Upson-Lee's varsity wrestling team finished second in the area team duals tournament on Saturday at the ULHS gym, qualifying for its first spot in the state tournament since the creation of team duals championship format five years ago. The Knights overcame an early morning loss to eventual area champion Lee County by winning three straight matches and finish in second place.
Damarkus Hutcherson (285) returned from an injury to lead a group of four from Upson-Lee that went undefeated in the entire tournament. Marty Smith (125), CJ Jordan (135) and Trea Holtapp (171) also wrestled perfect on the day.
"We had great mat leadership from Jeremiah Woodard, Trea Holtapp, and Zach Bridges," said UL Head Coach Craig Logan after the tournament. "It also helped that our other teammates worked unselfishly to create the best line up for each match."
Those lineup adjustments were obvious in Upson-Lee's second round win over Westside. The Knights beat the Seminoles at the ULHS gym on Tuesday in a dual match by the narrow score of 40-39, but topped them 54-30 on Saturday.
Then Upson-Lee avenged last year's area tournament loss to Northside by winning decidedly, 63-18. The Knights were denied entry to the state tournament last season by losing a tiebreaker decision to Northside, but left no doubt on Saturday as they recorded nine pins against the Eagles, winning 11 of the 14 bouts.
The final win against Americus-Sumter was easily picked up, as ASHS had a short staff at the tournament.
Upson-Lee's only loss on the day was in the first round at 9:30 in the morning and to eventual and clear champion Lee County. The Trojans defeated the Knights 54-18, then went on to beat Northside 72-6, Americus-Sumter 66-6, and Westside 75-3. Lee County won the round robin tournament at 4-0, and was followed by Upson-Lee at 3-1, Northside at 2-2, Westside at 1-3, and Americus-Sumter at 0-4.
"We really knew we deserved to advance out of our area to the state competition," Coach Logan said of the team's performance. "Most of our opponents up to this point have been very difficult, which helped us to prepare us for this event."
Upson-Lee now has a week to prepare for the state duals tournament, and will face Glynn Academy, the #1 seed from Area 3-AAAA on Friday at the Macon Centreplex. The Knights now boast a record of 5-1 in the area, 8-12 overall.
They will also play host to Mt. Zion and Jonesboro tomorrow at the ULHS gym at 5 p.m.
"This is essentially a team of sophomores, and we see the program building up and accomplishing things everyday," said Coach Logan. "We talk alot about doing the right thing, which has carried over from our football program's character education philosophy. Allowing these guys to view themselves as a team first in an individualistic sport like wrestling shows the growing loyalty they have to shared goals and accomplishments."