Saturday, February 28, 2009

Georgia Hoops update: Central Gwinnett shocks Collins Hill

Justin Young of Georgia Hoops took in the Central Gwinnett victory over 1-seed Collins Hill. Check out Justin on Sunday, March 1 on Score Atlanta's college recruiting radio program on 790 The Zone, The Official Visit. The show runs from 1-3 p.m. every Sunday.

Central Gwinnett freshman Jordan Adams should be getting used to this by now. 

Adams hit four of his last five free throws and a big three-pointer late in the fourth quarter to help seal a 63-61 Central Gwinnett win over Collins Hill to advance in the AAAAA state tournament. 

Adams finished with 22 points in the victory. He sat out seven games in January and just got back into the team’s rotation during the region tournament because of the hamstring injury. 

Stepping up in the moment is something Adams is starting to get used to. 

Six months ago, the 6-3 wing lined up under center for the Golden Knights football team and won three of the last five games of the year for the football team as the starter. On Saturday night at Collins Hill, Adams came off the bench to help lead his number four seed team knock of one of the hottest teams in the state on the road.

“I tell you what, he was huge tonight. He’s a big time player,” Central Gwinnett head coach David Allen said after the game. “He has a great feel for the game. His knowledge of the game really showed there at the end. I was proud of him and the rest of our guys. They played their hearts out.”

Indeed they did. Central Gwinnett never seemed intimidated by Collins Hill’s size in the post. The Golden Knights relied on perimeter shooting and aggressive rebounding late in the game. 

Allen said he was happy with the way his team closed out the game. His team has lost seven games this season by four points or less. Winning a close one, on the road no less, is something that his team has fought hard to do this season. 

“They really endured well late in the game. That is something that we’ve struggled with this year. So the timing was perfect,” Allen said. 

Collins Hill had a monster effort from Utah bound senior Jeremy Olsen. The 6-10 big man dominated the game in the first half, scoring 19 of his team’s 34 points and only missed two shots in the first 16 minutes of play. Olsen finished with 29 points (11-15 FG, 7-8 FT), 15 rebounds and four blocks in the defeat.

Speedy sophomore guard Saah Nimley added 22 points in the defeat. Collins Hill struggled without production from Reed Buck and Derek Hood. The senior starters combined for just five points in the loss. 

Central Gwinnett will travel to Milton on Wednesday for the second round of the AAAAA state tournament. 

Walton wins it ...

Walton pulls the biggest shocker of the state tournament yet, knocking off McEachern 87-80 in the Indians' arena.

Shooting guard Michael Storey made a couple of big plays as the game wound down, hitting his foul shots in crunch time. He finished with 10 points for Walton, with much of his playing time coming after junior G'mitri Rice, Glen Rice's little brother, fouled out.

Trae Golden finished the game with 36 points in a valiant, but losing, effort. Harrow nearly matched him with 33 points. The two junior stars were dueling for much of the contest, answering each other's baskets.

The elder Rice put in 26 points for the Raiders. Colin Reddick and Kadeem Batts both had 15 points for McEachern.

Walton now moves on to the second round, where the Raiders will meet Norcross, a 64-58 winner over its cross-town rival Meadowcreek tonight.

Thanks to Stephen Black, our correspondent from McEachern tonight ... his full post-game recap will be coming up soon on Score Atlanta.

Walton 87 McEachern 80, 21 seconds left...

Unless the Indians can pull off a miracle in 21 seconds, it looks like Walton will advance as a 4-seed with a road win in the first round ...

A little over three minutes left ...

... and Walton is hanging on to an 80-77 lead. Harrow and Golden have been sensational all game, with Harrow's point total now at 32 and Golden's a game-high 35. This one will go down to the wire ...

Indians storm back

McEachern's Trae Golden hit a three-pointer at the end of the third to pull McEachern to within four points, 66-62. That's right ... McEachern poured in 32 points in a quarter to put itself back in the game. Golden now has 28 points for the game. Glen Rice Jr. of Walton just got a technical for arguing with a call at the end of the quarter.

Walton up big at half ...

Walton has pushed its lead to 44-30 at halftime thanks to 17 points from junior point guard Ryan Harrow and 15 points from senior swingman Glen Rice Jr.

It's been Harrow's game so far, and he executed two spectacular plays in the second half to affirm that. Harrow was the recipient of an alley-oop, and faked a McEachern defender behind his back on a fast break, freeing himself for a lay-up. Rice set the tone for the game by dunking off the opening tip, and kick-started a Walton 10-0 run in the second quarter with the score 26-20. Rice hit a three-pointer to make it 29-20, and Gerald Williams hit two trifectas back-to-back to make it 35-20 in the blink of an eye. A made free throw completed the 10-0 run for the Raiders.

Walton is generating a lot of steals on McEachern's homecourt. Trae Golden is keeping McEachern in relative striking distance with a monumental 23 points in the first half, with his teammates only chipping in seven total points in two quarters. We'll see if big-time players like Colin and Charlie Reddick, Kadeem Batts and Alioune Diouf can give him a little help when action gets back underway.

Oh yeah, and Paul Hewitt is in the crowd after coaching Georgia Tech up at Chapel Hill earlier in the day ...

DIFFERENT YEAR: Wesleyan knocked off by Athens Academy

Despite losing 10 players off last season’s Class 2A state championship team, the Wesleyan boys were a single shot away from advancing to the second round of the state playoffs as Wes Caver’s desperation three-point attempt as time expired missed and the Wolves fell to Athens Academy, 48-46.

“It hurts right now, but we’ll bounce back from this,” said Wesleyan head coach Skip Matherly.

After a strong 20-win season, Wesleyan was forced to play on the road as the No. 3 seed in Region 7-A after struggling in the region tournament without their leading scorer, Griffin Schamp, who missed much of the tournament with strep throat.

However, Schamp bounced back against Athens Academy to lead the Wolves with 21 points. Caver added 11 for Wesleyan.

Athens Academy was led by junior Jeremy Burgess with 19 points including the final four points for the Spartans. Burgess, also a member of the Georgia Stars, has already received offers from Appalachian State, Western Carolina, and Wofford.

After a three-pointer to end the first quarter, Burgess exploded for 10 points in the second quarter to give the Spartans a 29-24 lead at halftime.

However, Wesleyan switched to a 2-3 zone defense in the second half to try to keep the Spartans out of the lane and Burgess was held to only two points in the third quarter.

“They upped their defense. Every time I got into the lane I got bumped,” said Burgess.

With the game tied at 44 with two minutes remaining, the Wolves and Spartans each missed the front end of a one-and-one. Burgess then took over, giving the Spartans a 46-44 lead and then the lead for good after Caver tied the game at 46 for Wesleyan.

Athens Academy will play the winner of the Darlington and Our Lady of Mercy matchup on Wednesday.

Wiley can be reached at

Walton on top of McEachern ...

Stephen Black is our writer at the Walton-McEachern boys game, and here's what he gave us after the first quarter:

It's the end of the first and Walton has jumped out to a 19-13 lead in McEachern's house. The No. 1 seed from Region 6-AAAAA, the Raiders are one of the top teams regardless of class, checking in at No. 9 in our recent rankings, with McEachern at No. 2.

