This past season ended similarly for Bartow County wrestling as Woodland senior Chad Hawkins grabbed the 106-pound title in the Class AAAA traditional tournament. It completed a fine season for the Wildcat wrestler, who also was a key part of the Class AAAA state duals runner-up.
While Hawkins may have been at the forefront this season by virtue of his championship season, Bartow County had 25 other individual state qualifiers that gave the county even more wrestlers in Duluth than a year ago. Many of those wrestlers are included on The Daily Tribune News' All-County Wrestling Team for 2011-12, including all nine placers.
Adding to the county's success during the year was the unprecedented qualifying of three local teams for the state duals -- namely Adairsville, which had never before made the state duals in the approximately 10 years of existence of the tournament. The Tigers finished second in Area 7-AA, a similar finish for Cass who came in behind Area 7-AAAA champ Woodland.
Cartersville, the lone county team to miss out on the state duals, enjoyed a bit of an uptick this year as well, getting an extra state qualifier than it had last year. Jake Johnson, a state champ in 2011, led the way for the Purple Hurricanes as he finished with the most wins in the county.
Below are the members of this season's all-county team.
Chad Hawkins, Woodland, Wrestler of the Year
Coming off of a fourth-place finish as a junior, Hawkins had nothing else on his mind but to make sure he was in the finals when Saturday of the Class AAAA traditional tournament rolled around. He was -- the only Bartow wrestler to do so. He made the most of his appearance, hanging tough for a 5-4 victory over Rockdale County's Alonzo Allen in the 106-pound final. It completed a 37-7 season for Hawkins, who also was sectionals champion and area champion.
Tyler James, Adairsville
One of four Adairsville wrestlers to advance to the championship bracket semifinals, James managed to bounce back after losing a heartbreaker that would have placed him in the Class AA 106-pound final. James responded to his first loss of the state traditional tournament by winning his next two matches before losing in the third- and fourth-place match. James, a junior, finished the season with a 31-9 overall record. He was an Area 7-AA runner-up and tournament winner at the Bowdon Invitational.
Alec Rivera, Cass
A three-time state qualifier, Rivera once again made his way back to Duluth for the state traditional tournament. After placing in 2011 -- he finished sixth -- Rivera couldn't achieve the same finish as a senior, winning one of three matches in the Class AAAA tournament. Rivera, 37-10 overall, is a two-time area runner-up and two-time sectional runner-up, and he won championships this season at the Lions Den Invitational and Crossbone Classic.
Kevin Grimaldo, Adairsville
Grimaldo picked up three wins at the state traditional tournament, including two in a row following a loss in the championship bracket. The senior ultimately made it to the fifth- and sixth-place match where his run ended with a loss. Grimaldo finished the year 26-13 overall. He was an area tournament runner-up and also had impressive finishes at the Cedartown Invitational as well as the Bowdon Invitational. Grimaldo placed second and fifth, respectively, in those two tournaments, but his best finish came at North Atlanta, where he came in first.
Jake Huffine, Woodland, Rookie of the Year
Just a sign of how good Woodland was at the lightest weight class, Huffine could've followed a path similar to Hawkins, his teammate, if state wrestling rules allowed it. "A kid like Jake Huffine probably would've been top two, may have been in the finals at 106 ... " coach Adrian Tramutola chuckled after Hawkins' state victory. Instead, Huffine bumped up to 113 and still held his own, winning one match and losing two one-point matches to eventual state placers. The freshman wrestler finished 33-10 overall and should be in the hunt for a top place at next year's tournament after squaring off with a state champion in practice all season long.
Rashad Williams, Cass
Williams made his grand entrance into varsity wrestling this season, qualifying for state for the first time and nearly placing at the Class AAAA state tournament, where he split his four matches. He ended the year with close to 40 wins as he was victorious in 38 of 45 matches. Williams, a sophomore, had a runner-up finish at the Lions Den Invitational at Lithia Springs, but went on to win championships at East Paulding's Crossbone Classic and the Area 7-AAAA tournament, which was held at Cass. At sectionals, Williams placed fourth.
Sammy Rosario, Cass
Like most seniors, Rosario had hoped to be the last man standing as his high school career came to a close. A state championship wasn't to be for Rosario, however, as he lost in the first round, dropping down into the consolation bracket right away. With no remaining shot at a state championship, the two-time area champion didn't give in, though. He won his next four matches, getting into the third- and fourth-place match before losing to end his time in the Class AAAA 120-pound tournament. It was the third straight time Rosario placed at state, including a fourth-place finish as a sophomore and third-place showing as a junior. Rosario claimed victories in 40 of his 46 matches. He won the Crossbone Classic and was a runner-up at the Lions Den Invitational and at sectionals.
Zach Culver, Woodland
Culver opened the Class AAAA state tournament with a loss to an eventual state placer and couldn't rebound for a win in the wrestlebacks, but the Wildcats' 126-pounder delivered a very productive season en route to 30 wins in his 44 matches. When Woodland had it going well, Culver was typically one of the difference makers and reasons for that success, which included the Wildcats' runner-up finish in the state duals in January. Culver was an area champion in the 7-AAAA traditional tournament.
