The Sonoraville Firebirds have had a strong wrestling program for several years, but on Saturday they reached a new milestone. For the first time in program history, Sonoraville can call themselves the best team in the state in their classification.
The Firebirds completed a highly successful run at the Class AAA State Traditional Tournament in Macon on Saturday with three individual state champions, one runner-up, three fourth-place finishers and one sixth-place finisher. All totaled up, the efforts combined to give Sonoraville 132 points as a team, which was enough for them to walk away with the Class AAA State Championship.
For more photos from Sonoraville's state-championship trip to Macon, see Wednesday's Calhoun Times.
The Firebirds finished ahead of Bremen (120) and North Hall (117), which was a measure of revenge as the Blue Devils was the team that kept Sonoraville from an area duals title in January, and North Hall was the team that put the Firebirds out of title contention at Class AAA State Duals in January.
Sonoraville coach Randy Steward said he had confidence that his team could be special going all the way back to last season when they finished second at State Traditionals, and once they clinched the title on Saturday, there were a lot of emotions for himself and the team.
“Going back to our second-place finish last season, I felt like we had the returning points to make a run at a championship,” said Stewart. “I would like to stress that I did my research before taking this position before last season and knew that many things were in already in place…There had been a strong youth club that many of our current kids participated in, Greg Hunt has coached many of our kids since they were little, there had been a string of really good coaches here over the years and there was strong parent support and strong admin support. All of the above equated to a strong tradition in wrestling. With my past experience, I felt I could come in, tweak the culture and put it all together. I Feel like it’s been a good fit, and I’m excited about where we all can take this program.
“The weekend was a roller coaster of emotions. For me personally it was a feeling of relief and a feeling of happiness to see the excitement on the kids’ faces. To see them support each other through good and bad and accomplish their goal is very special.”
Sonoraville was led by a trio of individual state champs, two of which who won their third straight title. Juniors Tyler Hunt and Trevor Burdick each went 3-0 in the 132 and 138-pound weight classes, respectively, to finish atop the podium once again for their third first-place medal each.
Eli Knight, a freshman, also went 3-0 in Macon to win the state championship at 106.
John Knight wrestled in the finals as well in the 195-pound weight class but lost a tough decision to take runner-up honors.
Hector Arbos (113), Allen Stone (120) and Charlie Brown (182) each finished fourth in their weight classes as they reached the consolation bracket finals, and Jayce Derryberry (126) earned a sixth-place finish.
“Each of the eight qualifiers competed hard and contributed to the team effort,” said Steward. “All won at least a match and scored team points. Three of the eight were there for the first time and were wrestling on Saturday. That is a good thing and builds experience for the future. I think many would agree that it was a strong performance. I’m very proud of the four finalists. Eli Knight avenged all three of his losses this year, and he avenged the last one at a key time in the finals. To lose to a kid 11-1 about three weeks ago and come back and beat the kid in the State finals says a lot about his character.
“Tyler and Trevor both won their third titles. They have both been doing this a long time and have great work ethic and great parent support. I consider it a privilege to work with them. John Knight had split with his opponent the past few weeks and came up short in the finals. I look for him to put himself in position to complete his career on top next year.”
Calhoun sent four wrestlers to compete at State, including Johnny Santana (106), Blake Bailey (113), Reece Poe (138) and JC Fuller (285). Poe was the top finisher as he fought back through the consolation bracket to take fourth in his weight class. Santana earned a fifth-place finish, and Fuller placed sixth.
Gordon Central had two wrestlers compete at State which were Christian Davis (152) and Ethan Mitchell (220).
The state championship brings to a close a very successful season for Sonoraville as they also placed third at Class AAA State Duals in January. Steward said his hope is for this title to lead to more success in the future and encourage his current wrestlers and younger wrestlers to know they can do big things as a Sonoraville Firebird.
“Hopefully this state championship will generate more enthusiasm for Sonoraville Wrestling,” said Steward. “My No. 1 priority this spring is getting the youth wrestling club going again which is a key to future successes. I want our high school kids to work year round with the belief that we will compete for team and individual titles every season.”