On another note, the Campbell girls defeated McEachern, 51-41, earlier in the evening.

More stats and information to follow on the boys game, stay tuned.

Friday, February 27, 2009

Redan sweeps Northside-Warner Robins in first-round matchups

Redan’s girls and boys basketball teams hosted the girls and boys basketball teams from Northside-Warner Robins in the first round of the Class 5A state playoffs on Friday night and second-half runs in both games helped propel the home teams to victory. The Lady Raiders coasted to a 71-43 triumph, while the boys got by the Eagles, 49-39.

After the Region 1 No. 4 seed Lady Eagles hung with the undefeated and Region 2 No. 1 seed Redan girls in the opening minutes of the game, the Lady Raiders ended the first quarter on a 16-4 run to put them up 20-8. Nia Evans and Quortni Fambro combined to deliver the first knockout punch of the game, as they scored the last nine points of the quarter with Fambro hitting a jumper at the buzzer. “We just tried to score to get the [score] up, so we can put everybody else into the game,” Evans said. “Just try to get a good lead so we can win.”

Eventually the Lady Raiders (23-0) took a 29-18 lead into halftime, but Northside showed life in the second half. Tai Brown was instrumental in the Lady Eagles putting up a fight. Brown hit two 3-pointers in the third quarter, as Northside (17-12) cut the Redan lead to 42-36. The Lady Raiders held a 44-36 lead at the start of the fourth quarter and refused to let the Lady Eagles get any closer. Thanks to great defense and point guard Alisha Andrews orchestrating several fast breaks, Redan starter the quarter on a 21-3 spurt, finally putting Northside away. “We did slack off a little bit,” Evans said. “But we got back right.”

The Lady Raiders now move on to the next round, where they will face Camden County, and after losing in the championship game a year ago, Redan remains the only undefeated team in Class 5A. “I think we’re going to do real good in the next round and I think we’re going to win the whole thing,” Evans said. “That’s the goal.”

Mackenzie Dalrymple led Redan with 16 points and Evans finished with 15. Delia Brunson added 12, while Fambro contributed 10 and Andrews nine. Brown led Northside with 13.

Redan’s boys team, which is also the No. 1 seed from Region 2, could not shake the fourth-seeded Northside boys until the second half. The game was tied 12-12 after the first quarter and after the Raiders surged ahead to start the second quarter, the Eagles responded and the game went into halftime tied at 28. “We didn’t attack the 1-2-1-1 very efficiently,” said Redan head coach Julius Thompson. “We got the ball to the middle to Kenny Hall, he looked to the wings, we should have scored many many more times than we did.”

Redan (19-7) was able to remedy their attack of the Northside defense to start the second half and scored the first 13 points of the third quarter, with six of those coming off of Hall dunks. The Raider defense played a huge role as well as the Eagles did not get their first points of the period until under two minutes remaining and scored only four points for the quarter. “What I love about our team is defense,” Thompson said. “We have the best defense in tournament. We [give up] less than 46 points per game. “Everybody else is in the 60’s.”

Northside (15-13) did not break 40, as Redan got the win. Raymond Gregory led the Raiders with 14 points, while LaTerrence Carter added 12 and Hall finished with 10. Pierre Solomon led the Eagles with nine.

Redan plays the winner of the Newnan and Camden County matchup in the round of 16 and Thompson, who was in his ninth game as head coach after Dalton Greene resigned, says his team is rounding into shape, but playing good defense remains important.

“If we continue to do that, hopefully our offense can catch up, [and] we’ll be a force to handle late in the tournament,” he said.

Butler can be reached at

Duluth knocks off Berkmar ...

Well, Duluth may have flown under the radar for much of the regular season despite making the semis a year ago, but the team is back on the map after beating Berkmar at home, 62-47. Mykala Walker led the Lady Wildcats with 17 points in the win.

Remember, Berkmar was the only team to beat Parkview this season ... 

Look out for Duluth, because it seems like Walker and Co. are peaking at the right time. Check later for reports from both the Redan boys and girls first-round games against Northside-Warner Robins, and the Marist girls vs. Sandy Creek.

Duluth at Berkmar - going into fourth quarter

Duluth still leads, 45-33. Walker is carrying Duluth, which went to the final four last year.

This could be the first upset of the tournament ... we'll have the final score as soon as the game ends.

Duluth at Berkmar girls - halftime report

Duluth is surprisingly out ahead of the home team, the Berkmar Lady Patriots, by the score of 28-19. Mykala Walker is coming through big-time for No. 3 seed Duluth, with 11 points at the half, most of it coming on three 3-pointers (all in the second quarter). Mariah Richardson is keeping Berkmar in it with 11 points at the half.

It was a troublesome first half for Berkmar beyond the score, as guard Tyra Smith committed four fouls in the second quarter, two of which were technicals.

Duluth led 14-6 after the first quarter.

Stay tuned for more updates ...

Thursday, February 26, 2009

THE BRACKET: Wheeler's Doug Lipscomb and Norcross' Jesse McMillan share their thoughts on one of the toughest playoff brackets in recent memory

McEachern. Wheeler. Norcross. Walton. All in Score Atlanta’s all-classification Top 10. All in the same quarter of the boys 5A state basketball playoff bracket.

That’s right; at least three teams in the Top 10 of the entire state—not just the Top 10 of their respective classification—won’t even make it to the semifinals of the 5A playoffs.

“It’s very tough,” admitted Wheeler head coach Doug Lipscomb. “That’s basically all you can say.”

Just how tough is that section of the draw? McEachern finished 20-0 in Region 5-AAAAA and 24-3 overall. Norcross also completed a perfect regular season in region, going 18-0 in 7-AAAAA before getting upset by Collins Hill 67-65 in the tournament final. The Blue Devils are 25-2 overall and—oh yeah—they are the three-time defending state champions.

Wheeler went 14-2 in Region 6-AAAAA and all five of the team’s other losses (20-7 overall) came against out-of-state competition. One of the region losses was an 82-81 nail-biter against…Walton, which compiled a 9-5 record in Region 6, 18-9 overall. Three of the Raiders’ losses were not only against out-of-state opponents, but also by a combined six points including two double-overtime thrillers.

Think it can’t get any more difficult? Think again. Either Walton or McEachern won’t even get out of the first round, as they will square off head-to-head on Saturday night.

If Norcross can survive Meadowcreek in its opener, the Blue Devils will meet the Walton-McEachern winner for a spot in the quarterfinals.

“It’s definitely a difficult bracket,” said Norcross head coach Jesse McMillan. “It seems like every year one part of the bracket is like this. You have to beat a good team in every round to advance.”

Is it so difficult that a new seeding system might be necessary to prevent such an uneven bracket?

“I don’t think re-seeding is necessary,” added McMillan. But he does have an idea in mind. “I think basketball should do it much like football, where a North Georgia team plays a team from South Georgia in the first round.”

For now, however, McMillan and his Blue Devils are stuck with an opening-round test against Meadowcreek, their “cross-town rivals” in McMillan’s words. Then, if Norcross continues to advance, it’s Walton or McEachern in round two and potentially Wheeler right after that.

“You have to look at like every team you’re going to play is really good,” McMillan concluded. For this quarter of the draw, that’s an understatement.

