LAGRANGE – They were a perfect 12-for-12.
There were a dozen LaGrange High wrestlers entered in Saturday’s Area 1-AAAAA tournament, and every single one of them finished high enough to qualify for this week’s state sectional.
LaGrange came up just short of winning the area title, with Starr’s Mill walking away with top honors, but it was still an extremely successful day for the home team.
“I would give up an area championship to have all 12 make it,” LaGrange coach Scooter Weathers said. “And we did that.”
To qualify for the state sectional, a wrestler had to finish fourth or higher in his respective weight class at the area competition, and every one of the Grangers made that happen.
Included in that group were three seniors who walked away with area championships, and two other LaGrange wrestlers finished second.
Among the individual winners was Emmanuel Mann, who won his third consecutive area title, and Guy Wegienka and Dakota Wilson also claimed first-place medals.
Dijon Hart and Matt Watford both finished second, and John Todd Bohn, Quindon Dunson, Dominique Copeland and Jacaris Johnson each placed third.
LaGrange’s fourth-place finishers were Colt Creed, Chase Sams and Jordan Ragan.
“We had a good day,” Weathers said. “We had a lot of first-round number four seeds and five seeds, and I told them, the first match is going to be the most crucial match. You win this one, life’s going to be easier. You lose it, you’ll have a harder time getting in. They went out there and won.”
One man who has done almost nothing but win this season is Wegienka, who has had a phenomenal senior season.
Wegienka has participated in four traditional-format tournaments this season, and he has finished first each time.
On Saturday, Wegienka made it look easy.
After breezing into the 189-pound final, Wegienka won by pin to secure the area title.
Wegienka said he approached his finals match expecting to be pushed.
“I was thinking that was going to be a tough match,” Wegienka said. “You never know when somebody will have a trick up their sleeve. You never want to go easy on somebody and get caught and get put in a bad position.”
Wegienka dominated from the get-go, and he was up 2-0 in the first period when he got the pin.
Now Wegienka turns his attention to the state sectional.
He reached this point a year ago, and he was unable to make it through to the state finals.
“I came up short last year, got a little sick at sectionals,” Wegienka said. “This year I’m healthy, and I plan on going to state this year.”
For Mann, celebrating an area championship is old hat.
He won the area title as a sophomore and a junior, and he made it three in a row in convincing fashion.
The 285-pound championship match was still early in the first period when Mann got his opponent on the ground and pinned him.
While happy to pull off the three-peat, Mann regrets that he’s not a four-time area champion.
“It feels good to accomplish that,” Mann said of winning three straight. “I wish I would have been area champ my ninth-grade year. I didn’t have the experience yet. I had to build it up.”
LaGrange’s third area championship was won by the newest member of the team.
Wilson began the season as a member of the Troup wrestling team, but he ended up transferring to LaGrange High.
In the 126-pound championship match, Wilson was up 6-2 after the first period, he led 9-4 after two periods, and he won 14-4.
Wilson was unable to wrestle at the state sectional last year because of an injury, and he’s looking forward to getting a chance to chase a state championship as a senior.
“(Winning area has) been a minor goal,” Wilson said. “The big picture is always trying to win state. Area is just a stepping stone to get there. But it has been a goal.”
Wilson added that he’s not going to “look past sectionals. It’s a stepping stone. You can’t just skip one.”
Watford, wrestling at 152 pounds, nearly gave LaGrange a fourth area title, but he lost by decision after leading until the final seconds of the match.
Hart made it to the championship match at 180 pounds, and he ended up losing by pin in the second period.
There were seven Grangers wrestling in a third-place match, and three of them came out on top.
Bohn and Dunson each won by decision, and Copeland had a third-period pin.
Creed, Sams, Johnson and Ragan each fell short in the third-place match, but they’d already secured their state-sectional berths, softening the blow of those losses.
Reach Kevin Eckleberry at (706) 884-7311 or on Twitter @lagrangesports