Tifton Gazette


February 19, 2014

Five Tift matmen headed for state tournament

TIFTON — Atlanta might not agree, but last week's freeze was a good thing. At least it was for Tift County Blue Devils wrestling coach Shawn Watson.

"A blessing in disguise," he said.

State championship mat battles were scheduled for last weekend, but with much of north Georgia under ice in the days prior, the Georgia High School Association made some changes. They considered cramming the events in a much shorter time period, but ultimately opted to delay everything for a week. Competition takes place Friday and Saturday.

That was good for Watson. One of his wrestlers, he said, had been ill and it allowed him to recover. Also there were personal events, including the death of former coach John Abbott, and he said it allowed him to stay in town and pay his respects.

Delaying the championships did come at some cost for the GHSA. The Gwinnett Arena was to have been the home for all six classifications, but that had to change. The arena was not available this weekend and the tournaments were all scattered to the winds, gone as far south as Lyons and spreading to the north sections of metro Atlanta.

That is where the Devils have landed. Their tourney will be held at Chattahoochee High, located in one of the newest cities, Johns Creek.

Three Devils went to state last year. Beau Bergeron had the best tournament of the trio, winning 3rd place.

"It'd be great to have some placers or state champs."

Five wrestlers are involved in this year's proceedings. Appropriately, considering the past week, one of them is Jesse Snow. Snow, who won the Blue Devil Invitational in January, is competing in the 285-pound division.

The other going are Nick McCall (113), who also won the Blue Devil Invitational, Quen Campbell (126), Rayder Schemmel (152) and Gunnar Schemmel (160).

The Devils do have an alternate, Devin Lewis, but Watson said the deadline for notification was Wednesday and his phone had not rung. Thus, the only way for Lewis to go, he said, was as a spectator. That is apparently in the strictest sense of the word. "They make them pay to get in," he joked.

Of all the competitors, only Snow has been to state before. Watson hopes the experience comes in handy. He also likes Snow's draw.

"Jesse's in a good spot. He runs into a No. 7 [ranked competitor]."

"I'm proud of all of them. I've told them 'five of you got a ticked punched that others guys wished they had.'"

Referring to the size of the field in each weight class, he said he told them, "'As far as I'm concerned, you're one of the top 16.'

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