October 18, 2018

Senior Brave grapplers earn spots in the big dance

Seniors (L-R) Andrew Cannon, Devin Caito, and Jacob Bishop will travel to Atlanta this Friday for the GHSA State Championship Tournament at the Infinite Energy Center

Senior Brave wrestlers (L-R) Andrew Cannon, Devin Caito, and Jacob Bishop will travel to Atlanta this Friday for the GHSA State Championship Tournament at the Infinite Energy Center

(Bremen, GA) — Head coach Kyle Yates and six Brave varsity wrestlers headed to the Bremen Sports Complex Saturday morning hoping for a strong showing at the very competitive Class AA sectional meet.

The four seniors and two surprising freshman needed a top four finish at the meet to qualify for the most attended and perhaps most exciting GHSA event of the year, next week’s state wrestling finals tournament at the Infinite Energy Center in Duluth.

Three of the six Braves were able to qualify for the the huge meet and will have the opportunity now to wrestle in front of thousands of people as the top grapplers from around the state will converge upon the former Gwinnett Arena that seats over 13,000.

The Braves’ top finisher was senior heavyweight Jacob Bishop. Even though he entered as one of the lower sectional seeds, Bishop battled hard to earn a No. 3 seed for next week’s state finals after gaining three successive pinfalls after dropping his first match to one of the top seeds, Trenton Mathis from Jeff Davis High School.

Most impressive was the fact that Bishop turned it around on Mathis by pinning him in the last match of the day to get the better seed. Bishop seemed to gain more confidence as the day moved on also taking down wrestlers from Fitzgerald and Pelham.

Another senior earned a No. 4 seed in the 182-pound class as Andrew Cannon advanced. A very seasoned wrestler, Cannon scored the most exciting pin of the day in his first match. Cannon pinned Kenny King of Metter High School with under one second to go in the first period of action.

After dropping a major decision to Zyshonne Holliman from East Laurens, Andrew came back with a pinfall win over Berrien to earn his spot at state. He lost a close 6-4 decision to Lavadrick Turner in his final match. Cannon was not pinned all day.

In one of the best Heard County sports stories so far this year, Devin Caito surprised many by earning the No. 4 seed in the 113-pound weight class. Caito has only wrestled for a couple of years in high school and earning the chance to wrestle in front of thousands next week will be a once in a lifetime opportunity for the senior.

“It looks like all the work I put in finally paid off,” said Caito after Saturday’s sectionals. “When I’m in school or daily life I feel like an invisible guy just unnoticed — and now thousands of people are gonna see me wrestle. It’s a feeling I never want to lose — it’s a great feeling that I wouldn’t trade for anything.”

Caito was a very undersized football player as a freshman and had never considered wrestling until he was encouraged to do so by Brave varsity football coach Tim Barron. Caito is thankful for Barron’s influence in helping him find the sport that he loves.

“When I was a freshman I went out for football and couldn’t stay on the team because I was a bad kid, so coach Barron insisted I try out for wrestling,” says Caito. “I went out my freshman year and thought it was stupid so I quit before the first meet. But then my sophomore year it was the same deal — Coach Barron wouldn’t quit bugging me about wrestling so I went back out and wrestled and now here I am.”

Caito battle back with pins over Jeff Davis and Vidalia after dropping the opening match to Devonte Williams from Berrien High School.

The most heart-breaking finish of the day was a 5th place finish by senior Matt Brown in the 220 pound division. Brown was hoping to return to the state meet where he finished as state runner-up in 2015 (the best finish in school history) but a serious shoulder injury and lack of mat time after his recent return plagued his chances.

Nancy Underboard FinalBrown battled hard on Saturday winning a decision over Swainsboro before being pinned by eventual sectional champion Markarius Lundy of Fitzgerald and running out of steam versus Tyler Johnson of Vidalia.

One of the biggest upsets of the day at sectionals came via a Brave wrestler that was not even supposed to compete.

Freshman Gage Cannon (younger brother to Andrew) entered the tournament as an alternate after a Bowdon wrestler was forced out of the meet due to injury. Gage upset one of the top seeds in his first match in the 145-pound class, knocking off Jesse Conley of Vidalia. Cannon finished with fifth place, a very strong finish for a freshman in the 145 weight class.

Another freshman finishing off a nice run was Blake McAdams who took a big step in the 138 pound class by making it to sectionals. Both McAdams and the younger Cannon should be forces to keep an eye on for the next three seasons as the wrestling program continues its climb.

Jacob Bishop pinned Trenton Mathis from Jeff Davis in a rematch from a loss earlier in the day (Photo courtesy of Jai Otwell/Times-Georgian)

Jacob Bishop pinned Trenton Mathis from Jeff Davis in a rematch from a loss earlier in the day (Photo courtesy of Jai Otwell/Times-Georgian)

Coach Yates was pleased to have three guys advance to the meet after only one did last year.

“I’m just real proud of these three guys,” said Yates after the meet. “They have worked their tails off this year and now they are going to reap the rewards. Only eight guys in each weight class make it to the Arena so this is quite an accomplishment.”

The coach is also pleased to get three guys through to the big meet, the most Braves to advance under the current format. “We only had one go through last year, so three is an improvement on that which lets us know we’re going in the right direction and continuing to improve as a program.”

The Class AA state tournament at the Infinite Energy Center will begin on Friday at 11 a.m. with the quarterfinals and last through the championship matches on Saturday. Tickets are available for $10 each day.

Caito will face Colton Woods from Darlington in his first match. Cannon will battle Cameron Battle for Social Circle, and Bishop will take on Ryan Harris also from Social Circle.

 

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