Dimon can be reached at

Wednesday, February 25, 2009

Georgia Hoops bracket breakdown

Another column from our friend Justin Young of Georgia Hoops. This guy knows hoops in the state of Georgia, and he'll be contributing to our SportsGPB blog throughout the year. Also check out his national blog, the National Hoops Report.

Norcross High School raised it’s third straight state championship banner earlier this season and the Blue Devils looked skyward and watched history hang above them all season long. 

But gone is Eddie Martin. Gone is Al-Farouq Aminu. Gone are the high-major signees. A new batch of Blue Devils are hanging strong. And the new batch of players and new coach Jesse McMillan won 25 games and only losing two all season long. 

While the faces have changed, the goal remains the same. The goal is the fourth state championship. The quest for that goal is now beginning. For 31 other teams, the goal is starting a new legacy. 

Can Wheeler finally make it happen? Can a team outside the Atlanta area finally win the AAAAA state championship this year? Will there be an upset? Will there be any surprises? Will there be a breakout performance from a star in the waiting? 

Those questions will be answered over the next three weeks. And that is why we love Georgia high school basketball so much. 


Walton at McEachern - This is the best game of any first round match-up in the state tournament. The two Cobb County teams are both stocked with talent. 

McEachern is deep inside, anchored by Furman bound center Collin Reddick and Providence bound power forward Kadeem Batts. Wings Charlie Reddick and Alioune Diouf are two of the more versatile players in the AAAAA bracket. Junior Trae Golden, the Georgia Hoops Region 5 Player of the Year, glues it all together. He’s one of the best scorers in the tournament. 

Walton is paced by the scoring prowess of Glen Rice, Jr. and Ryan Harrow, who will both play college ball in the ACC, can easily score 30 points in any game. Rice is a triple double in waiting in every game while Harrow’s speed will clearly be a factor. Defense has been the Achilles heel all season long for Walton. It could be the difference maker in this one.

McEachern’s size inside, overall depth and home court advantage make the Indians my pick for the victory. 

The winner of the game will likely have Norcross in the second round. How’s that for a reward for a battle in the first round? 

Milton at Marietta - The young Eagles looked good in the region tournament but so did Marietta. Marietta’s Chris Tanzy is playing the best basketball of his career and his match-up against sophomore Shannon Scott will be entertaining to say the least. Mix in the fact that the two coaches, Milton’s David Boyd and Marietta’s Charlie Hood, have a combined five state titles between the two of them and you have a game that is very intriguing on so many levels. Marietta’s magic will make this game close but Milton’s talent could shine through. 

Riverdale at Groves - Very intriguing match-up here. Riverdale is a scrappy bunch. Grove is a deep and big bunch. Riverdale has a long scorer in Judson Dillard. Groves is paced by balance yet organized chaos on defense. Riverdale comes to the tournament after being battle tested in Region 4 while it could be argued that Groves is the best team in Savannah. Groves is my pick in this one. Playing in Savannah is a tough task. 

Meadowcreek at Norcross - The Mustangs are hungry for an upset after a disappointing region tournament. The Blue Devils are ready for redemption after losing the Region 7 tournament. Emotions should be high in this game. If this game comes down to a shooting match, which it very well could, Norcross should prevail. 


Reed Buck, SF, Collins Hill – The senior shooter is coming on strong in tournament play and people are starting to notice. The Eagles have size, thanks to Utah bound Jeremy Olsen and Derek Hood, and speed from point guard Saah Nimley. Buck has been the beneficiary of laying under the radar and having clean looks from the perimeter. Having shooters is the difference between packing up and going home or moving on the tournament. Collins Hill could be an Elite Eight (or higher) level team because of that.

Chris Tanzy, PG, Marietta – The football star is playing like a man possessed in the tournament. He’s been healthy, a major plus for the Blue Devils, and because of that, he picked apart Cherokee and nearly beat McEachern with his play. Milton will be a major test right out of the gates. He should be ready. 

Judson Dillard, SF, Riverdale – The wiry senior will have his hands full in the first round against Groves, one of the best teams in Savannah. The 6-4 wing is always around the basket and finds ways to get involved in every play. He is a high energy player that can score big points in a hurry. 

Jarvis Brown, SG, Meadowcreek – The tough-minded senior is the heart and soul of the over-achieving Mustangs this season and he’s been one of the toughest players to defend in Gwinnett this season. He’s a bull to the basket and he could be the toughest guard the Norcross will play this season. Keep an eye on that first round match-up. 

Jareal Smith, SG, Johnson – The 6-3 junior was the Region 3 player of the year. That’s impressive considering the talent in the region. He and his Johnson teammates have a tough draw against Westlake but if there is an area to attack the Lions, it is in the backcourt. Don’t be surprised to see Smith impressing while on the west side of the ATL on Saturday. 


Jay Rome, SF/PF, Valdosta – The 6-5 forward is one of the toughest players to defend because of his natural strength, scoring ability and touch on the glass as a rebounder. The sophomore is a football star and plays with that reckless abandonment that you’d expect from a gridiron star. Valdosta’s side of the bracket is filled with physical players and Rome will be tested right out of the gate. 

Four of Milton’s starting five – The youngsters have lived up to the hype all season long and will now be challenged at the state level. The road to Gwinnett won’t be easy but the Eagles have proved themselves against Walton, GAC, Riverdale and Brookwood but lost against Wheeler and Centennial during the season. Can the Dai-Jon Parker, Shannon Scott, Julian Royal and Evan Nolte step up to the plate? 

Dominique McCoy, SF, Meadowcreek – The 6-6 sophomore wears a lot of hats for the Mustangs and he’ll have to bring all of them when Meadowcreek takes on Norcross in round one. He can handle the ball, he can rebound, he can defend the perimeter and he can score in the paint. He’ll need to touch the ball more than he did when Parkview almost beat Meadowcreek in the region tournament. If he can score in double digits, Meadowcreek is always in good position to win. 

Chris Bolden, SG, Brookwood – The freshman is known for his quick trigger and he was firing away in the region tournament. It seems the bigger the stage, the better he plays. The Broncos will need a big game from Bolden right out of the gates as the team travels to Peachtree Ridge for a tough battle in round one. 

Cory Blackwell, PF/SF, Peachtree Ridge – See Jay Rome. How do you defend the 6-5 monster truck with legs? Blackwell is one of the most unique players in the state and he’s one of the toughest kids to defend because he can burn you inside but also step out and knock down the midrange jumper. The sophomore is a dynamic rebounder and one that can quickly pull down 10 boards before the half. A potential match-up between he and Richard Howell at Wheeler would be fun to watch. 


Depth from Region 6. There is no denying the strength of the region. All four teams that advanced (Wheeler, Centennial, Milton and Walton) can win the state tournament. Lassiter and Campbell, two teams from the region that were ousted early in the region tournament, could have very easily been a No. 2 seed in the tournament, too.

Ari Stewart, a senior at Wheeler, believes Region 6 is a great test for the state tournament. 

“We have one of the toughest regions in the state. We have Walton, Centennial, Milton, Lassiter, Campbell. The list goes on and on. I do think we have one of the toughest regions in the state. I do think this was the hardest part, winning the region tournament,” Stewart said minutes after winning the region tournament. 

