Out of the 13 Eagle wrestlers that competed, 11 of them are advancing to the Class A West Sectional next week, with one area champion, seven second-place finishes, a third and two placing fourth. That kind of a showing is what the MZ coach has come to expect from his bunch.
“Getting 11 guys is very positive for us. We’re very excited about the results. Would have like to have gotten everybody through, but we’ve got to be realistic. We were wrestling the defending [dual] state champions and we had eight guys in the finals. That was amazing. I was proud of them. They wrestled hard,” Cleek said. “I was on pins and needles [Friday] night. I was worrying, ‘How are we going to do? How are we going to do?’ And I could not be more pleased with this bunch of kids.”
At heavyweight, Will Sizemore made up for having to miss last week’s final regular season tournament by picking up an area title, as he pinned Mt. Paran’s Scotty Vailani in the semifinals and Gordon Lee’s Dallas Alder in the first round of the championship match. The junior has become the leader of this year’s group, and shows it with his work on the mat.
“Will Sizemore is Will Sizemore. He is the bellcow of Mt. Zion wrestling right now and he takes great pride in that. He works every day. It killed him to miss the Bowdon tournament. And for him to get to come back and wrestle through and win the area championship, we were so proud of him,” Cleek said.
Out of the second-place finishers, all of them went the distance — and in Javier Martinez’s case a little more — in their matches. Martinez wrestled at 132 pounds and went through three overtime periods before being knocked off. Also finishing second was Ashton Robinson (106), Hunter Smith (113), Mitchell Chambers (120), Fernando Valles (145), Cody Spicer (152) and Daniel Anderson (182).
“We wrestled six-minute matches, and in the case of Javier, a nine-minute match. So that was great. We just fought whistle-to-whistle, and that’s all you can ask of your kids,” Cleek said. “Just really proud of them ... it’s a numbers game and our numbers came through. Now we’ve got to keep this same number of kids going on through to state and then maybe, just maybe, we can do some good things at the state tournament.”
Dillion Lovell was MZ’s third-place finisher at 126 pounds, while Nathan Whaley (195) and Eugene “Buddha” McClure (220) placed fourth.
As for hosting the area event, Cleek was pleased with how things went on Saturday, although he would be the first to note it wasn’t only him.
“I think things went amazing. Coach Barry Rollins and coach Wes Lowery did a great job of keeping things running and they really took a lot of stress off me. I could focus on coaching the kids, I could focus on making sure we were in the right places at the right time. They did a lot of the setup, and once it was setup, they were helping me coach. It really is a team effort,” Cleek said.
Gordon Lee ran away with the area team title, as the Trojans placed all 14 weight classes, while taking the area title in eight of them. Mt. Zion finished in second place as a team and knows it has to keep things going as it travels to Darlington next weekend for the Class A West Sectional.
“The focus is to study film and fix what went wrong and hopefully be ready next Saturday,” Cleek said.