

28. South Forsyth 20

Class 5A

1. Camden County 268.5

2. Woodland 187

3. Union Grove 102.5

4. Cass 94

5. South Paulding 81

23. Forsyth Central 16.5