By EDDY GIFFORD
The Dade County Wrestling team traveled to Lamar County High School this past weekend to compete in the AA Elite 8 for the third consecutive year. Dade was looking to improve on a fourth place finish in 2019, and a fifth place finish in 2020. The Wolverines entered this year’s tournament as the second seed and faced East Laurens in the first round.
Dade opened up with a dominant performance in the first round by taking a 30-0 lead. The Wolverines would finish on top, 62-18, and move on to the semifinals to face a very tough Vidalia team.
Dade County started the match with four straight wins, and a 21-0 lead, but Vidalia would storm back with three consecutive wins of their own, cutting the gap to 21-18. The Wolverines did not blink though, and picked up three more wins at 106, 113, and 120 to increase their lead to 39-18. Vidalia would pick up wins at 126 and 132, but a win by Cayden Cooper at 138 sealed the Wolverines first ever trip to the state finals.
The Wolverines faced first seed Oglethorpe County in the finals, and it would prove to be a war.
Dade stormed out to a 19-0 lead but could only score four bonus points in the first five matches, which would prove to be their Achilles heel. Oglethorpe finally got on the board at 285 with a pin, and then picked up two more wins, including a controversial win at 106.
“We put our faith in Hayden Langley at 106, and he went out and did what we asked. He pinned the kid twice in the first period, but the official would not give him the call. Their kid managed to turn Hayden in the second period, and they got the call. That was huge deal, and it proved to be a turning point in the match,” coach Jeff Poston stated. Dade would pick up a major decision at 120, but Oglethorpe proved to be too much the rest of the way and Dade fell short 38-29.
Coach Poston said, “I told the kids going into it that we can’t control the calls. We had to focus on what we could control. If we get the call at 106, we are state champs, but I refuse to focus on that part of it. Oglethorpe did a great job of stalling out the matches at the top, and that kept us from getting the bonus points we needed. We won seven out of 14 matches, and we did not get the call we needed in the eighth. That is life! That is what competition is about. You cannot sit around and whine about it, you have to use it as fuel. I love every one of these boys, and more than that, I respect every one of them for what they accomplished, and how they represented our school, our town, and their families. We have another huge opportunity this week to win some individual area championships, and that is where our focus is. We want to qualify enough wrestlers for the traditional state tournament to make a run at the traditional title. We finished third at traditional last year, so we will see what we can do this time. I know one thing, every kid wearing a Dade County singlet on Thursday night will be on a mission.”