For the first time, the Georgia High School Association will conduct girls state wrestling championships — and several Columbus area student athletes will be among the competitors this week.
The eight local girls competing for a state championship in their weight class are:
▪ Chattahoochee County junior Lia Onstine (156 pounds).
▪ Columbus senior Jadakiss Grant (176).
▪ Hardaway freshman Olivia Floyd (106).
▪ Harris County sophomore Samantha Scarbrough (126).
▪ Jordan senior T’Keya Hill (146) and freshman Laquitta Smith (126).
▪ Kendrick senior Zaneka McGruder (116).
▪ Marion County sophomore Sarah Underwood (225).
“I was ecstatic to have a shot to wrestle at a bigger level at state,” Scarbrough said.
She finished second in the sectional tournament and has a 16-7 overall record this season, including 10-1 against girls.
“I wrestle because it is the one sport that I understand and can have the creative expression of doing something on your own while still contributing to a team,” Scarbrough said.
When the new tournament was approved last year, Georgia became the seventh state to elevate girls wrestling to championship status, joining Alaska, California, Hawaii, Tennessee, Texas and Washington, according to USA Wrestling.
To qualify for the state championships, wrestlers must place in the top six in their weight class in Classes 1A-3A at the sectional tournament or in the top eight in their weight class in Classes 4A-7A at the sectional tournament. There are two sectionals per classification. So at the state championships, each weight class has 12 wrestlers in Classes 1A-3A and 16 wrestlers in classes 4A-7A. The top six finishers in each weight class receive a state medal.
While the boys have 14 weight classes in seven classifications, the girls will have one all-classification tournament for their 10 weight classes, with 16 wrestlers in each weight class, during the state championships Wednesday through Saturday at the Macon Centreplex.
Here are the local boys who qualified:
Qualifying from Chattahoochee County is senior Kenneth McEvers (195).
ChattCo coach Mike Nixon called McEvers the team’s leader.
“He is unselfish, as he wrestled up to 220 most of the season so we could have successes in team duals,” Nixon said. “This allowed a teammate to have matches at 195 and develop. He is a solid person and the type you want success to come to. I could not be more pleased for him.”
As for Onstine, his team’s female qualifier, Nixon said, “It would be great to see her hard work practicing amongst the guys daily pay off.”
Qualifying from Columbus High are junior Austin Bell (113), junior Robert Mulvany (145), sophomore Sean Mulvany (106), senior Marcellus Bankston (170), freshman Ryan Bithorn (152) and senior Bryce Owens (182).
Columbus coach Namu Keys estimated “several” Blue Devils have a good chance of winning a medal.
“I believe they just have to wrestle to their capability,” he said.
Qualifying from Harris County are freshman Oran Decker (106), sophomore Tucker Kinsaul (120), freshman Garrett Wood (126), sophomore Grant Monroe (132), senior Jacob Schrenk (152) and sophomore David Emfinger (170).
Harris County coach Alex Moore said all of his qualifiers “have an opportunity to go place if we wrestle our best.”
Qualifying from Jordan are senior Darius Stokes (160) and senior Dequandre Sullivan (170).
Qualifying from Kendrick are junior Rawson Rogers (120) and junior Terrance Jackson (126).
Qualifying from Marion County is junior Parker Satterwhite (285).
Qualifying from Northside are junior Denias Johnson (113), senior John Jones (120), sophomore Sam Bowers (126), senior Josh Bowers (138) and senior Courtland Staples (152).
Qualifying from Pacelli is freshman Conar Blevins (113).
Qualifying from Spencer are senior Thomas Hardy (106), sophomore Malik Hardy (113), sophomore Tyrone Wright (182) and senior Micah Butler (285).
Spencer coach Robert Sanders assessed the chances for each of his wrestlers to medal.
Thomas Hardy “has an excellent chance to place at state this year,” Sanders said. “His first match is very important. If he can make it to the quarterfinals, then I like his chances this year.”
Malik Hardy “is one of the favorites to reach the finals this year,” Sanders said. “He finished fourth last year and is looking to take the next step. The bracket sets up well for him, and I’m excited to see him perform this year.”
Wright reached the state tournament in his first year on the varsity. “This is a building block for the future,” Sanders said. “The sky is the limit, and he could surprise some people and place this year.”
Butler “can definitely place this year,” Sanders said. “He wrestled a close match at sectionals against the favorite to win state this year, which has given him confidence going into the weekend.”
The Alabama High School Athletic Association state wrestling championships will be Thursday through Saturday at the Von Braun Center in Huntsville.
Qualifying from Central is senior Maxwell Kauffman (145).
Qualifying from Russell County are sophomore Curtis Wilson (126), senior Cameron Oglesby (132), senior Isaiah Moy (138), junior Colton Danielson (182), senior Izzac Steinruck (220) and senior Larry Upshaw (285).
Qualifying from Smiths Station are junior Conner Prins (113), junior Tony Batiz (120), junior Levi Fouts (126), eighth-grader Devin Stone (132), senior Isaac Arnett (138), junior Alex Fouts (170), junior Nickolas Derdoski (182) and freshman Kyle Watson (220).
Mark Rice: 706-576-6272, @MarkRiceLE