“But we still have to play hard. We still have to play good teams like a Centennial. We don’t know anything about the teams we are about to play. We’ve never seen them play. We have to go and play good defense. I find it will be really hard for teams to beat us if we play like we did [against Centennial].”

Russell Powell is the best player in metro Atlanta that no one is talking about. Win. He has a string of winning DNA in his system and that’s all he has done in high school. He quarterbacked his team deep into the state playoffs. In hoops, he has changed the mentality of his team and can easily score 25 points, glue his team together like a Tom Brady and also defend like Bruce Bowen. Keep an eye on the Jacksonville bound point guard. He’ll be playing on March 12 and 13th in Gwinnett. 

What non-ATL team will have success? Every year there is one that makes a run to the Final Four. Valdosta? Groves? Savannah? Coffee? Which one can it be? Valdosta makes the most sense as the Wildcats sit at 26-1. The South Georgia power destroyed the competition all season long and looks to be rolling at the right time. 

Top No. 1 seed: Wheeler
Top No. 2 seed: Centennial 
Top No. 3 seed: Milton 
Top No. 4 seed: Walton 


Valdosta over Greenbrier
Groves over Riverdale
Redan over Northside Warner Robins
Newnan over Camden County
South Gwinnett over Mill Creek
Centennial over North Cobb
Collins Hill over Central Gwinnett
Milton over Marietta
Savannah over Creekside
Coffee over Union Grove 
Westlake over Savannah Johnson
Stephenson over Tift County
Wheeler over Harrison
Peachtree Ridge over Brookwood
McEachern over Walton
Norcross over Meadowcreek


Newnan vs. Centennial 
Westlake vs. Wheeler


Wheeler over Newnan 

Pre-playoffs Top 25

It was tough to narrow this list down to 25 boys hoops teams statewide; there were so many schools that are deserving because of resume and talent level, and it's always difficult to compare teams across classifications. But here it is ... our last ranking before the postseason really gets rolling. (Note: this is confined to teams that are actually playing in the state tournament - sorry, Lassiter.)

Don't forget to check out the all prep sports blog at throughout the state playoffs for game recaps, the latest news and analysis and guest columnists!

1. South Atlanta

2. McEachern

3. Wheeler

4. Miller Grove

5. Centennial

6. Milton

7. Norcross

8. Columbia

9. Walton

10. Westlake

11. Hillgrove

12. Marist

13. Newnan

14. Savannah

15. South Gwinnett

16. Valdosta

17. Collins Hill

18. Fayette County

19. Meadowcreek

20. Dublin

21. Redan

22. Lithia Springs

23. Greater Atlanta Christian

24. Groves

25. Whitefield Academy

Ewalt can be reached at

Tuesday, February 24, 2009

Atlanta Tipoff Club announces midseason metro teams, national Naismith Award finalists

The Atlanta Tipoff Club recently announced the nominees for the prestigious Naismith Award, given to the top boys and girls player in the country. One Georgia player, South Atlanta's Derrick Favors, made the cut. See the full list here.

The ATC also released its Metro Atlanta all-midseason teams, which are a list of names that are being considered for the Tipoff Club's local end-of-the-year awards. Check out the names here.

Monday, February 23, 2009

PLAYOFF PRIMER: A look around the state

A version of this article appears on

With the high school basketball regular season over, let us take a look at several of the state’s surprise teams, noteworthy players and top teams that will be in contention for a state title come March.


(Boys) Valdosta: Football-rich Valdosta made it to the second round of the basketball state tournament a year ago before losing to Douglass for their 10th loss of the season. Earning the 1-seed in Region 1-AAAAA, head coach Rufus McDuffie’s Wildcats only have one loss under their belts. Behind the play of 6-foot-5 wingman and gridiron standout Jay Rome, Valdosta is South Georgia’s best boys hoops team and should have a good shot at a Final Four berth given the lay of the bracket.

(Girls) Norcross: New additions Anjelica Wilcox and Briana Jordan joined established post player Tiffany Clark to give head coach Angie Hembree one of the most improved girls squads in Class 5A. The Lady Blue Devils have already achieved 20 wins after winning just 13 and failing to make the state tournament a year ago. Norcross only dropped two regular-season games (both to Mill Creek) in the very-competitive Region 7, and goes into the state tournament as the region's No. 2 seed after falling again to Mill Creek.



(Boys) Ryan Harrow, Walton: Before the junior point guard from North Carolina became eligible to compete for the Raiders at the beginning of this school year, everyone knew that he was one of the best guards in the 2010 class. What most did not expect, however, was for the N.C. State commit to seamlessly become the difference maker and top scorer for a Raiders team that also features Georgia Tech signee Glen Rice. … Arris Brundidge, Blessed Trinity: Losing players like Jordan Callahan and Tyler Cerone to graduation would be tough for any basketball program. However, head coach Bryan Marks’s team has more than stayed afloat thanks to Brundidge. The 6-4 forward has made up for the loss of the lethal backcourt, leading the Titans with his play on the inside and helping the Titans reach the 20-win plateau for the third consecutive year. BT earned the 2-seed out of Region 6-AA.

(Girls) Diamond Henderson, North Cobb: Despite being widely established as one of the best players in Cobb County, the 5-8 junior guard and her Lady Warriors were thought to be overmatched heading into this season, as North Cobb’s top scorer and Georgia Tech signee Jasmine Blain was to miss the season with a knee injury. Nevertheless, with Henderson routinely scoring 20 points, the Lady Warriors have already eclipsed last year’s 18 wins and are in the playoffs. … Kayla Lewis, Southwest DeKalb: The second-leading scorer from last year’s Class 4A state champions, Lewis had to become the leader for a Lady Panthers team that lost leading scorer and rebounder Charenee Stephens to graduation. Thus far, the 5-11 junior has not disappointed. Her versatility and improved scoring has Southwest DeKalb thinking of a repeat. The Lady Panthers finished the regular season with only three losses and took the 2-seed in Region 6.


(Boys) Wheeler: In any given year, Mater Dei (Cal.), St. Patrick (N.J.), Lincoln, (N.Y.), Centennial (Ga.), St. Benedict’s Prep (N.J.) and Dominguez (Cal.) would be more likely to be seen on a list of the Top 50 teams in America than on a single team’s schedule, but those are just some of the elite teams that last year’s Class 5A runner-ups have faced this season. Battle-tested Wheeler has only dropped two games in-state and breezed through the Region 6 tourney.

(Girls) Fayette County: Being the 2007-08 Class 4A state runner-ups, the undefeated Lady Tigers are the no-brainer choice as the team that other teams hoping to win a state title want to avoid. But what makes Fayette County’s season even more impressive is that they have seldom been challenged this year. The duo of 5-10 Anma Onyeuku and 5-6 Tessah Holt is tough for any team to contain, and the top seed out of Region 5 should be the favorite to take the 4A title this postseason.

Download the playoff brackets! Boys Class 5ABoys Class 4ABoys Class 3ABoys Class 2ABoys Class AGirls Class 5AGirls Class 4AGirls Class 3AGirls Class 2AGirls Class A. You can also find tournament brackets, which will be updated throughout the playoffs, at Butler can be reached at

Georgia Hoops update - Five things I'm buying this week

Prep basketball blogger and long-time recruiting expert Justin Young of Georgia Hoops will be a contributing writer to our GPB blogs throughout the state basketball tournaments. He also maintains a national high school hoops blog, the National Hoops Report.

