Blue Devils wrestlers sharp in early competition

Timothy Wright (top) works a hammerlock at last year’s Tift Duals.

TIFTON — The Tift Duals return Saturday morning as Tift County’s big regular season tournament for the 2019-20 season. Ten teams from nine schools will be in action at TCHS. The first matches are set to begin at 9 a.m.

Head coach Shawn Watson talked about some of his roster heading into the competition.

Gerald Coney, a 182-pound senior who reached the state semifinals last year, is 8-1. His only loss this season was against Richmond Hill. Five Tift wrestlers made it to state last February. Coney is the only placer to return. Quay Goldsborough and Dalton Hancock are also back. Seth Spillers, who also placed, and Rod Redding graduated.

Caleb Barber just missed out on state in 2019 after going a year earlier. Braeden Wilbanks has been to the big dance twice in his high school career, in 2018 and 2017. All are off to solid starts this time around.

Besides Coney’s hot streak, Westberry is 12-4 at 195 pounds. “He’s doing a good job,” said Watson. Goldsborough (126) is 14-6, with a tough tournament responsible for most of the losses. Wilbanks is 8-7 at 152 pounds. Barber, the 106-pounder, is 16-4. Only a sophomore, Hancock and junior Keyshawn Jones are battling it out in the 220-pound class.

Garrett Westberry sports a 12-4 record at 195 pounds. “He’s doing a good job,” Watson said. Garrett Sumner is 12-2. He’s the team’s heavyweight starter this season.

Watson’s been impressed with sophomore Davarius Smith, who wrestles at 145. Alex Fulford, another sophomore, is wrestling up at 170 pounds.

He feels Timothy Wright is “going be tough.” Wright has already knocked off a wrestler who finished third in state in Class AAAAAA last season. Angel Calles competes at 162 pounds. One of the few seniors, Calles will be looking for his first state tournament appearance. Both he and Sumner attended the 2018 state tournament as an alternate. “A great young man,” Watson said.

Watson has similar regard for Sergio Martinez, a 113-pound competitor who has already earned his letter for year with an 11-9 record (wrestlers get letters for 10 wins). “He’s battling for me,” said Watson. “I think the world of him.”

Saturday’s lineup will also include sophomores Blake Haggins (120) and Marcelo Manzano (138). Haggins wrestled varsity last season.

After the Tift Duals, the Blue Devils will get two days of competition with next week’s Hornet Duals. They’ll wrestle in Valdosta at the Wildcat Invitational before Christmas break.

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