February 5--Seven Vidalia wrestlers qualified for the Georgia High School Association State Wrestling Championship Tournament. The Indians took twelve wrestlers to sectionals this past weekend, the most in modern history of the team. Seven of those twelve placed in the tournament; which is a qualifier only, no medals or team points are awarded. Chris Jones (170) defeated Flemming (East Laurens) and Hess (Monticello) before meeting Solomon (Jeff Davis) in the finals. Jones was able to avenge his Area lost to the Jeff Davis wrestler by defeating him in the sectional finals 8 – 6. Jones commented excitedly after his match, “I was extremely happy after the finals match because he shouldn’t have beaten last week and I get to go to the state tournament for the first time in my high school career. I have been working for this for so long. God calls us to finish and I want to finish strong.” Coach Steve Fullam stated, “Nobody on this team deserves to go to the state tournament any more than Chris Jones. He has paid the price we have asked of him and now he is getting paid back for his hard work.” Conley (145) successfully defended his Area championship by beating White (Callaway) and Hall (Toombs) before he also faced a familiar foe in Armstrong (Fitzgerald). This time Conley won by first period pin instead of last second heroics. “Last year I was happy to be a state qualifier and it helped this season with seeding in different tournaments. This year I’m going to the tournament with the mission of winning a state medal. I have to take them one match at a time,” said Conley after his finals match. Coach Bobby Blount said, “Jesse has had an outstanding year. It would a great finish to his high school career to leave with a state medal.”

Five other Indians qualified for the state tournament. Tahjah Watts (182) pinned Walls (Washington County) and defeated Lundy (Fitzgerald) before losing a one point match to Holliman (East Laurens) in the sectional finals. Kaleb Matthews (106) defeated Cornell (Lamar County) and Hardy (Spencer) on his way to fourth place and a second trip to the state tournament. Simon Minjarez (120) defeated Alhusi (Monticello) and Nunley (Callaway) to finish fourth. Cory Braddy (138) defeated Oliver (Dublin) and avenged an area lost to Cowart (Toombs) to stamp his ticket to the state tournament with a fourth place finish. Elijah Thornton (152) surprised Wingate (Callaway) and Gorman (Spenser) to earn fourth place. Three Vidalia wrestlers finished fifth and alternates to the state tournament; Noah Tippett (113), Alderreis Tillery (160), and Zack Edwards (220). Two other Indians qualified for sectionals and competed for the team Quadir Harris (132) and Lawson Paradice (195).

Head wrestling coach Dr. James Ferry stated, “We are extremely happy and proud of our entire team this weekend. We had three four seeds beat Area 2 champions, a couple three seeds beat Area 2 two seeds, some of our guys upset quality wrestlers that beat us in the Area Tournament, and had three of the fourteen weight finalists. Over all, 40 of the 56 state qualifiers from our sectional came from Area 1AA. That’s a clear cut sign of high quality. It’s more than the guys on the mat, their practice partners that may or may not have qualified, the others pushing them at practice, and our excruciating schedule are what make a quality wrestling team. At moments like this I think of our overall program, from our 25 youth wrestlers led by David McLeod, our middle school region runner up team led by Coach Fullam and Chris Hamilton, to our 25 high school wrestlers and Coach Blount. I am truly thankful and blessed to part of the Indian Nation. God bless and roll tribe.”

Jesse Conley scores takedown in finals

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