A great state tournament. While there are great teams in the field, every team is beatable. There are no clear cut favorites across the board in every classification. 

Take a look at how the top team in the coaches’ poll fared this week and what they have to do to get to the state title game. 

Centennial – Lost to Wheeler in the 6-AAAA region championship. A potential game against South Gwinnett in the second round will be a test. Other than that, the Knights have a favorable path to the Gwinnett Arena. 

Miller Grove – Had to fight to beat Marist for the 6-AAAA region championship. Fayette County could await the Wolverines in the third round. FC beat MG last year in the Final Four. That could be the only hiccup en route to the title game. 

South Atlanta – Won easily in it’s region tournament, claiming the title with a 104-45 victory over Spalding. And that was the closest game in the tournament for the Hornets. Columbia could be the team waiting for them at the Macon Centreplex on March 13. 

Dublin – Some trusted eyes at the college level think the Irish have the best team in the state. A major test awaits in the first round as Dublin plays host to NE Macon, a team that can pull off an upset. Then a potential game against Long County in the second round could be next. The kicker is a possible Final Four game against GAC. That’s a tough road to the title game. 

Turner County – See below. 

Reseeding the tournaments. Wrestling did it this year for the first time and by all accounts, that was a fantastic move. Why not do it for basketball? 

Here is how it would work:

- The region tournament winners get an automatic No. 1 seed as they always have. That doesn’t change. Neither does earning a state tournament bid by making it to the semi-finals of your region tournament. So if a 5-17 team runs the table in the region tournament and finish third in the tournament, then they are in. 

- From there, the rest of the deck is reshuffled. For example, Region 6-AAAAA teams Centennial, Milton and Walton should all be No. 2 teams in the tournament. However, the 5-17 team from above would likely be a No. 4 seed. 

- The brackets need balance. Look at the AAA bracket for example. South Atlanta and Columbia, the two clear cut top teams in the class, will likely play each other in the state semi-finals. They should be playing for all the marbles at the end of the day. The same can be said for AA with Dublin and GAC on the same side of the bracket. Or take the classic Norcross first round win over Wheeler two years ago. There is no reason why that game was a first-round game. 

- Making the state playoffs is a reward for the high school athlete. The current set-up takes a back seat to the region tournament. There is no sense of importance in the first two rounds. Alpharetta High School was 
the spot in Atlanta for sports on Saturday. Imagine if that game was played at Georgia State or Georgia Tech. The gym would have likely been close to capacity. That experience is something most high school athletes will never forget. Too bad they can’t have that memory in the first two rounds of the state tournament. 

- Each bracket would have a four game slate for the first round. Instead of the higher seed hosting the individual game of the first two rounds of the tournament (like the current step-up), there is a natural site. Gym space should not be a problem. There are plenty of gyms to use in Georgia. Games would be on Wednesday, Thursday, Friday and Saturday and alternate between girls games (Wednesday, Friday) and boys games (Thursday, Saturday). 

- Georgia is home to some of the best high school basketball in the country, why not promote it at a state level with an even playing field and on a big stage? 

Turner County. I had my first chance to see the top ranked class A team last week in the 2-A region tournament and suffice it to say, I was impressed. So impressed, in fact, that Turner County should be considered one of the top five teams in the state.

There is something refreshing about the Rebels. They are a tight-knit group that performs with purpose. Every minute of the team’s pre-game routine is choreographed. There is no wasted time before the tip and as the team enters the gym after the halftime break, they dive right into another exact warm-up ritual. 

The support for the team is outstanding and positive from the locals, something that is dying in the Atlanta area. Turner County has a roster stocked deep of talent. Seniors Ternell Davis and Tray Pearce are both seasoned starters while Chris Spears and Breon Dixon (pictured above) are both over 6-7. 

Davis is off to Chipola Junior College next year, says his coach Eric Holland, while Pearce is being recruited by a number of low-majors. Spears, a chiseled junior, will go down the same recruiting road as Pearce. Dixon, a long-armed 6-7 forward, has the tools of being one of the elite sophomores in the state. His national profile is on the cusp of blowing up. 

The road to Macon won’t be easy for the Rebels. If Turner County and Hancock Central both win on Saturday, last year’s championship game will be on the docket. Coming out of Region 2 will have the team prepared for the deep Class A state tournament. The goal for any team is to win it all. For Turner County, winning it all is the expectation. 

Great week of basketball

Win of the week: Turner County over Dooly County. Great game, coming from behind and closing out with a 29-9 run. 
Hi, my name is…Player of the Week: Westley Hinton, PF, Providence Christian, Senior 
Youngster of the week: Breon Dixon, PF, Turner County, Sophomore 
Gritty performance of the week: Tony Dukes of Morrow shooting with his off hand because of a wrist injury on his shooting hand in front of a number of college coaches when playing against Westlake. 
Player you never bet against: Russell Powell of Newnan. Don’t be surprised to see the two-sport star pilot his team to a trip to the Gwinnett Arena. Few compete better than he does. 

Sleep and chiropractor. After watching 16 games over a six day span, Georgia Hoops needs some rest. Thankfully this week can provide such a wish. My back, however, may be un-curable after a long week of bleachers and a long year of sitting in gyms. 


- The name Reed Buck keeps showing up on my phone in the form of a text message from college coaches. After hitting the game-winning shot against Norcross and putting nearly 30 points on one of the top defensive teams in the Southeast, Buck is a popular guy. The 6-5 senior is one of the late-blooming prospects in the state that coaches are frantically searching for more information. Throw Georgia Hoops into the mix, too. Collins Hill still sits on the must-see list for the year. He’s a mystery man from my perspective but the word is, he is certainly worth looking at. 

- The point guard class of 2010 is one of the hardest groups to figure out. However, three players have separated themselves this week in region play. Walton’s Ryan Harrow and Mays’s Aloys Cabell and Wheeler’s Phil Taylor had great weeks and proved themselves as players that are tops in their class. 

played through a sinus infection and delivered a gritty performance in a tough loss to Milton. He certainly proved himself in his first season in Georgia as one of the top high schoolers in his class within the Peach State borders.

Cabell put on a brilliant performance against Fayette County. He is one of the best midrange jump shooters in the state and one of the toughest competitors at his position. He’ll be a popular player this summer because of his grit. 

Taylor is a shot-maker. Plain and simple. He delivers the power punch for Wheeler but he is also playing better as a passer and distributor. His rebounding against Centennial was a major factor in the win, too. 

- I’d love to see a match-up between Milton’s Dai-Jon Parker and Wilcox County’s Nick Marshall someday. The two 6-2 guards are both good perimeter shooters. Both are good athletes. Both have wow potential. And both are two of the elite players in the sophomore class. 

- The more I watch Greenville sophomore Kentavious Caldwell, the more I love his game. He’s as versatile as they come and could enter the summer as one of the top 50 players nationally in 2011. 

- Terrific effort from Mays guard Desmond Williams against Fayette County. The 5-9 senior drilled seven of eight three-pointers in a heart-breaking and season-ending loss in the 5-AAAA region tournament. 