Austin Buffaloe, Cass
Last season, Buffaloe came in sixth place at the state tournament -- certainly a fine finish for any wrestler. The senior wanted more this year -- and he got it. Buffaloe's performance in the Class AAAA state tournament was the most impressive on a stacked Cass team that initially qualified 10 wrestlers for the end-of-season event. After dropping his second match, Buffaloe did not lose again as he won four straight matches to end state with a 5-1 record. For the year, Buffaloe went 33-9 overall, won the Lions Den Invitational as well as sectionals and placed as area runner-up.
Ty Downer, Cartersville
Downer was one of two Cartersville wrestlers -- Hans Navarrete was the other -- to make a return to the state tournament this year after a brief hiatus. Though unable to cash in with a win in his final state tournament, Downer had a very productive senior year. He finished with the second-most wins on his team and in the county -- behind teammate Jake Johnson -- with a 46-9 record. Downer, a two-time state qualifier, went 2-0 at the Bartow County Championship, finished fourth at the Area 7-AAA tournament and placed fifth at sectionals.
Zach Frye, Woodland
Frye was one of the driving forces on a Woodland team that nearly defended its 2011 state duals championship. The Wildcats fell to Pope in the state finals, just missing out on a two-peat. Frye, like many of his teammates, rebounded from that defeat to qualify for the state tournament, where he won one match -- one of only three Woodland wrestlers to do so. The junior was 29-17 this season, with a second-place finish at area and seventh-place showing at sectionals.
Hans Navarrete, Cartersville
Like Downer, Navarrete had one final run toward state left in him after missing out last year. The senior managed one win in three matches as he and his teammates exit as one of the key classes in recent memory for coach Garvin Edwards. Navarrete, a two-time state qualifier, ended his last prep year with a 29-18 record, including a 1-1 showing at the county tournament.
Trey Gulledge, Adairsville
With two wins to open the Class AA tournament, Gulledge needed just one more win to put himself in the 160-pound final. Things unraveled from there, though, following a semifinal loss. The senior couldn't recover, losing his final three matches to finish in sixth place. However, Gulledge's last few prep matches can't put a damper on a 26-8 season where the senior made good in his farewell season -- after not wrestling as a junior. Gulledge went undefeated in tough Area 7-AA, where he was area champion. He also placed second at sectionals and at the Bowdon Invitational.
Jake Johnson, Cartersville
Before even beginning his senior season, Johnson had already done something many wrestlers only dream of -- win a state title. It didn't mean the hunger had left Johnson the moment he had experienced his signature moment as a prep wrestler in his junior year. In fact, the Purple Hurricane senior had visions of winning another state championship, and perhaps going undefeated along the way. Johnson remained unbeaten up until late January. His first loss was to Gilmer's Joey Ray, who won three of five matches between the two Area 7-AAA rivals. Ray, it turns out, was the only wrestler to actually beat Johnson all year -- the Cartersville wrestler, 54-5 overall, was advised to forfeit a pair of matches at sectionals after a hard fall. Johnson fell to Ray in a close match in the Class AAA semifinals, but wrestled back to take third place. Johnson is a three-time state placer -- third as a sophomore and senior, first as a junior -- and a four-time state qualifier.
Montavious Parker, Cass
Stop if you've heard this one before: a Colonels football player who is a beast on the gridiron heads to the wrestling mat where he also goes into beast mode. It remains to be seen whether Cass' Parker can win a state championship like former two-sport Colonel star Albert Catron was able to do as a senior in 2011, but the sophomore certainly turned heads in his first go-round as a grappler. Parker posted the most overall wins among all Cass wrestlers -- he was 44-11 -- and came within one match of placing at his first state tournament -- he won two of four matches. Parker placed first at the Lions Den Invitational and Cedartown Invitational, second at the Crossbone Classic and fourth at the area tournament.
Dalton Johnson, Adairsville
Following two consecutive fifth-place finishes at state, Johnson slid back to sixth this year. There is no shame in that. Besides, not many wrestlers get to call themselves three-time state placers. Coach Joey Harris noted that the last time the school had a three-time placer was in the 2000s with Cody Bearden, a two-time state champion. Johnson was seemingly closer to a title this season than any of his previous trips to state. He needed just one more win for the final after opening the tournament with two victories, but he lost a semifinal match and went on to lose twice more. Johnson was an Area 7-AA champ this season and also won at sectionals, at North Atlanta and at the Bowdon Invitational. Johnson, who was 31-6 overall, placed second at the Cedartown Invitational.
Mark Morton, Cass
A two-time state qualifier before he ever set foot on Cass' campus, Morton made it to state a third time as a member of the Colonels. The transfer from Howard High in Macon equaled his best finish at state by placing sixth, which he also did two years ago as a sophomore. Morton rebounded from a first-round loss to win three straight matches, getting into the fifth- and sixth-place match before taking a second loss. Morton went 35-14 overall this season, winning the Lions Den Invitational and the Crossbone Classic. At the Cedartown Invitational, area tournament and sectionals, Morton was second, fourth and sixth, respectively.
HONORABLE MENTION -- ADAIRSVILLE: Virgil Gentry, Ryan Hightower, Hayden Randolph; CARTERSVILLE: Evan Cole, Gerry Vassil, Tamichael Wills; CASS: Tommy Klaus, Ronnie Lafollette, Tyler Larson, Douglas Nuckols, Rhys Peralta, Corey Venishel; WOODLAND: Lee Cash, Jordy Henson, Clint Lemon, Isaiah Ross, Twan Terrell, Shelby Townsend.