- Zach Lamb played a huge role in Norcross’s state championship run last year after being inserted into the starting lineup. The same could happen for Joey Jerome at Wheeler. He’s an important piece of the puzzle on Holt Road. 

SCORE Atlanta looks at the five best teams that didn't make the tournament.

- Nice ballot stuffing on the “Who is the best Junior in the state?” poll. 

- Carter’s Fried Chicken in Americus is a must-stop whenever you are in town. Just outside of the campus gates, the local hot spot was the best food stop of the week. However, Marietta Diner still sits atop the Georgia Hoops restaurant rankings.

Basketball playoffs are upon us!

With the wrestling finals wrapped up, the high school basketball state tournaments take center stage. Score Atlanta and GPB will be blogging LIVE from one girls game and one boys game from every round, right here on the SportsGPB blog. Stay tuned all throughout the playoffs.

Saturday, February 21, 2009

Great Night For All

Thanks for tuning into the 2009 GHSA State Wrestling Finals. Emotions ran high, we had some joyful fans and parents, bruised egos, bloody lips, but all in all was a great night. Congratulations to all the winners. From the Gwinnett Arena this is Joe Deighton signing off. Goodnight.

135 lbs. and Last matchups

Winners from this class included, 5A coming down to the wire and what a way to finish with Joey Lazor of Union Grove and Phil Holloway of Walton as they have the past 2 years dueling to the finish with Lazor winning it; 4A Immanuel Kerr-Brown of Rome, 3A Matthew Stanfield of Lafayette, 2A 4 time state champion, 214 career wins from Toombs County, Bryan Benton, 1A Horace Young from Irwin County.

130 lbs.

Winners from this class included, 5A Brandon Westerman McEachern with his 4th state title, 4A Joe Denova Harris Co.,3A Seth Taylor Lafayette ,2A Joe Perry Dawson Co.,1A Spencer Jones of Darlington

145 lbs.

Winners of this weight class were 5A Jonathan Rivera of Kennesaw Mountain, 4A Alex Hudson of Sprayberry , 3A Zach Hopkins of Heritage, 2A Nick Voss of Buford, 1A Jeff Bremen of Bremen

189 lbs.

The 189 lbs. division had perhaps the closest matchups out of any weight class. In 1A action Cole Watson - Wesleyan and Kaleb Grimsley- Irwin Co. went to the last second with Watson narrowly taking the title. The 2A matchup resulted Quenton Carter of Dublin winning his second state title in The 3A matchup went down to the wire with Ryan Howe Jackson Co. coming out on top 5-4. 4A had a controversial ending with both wrestlers being made to shake hands after the Marist coaching staff was upset about the result which was Ethan Blackstock of Alexander winning. Sam Kuntz of Peachtree Ridge won the 5A title.

215 lbs.

The 215 lbs weight class is full of wrestlers with the perfect combination of size and strength. Derrick Laney of LFO won the 3A matchup barely 15 seconds into the match. The 5A match remained scoreless in the 2nd period between Christopher Collins of Collins Hill and Allen Scruggs of Valdosta until Collins went on top 1-0. Scruggs escaped with a victory however, in overtime. This match is the match of the day with everyone in the crowd is in full throat as the contigents from Collins Hill and Valdosta stand and appreciate both athletes for a superb match. Toombs County's Demery Hawkins won the 2A title. Patrick Blankenbeker of Fayette County took the 4A title.

285 lbs.

The big boys wrestle a little different from the other weight classes with a lot of pushing and pulling as opposed to more strength and quickness. This is clearly shown by Erick Kirkland of Mt Zion (Carroll) makes quick work of Tyler Pitt of Telfair and wins in the first period to take 1A. The 5A matchup was no contest for Hunter Chumley of Cherokee. Jacob McConathy Murray County pins Logan Wrinkles of Upson-Lee, very late in the match to take the 4A title. The 3A matchup ended with both wrestlers crashing to the ground but Chase Duke of Heritage was on top and he took the victory over Dane Magnussen of West Forsyth. The 2A match went to overtime and LB Joel of Westminster came out victorious.

171 lbs.

Terrence Gaddy Clarkston completes his undefeated season 44-0 as he wins the 3A title with a quick pin. Michael Douglas of Wesleyan wins his first state title in 1A. Derick Wojcik Sandy Creek uses a clever "escape" and comes out alive and wins the 4-A title. Zac Crosby repeats as state champ in 2A. Jack Roberts Union Grove takes it in 5A.

125 lbs.

The action continues in the 125 lbs. division. Joel Stafford Eastside taking on Brandon Wallin Lafayette in 3A with Stafford taking the win. The 5A matchup proved to be a tight struggle between Harrison's KJ Bell and Acton Pifer of Lassiter with Pifer taking it at the last second 4-2. Trey Travis of Bremen takes the 1-a title. The 2-A matchup goes late but Evan Warrington sets the Georgia state record of 270 overall victories and takes his 3rd state championship. The 171 lbs class awaits...

119 lb. division

Collins Hill's TJ Mitchell putting on a dominating performance in 5A against Noah Hunt Dacula as Mitchell leads 9-1. TJ Bell a three time runner up from Bremen takes the 1A title for the first time over Doug Maloch of Commerce. Chatooga's Brandon Siffles takes the title in 2-A

103 lbs.

The 3-A matchup proves to be the most compelling as Brian Butler of Carrollton takes it over Caleb Morris of White County 5-3

Now to the 160 lb. Division

Collin Genthert Wesleyan takes a quick matchup over Shane Brown Social Circle with a pin in the 1-A matchup. Eastside's Jonathan Palmer clearly dominating 10-0 over Westover's Brandon Scott 3-A . It's a whitewash for Anthony Fretwell of Henry County 13-4over Jeffery Holmes of Benedictine in the 2-A. Taylor Knapp Collins Hill becomes a three-time 5-A state champ. Chase Penland takes his second state title over Julian Holmes in the 4-A matchup by a score of 4-3.

5-A 140 lb.

Joel Smith of Collins Hill dominated Matt Schneider Milton 9-3. Collins Hill fans are filling a whole corner of this arena and are going wild after this win

2-A 140 lb.

Scott Buzzard Blessed Trinity and Ahmed Burton Henry Co.coming right down to the wire in the 2-A matchup tied 2-2. Scott Buzzard uses the classic full nelson chicken wing maneuver and takes the title in the final minute 4-2

140 lb. 5-A matchup

Joel Smith Collins Hill and Matt Schneider Milton coming into the matchup combining for only one loss on the year should prove to be the best duel in this weight class.

2A 152 lb. Double Overtime!

3-3 between Jay Fowler Jefferson and Wade Farrow Swainsboro. Awesome matchup! Wade Farrow pins Fowler in sudden death and takes the title 5-3!

152 lb. 5A

Gary Tiller Collins Hill declared the winner over Steve Sealy Centennial

152 lb. 4A matchup

Conor Young Rome and Kenny Kellerman Whitewater are tied in the 3rd period 3-3

152 lb. class

the 3A matchup between James Bennett Carrollton and Justin Ownby Lafayette got off to a raucus start and stands at 6 to 5 with Bennett in the lead

closest match 112 lb. division

The closest match between Ali Khan and Joshua Barnhill came down to the last minute with Barnhill of Effingham coming out on top by a score of 2 to 1

Excitement in the Air

The crowd is fired up and ready to go as the wrestlers cascade down to the mat, straight from the stands followed by a spotlight. National anthem sung, crowd's psyched, here we go!

First Matches

The first matchups will be as follows:
In the 112 pound class 4A Ali Khan Fayette Co. vs. Joshua Barnhill Effingham Co.
5A Adam Wilson Roswell vs. Brian St. James Centennial
3A Cody Durden Eastside vs. Preston McCalomon Lafayette
1A Chris Mann Holy Innocents vs. Brooks Spraetz Wesleyan
2A Nick Wright Benedictine vs. Austin Davis Lovett

Should be a pretty compelling matchup between the 4A Ali Khan and Joshua Barnhill, two wrestlers that have been on a collision course to meet all year.

Welcome to the 2009 GHSA Wrestling Finals

This is Joe Deighton, Live at Gwinnett Arena for the 2009 GHSA Wrestling Finals. Throughout the matches I will be giving updates and posting results. Enjoy!

Live wrestling finals blog ... RIGHT HERE!

Stick around, because GPBSports and Score Atlanta will have a live blogger at the wrestling finals tonight at Gwinnett Arena. Get all the latest news and analysis while you watch the event live through our exclusive webcast of the matches.

Watch the wrestling finals LIVE on!

For those of you out there that can't make it to the Gwinnett Arena for the wrestling finals this evening, you can stay right where you are (in front of your computer) and check out all the action! Score Atlanta and GPB, in partnership with the Georgia High School Association, is going to be bringing you all the finals, streamed live online, at this web address: Or visit the GPB wrestling page at

So tune in a few minutes before 5 p.m. when our coverage starts and watch all the finals action, start to finish. And don't forget to check out for sports blogs, prep coverage and up-to-the-minute scores.

Stay with SportsGPB throughout the rest of the prep sports season for coverage of every high school sport!

Thursday, February 19, 2009

First official awards show will celebrate high school wrestling community

“Who is going to win the Witt Award?”

That is the question that Cliff Fretwell hopes high school wrestlers, coaches, parents and fans will be asking each other next year and every year after. And if all goes according to plan on Sunday, March 15 at Center Stage in Midtown, he might just get his way. Fretwell is the wrestling coach at Henry County and a member of the Georgia National Wrestling Alliance. Last year, while attending a closed ceremony to honor the state’s champions, he realized there wasn’t a year-end event honoring the effort put in over the course of the season by all of the
wrestlers, coaches and parents in Georgia. There were no events to bring the wrestling community together to celebrate the year and the wrestlers who made lasting impressions.

“Wrestling gets such a little amount of respect. It is one of those sports that demands so much but returns so little,” said Fretwell, pointing out the need for a bigger ceremony. This year, with the 2009 High School Wrestling Award Show, he hopes to change that.

When Fretwell decided to take over the planning of Georgia high school wrestling’s season-culminating event, he wanted to change it from the quiet “invite only” affair for state champion wrestlers to a state-of-the-sport event open to all wrestlers, their families and the public. He wanted to “make a commitment to go over the top with it,” to give the wrestlers a night to remember. Along with help from Team Georgia Wrestling and the Georgia National Wrestling Alliance, Fretwell has taken the award ceremony out of the shadows in a high school cafeteria and into the limelight at Center Stage. No longer will state champions be recognized in relative anonymity with a pat on the back and a wooden plaque. This year there will be a splash of glitz, a little glamor, and a slew of new awards given out to wrestlers extending beyond the traditional awards for the state champions.

“People like award shows where there is some suspense, drama and excitement to it,” Fretwell said.

And that is where the Witt Award comes in. It is named after Witt Durden who Fretwell calls “the kind of man you would want your son to grow up to be like.” Durden is the four-time state champion and Dublin High School wrestling legend who went on to national recognition at Oklahoma University and eventually to medical school. The Witt Award will be given to the most dominant high school wrestler in the State of Georgia across all classifications – in other words, the king of the mats.

Joining the new awards along with the Witt Award will be the Kyle Maynard Award, given to a wrestler who overcomes physical limitations to compete on the mats. Maynard is the Collins Hill High School graduate who was born a quadruple congenital amputee with no elbows or knees, yet wrestled to a 35-16 record and won an ESPY in 2004 as the Best Athlete with a Disability. Sean Hage, a Harrison High School graduate and four-time state champion, has agreed to personally present an award to anyone who joins him in the elite group of Georgia wrestlers who have won four high school state titles (fewer than 20 wrestlers have accomplished this feat).

Adding to the suspense, the newly created Match of the Year award will be handed out: “It’s an award given out based on what the public thinks,” Fretwell says. “We’ll put the nominees out there for Match of the Year and let the public vote on it.”

With these awards, Fretwell is trying to draw attention to not just the championship winners but to the entire wrestling community. He is looking beyond the records and the pins to find stories about the wrestlers who have given so much of themselves to their teammates
and their sport. By putting these previously unrecognized wrestlers in the spotlight alongside wrestlers who have won championships, the 2009 High School Wrestling Awards will provide Georgia’s wrestling fans with a more complete idea of what is happening in the sport.

On March 15, Georgia high school wrestlers will get a chance to “trade a singlet for a suit,” as Fretwell says, and fans of Georgia high school wrestling will finally have a night when they can come together and celebrate the hard work and dedication of everyone involved in making the 2009 season a success. And the question that everyone will talk about in the future—“Who will win the Witt Award?”—will be answered for the first time.

Lentz can be reached at

Atlanta Takedown Association makes state traditional wrestling tournament a success

Call it February Madness.

Last Sunday, volunteers from the AtlantaTakedown Association concocted five brackets—one for each classification—for Georgia’s Traditional State Wrestling Tournament, which runs this weekend at Gwinnett Arena. Unlike in any other high school sport in Georgia, wrestling uses a committee to come up with its playoff brackets. It’s as similar to the NCAA Tournament’s selection Sunday as a seeding process in the Georgia High School Association can get … but at the same time, it is much different. Yes, there is often chaos, controversy and tireless hours of work, but the ATA’s bracketing meeting relies solely on a formula rather than the opinion of certain committee members.

Of course, that does not mean the ATA’s method is problem free. It never has been and probably never will be. ATA First Vice President and tournament director Bud Hennebaul admits as much.

“There are flaws in every system,” Hennebaul said. “It will never be perfect.”

Every year, however, the seeding process is tweaked as necessary and this time around Hennebaul is confident the ATA has produced its best—and most fair—brackets ever.

“There’s no seeding that goes into it,” he explained. “There’s not enough head-to-head competition. It’s too difficult to compare kids from different parts of the state. So it’s done strictly by formulas, and we will use one of three for the state tournament bracket.”

Hennebaul hopes the result will be a 2009 tournament in which the best wrestlers are correctly positioned within their respective brackets. In past years, that has not always been the case.

“Two of the best kids could wrestle in the same sectional,” he recalled. “We could see the two best wrestlers go head-to-head in the quarterfinals.”

With the ATA using a formula that seeds wrestlers based on the results from eight area tournaments that took place around the state earlier this month, Hennebaul insists that similar problems will be mostly avoided in this year’s tournament.

“It’s kind of secret who came up with the formulas,” he added, “but we should have the best kids wrestling in the finals.”

Restricting all coaches from attending Sunday’s bracketing meeting should also make the process more effective and much more efficient. According to Hennebaul, coaches have technically never been allowed to attend the meeting, but more than a few have nonetheless found their way into the room on previous occasions.

“We had to start over three times last year,” Hennebaul said, adding that the ATA’s goal was to “keep the coaches away until we [were] done.”

That will leave the manual labor at the hopefully controversy-free bracketing meeting to the ATA volunteers, led by ATA president Gary Schaefer. As long as everything goes according to plan, however, they aren’t working frantically until 6 p.m. like the NCAA Tournament Committee so famously does every year.

“The whole thing shouldn’t take more than two to three hours,” Schaefer explained. “We have different groups of volunteers working on all the different classifications.”

It’s also a lot easier when committee members are simply processing results and filling in names accordingly, a far cry from whatever goes on during the March Madness meeting.

“Everything is in writing,” Schaefer added. “There’s no discussion. We’ve got the formula. They fax or e-mail the winners to us on Sunday morning and we just fill in the bracket.”

Sounds pretty simple to get the field set for what has become the largest wrestling tournament in the country, right? Well, maybe, but a lot more than merely making the brackets goes into putting on the whole show.

“Bud and I start working on the next year’s tournament in March or April,” Schaefer said. “We have to line up mats, line up motels, food, drinks, clocks, heaters, doctors, scoring tables. … There are a lot of little things here and there.”

Thanks to the hard work of Hennebaul, Foster and the rest of the ATA, Georgia’s Traditional State Wrestling Tournament becomes more and more friendly to fans, volunteers, coaches and officials every year. Most importantly, however, the hours of work and tweaking of formulas are done for the benefit of the participants themselves.

“It’s all about the kids,” Hennebaul concluded. “Our goal is to make the whole tournament experience better for them.”

Consider it done. Now, let the madness on the mats begin!

Dimon can be reached at

Collins Hill, Jefferson look to continue dominance on the mat

Over the past decade, two teams have achieved unparalleled success in Georgia High School Association wrestling. The Dragons of Jefferson have dominated in Class A and now do so in Class AA, while the Collins Hill program has built a dynasty in Area 7-AAAAA and Class AAAAA.

How do the two programs do it? Everything starts with Jefferson head coach Doug Thurmond and Collins Hill head coach Cliff Ramos. For Jefferson, several already decorated wrestlers helped the team recently capture its eighth straight duals title in January (its first in Class AA). The Dragons won the 2009 duals championship, after moving up from Class A, to go along with the program’s 12 traditional titles. Thurmond’s two sons, Cason (103-pound champion, 2008) and Cam (119-pound champion, 2007 and 2008) helped lead the team to victory. The squad also boasts threetime champion Jay Fowler (152-pound, 2006, ’07 and ’08), and Zac Crosby (160-pound) is a reigning champion as well. The team has a great love for the sport, according to Thurmond.

“We don’t treat wrestling as a secondary sport,” he says. “We feel the sport teaches for life.”

Thurmond’s talented bunch also features several 2008 runners-up that will be seeking the elusive individual championship. Daniel Barber (112), Cutler Finch (130), Cole Hightower (285) and Patrick Allen (215) all came close last year and will now look to hit the mat and capture their respective titles. With a team championship already in the bank, look for Thurmond’s bunch to make another huge splash with multiple individual championships.

Meanwhile, Collins Hill features just as many all-stars in Class AAAAA. Senior Taylor Knapp, who is ranked No. 10 in the country according to Amateur Wrestling News National, leads by example. Ramos said that Knapp is just one of the many seniors that “does a good job, especially in practice.” John Allgood is another senior that Ramos was quick to cite as being strong for this team. “There are a lot of pieces to the puzzle that make this program successful,” Ramos said, crediting the “six outstanding assistant coaches, supportive parents and a fantastic youth program” in helping the program win two straight team state championships and three since 2005.

Thirteen Collins Hill wrestlers qualified for state sectionals and two of Ramos’s juniors were his picks to go on to win state individual titles. T.J. Mitchell and Joel Smith are favored to win state, while Gary Tiller, a previous state runner-up (152-pound), will try to overcome injuries to win what he missed out on last year. Nine other individual area champions will join those three in seeking state championships. Look out for Bazell Partridge (103), Nick Holbert (171), C.J. Collins (215) and Allen Willard (130). These wrestlers have been pushed all season by the team’s nine seniors, which at times can be pretty tough, according to Ramos: “We’ve wrestled all over the country and sometimes you come back to the in-state meets and motivation is tough.”

Knapp, named most outstanding middleweight in the recent Sham Slam, and Caleb Sawchuck were huge in clinching the duals title when the team knocked off Pope, 47-9, to win the team crown. Ramos is proud of the fact that his program has done something no other Class AAAAA team in any sport has done: finish in the top three every season since 2000.

Wrestling fans will have plenty of storylines to follow in the individual championships. Carl Rider of North Gwinnett became the first Bulldog freshman to win an area title when he took home the 152-pound crown in 2008. Peachtree Ridge will send Michael Chapman (145) and Sam Kuntz (189) to try and win individual glory. Mill Creek has five hopes for a state title, led by Josh Harrison (130). Union Grove will be represented by Joey Lazor (135), who recently notched his 200th career victory. Lazor, who is committed to Northern Iowa, will be joined by his teammate, former champion Justin Crozier. Toombs County’s Bryan Benton is a beast it the 140-pound division and already owns three state rings. Pope finished second in the Class AAAAA Duals and was led by Dexter Bushart (130). If pins are your thing, keep an eye out for Central Gwinnett’s sophomore Jacob Aiken-Phillips (285), who recently won the area title and tied the Gwinnett County season record in pins.

With so much talent hitting the mats, fans are sure to see some great action this weekend in Gwinnett.

Proctor can be reached at

Message from GHSA Executive Director Ralph Swearngin

Here we are again! Bringing together all classifications for the GHSA Wrestling Championships continues to be a highlight of the GHSA year. On behalf of the Georgia High School Association and its corporate partners, I want to thank you for your support at this year’s State Championship matches, and for your support of high school sports throughout this season.

The Georgia High School Association could not offer quality tournaments such as this without the hard work of a large number of volunteers who give of themselves tirelessly. This championship event is hosted by members of the Atlanta Takedown Association, who have participated in its planning and operation. A special word of thanks goes out to these volunteers led by Bud Hennebaul, Tournament Director, and to GHSA Assistant Executive Director, Gary Phillips, who is the GHSA administrator for Wrestling.

The quality of wrestling in Georgia continues to improve tremendously as players, coaches and officials perform at new levels of excellence. This championship event will showcase great wrestling and outstanding coaching. These athletes have persevered through the battles involved in maintaining their weight in a healthy manner, and they have endured long practices and intense competitions. The Georgia High School Association strongly believes that lifelong lessons about discipline and hard work are best learned in the competitive arenas of high school athletics.

Now, get ready for exciting wrestling action. Support your wrestlers vigorously, and remember to demonstrate good sportsmanship always.