An emotion-filled championship round against Dade County came down to tiebreaker criteria, where a flagrant misconduct penalty against the Wolverines during the 145-pound match gave Pepperell the deciding point in the 39-38 final score.

“I’m just happy for them,” Knight said after taking a moment to enjoy the victory. “It’s nice to say at the beginning of the season that this is the best team that I’ve had since I’ve been here and for it to come true. We’ve worked on the kids staying humble and focused, and we’ve got a great team.

“That’s an awesome feeling when that happens.”

Trion’s varsity wrestling team managed to continue their stellar season on the mats Saturday by winning the Area 4-A Duals for the third year in a row, a feat head coach Eric Brock said is underscored by the drive of the young talent they have.

“It was big, especially after last year and graduating nine seniors,” Brock said about taking the championship. “We’ve been dubbed the ‘baby-faced gang,’ so to win it this year is huge. The boys came out and fought hard, and I thought they did a really great job.”

Both Pepperell and Trion will travel to Macon this week for the GHSA State Duals Tournament, which runs Thursday through Saturday at the Macon Centreplex.

Pepperell came into the 5-AA competition as the No. 2 seed and defeated Gordon Central 54-24 in the first round before getting a 42-33 win over Chattooga in the area semifinals. With three weight classes going unmanned in the Dragons’ lineup, Knight said he knew they would have to rely on their middleweights to come through.

Pins by Ivan Arguello and Landon Camp at 126 and 132 pounds got Pepperell on top early before a last-second push by the Dragon’s 138 wrestler Thomas Zenga gave him a 5-4 decision. Pepperell then got first-period pins from Josh Ross (170), Ridge Carden (182) and Jack Bennett (195).

“We have got a group of seven kids through the middle of the lineup that has been solid all season. Some have had to work harder than others, but the pure talent that they’ve shown is the best we’ve had,” Knight said. “I don’t know who we’ll match up with at state, but if we can win the ones we’re supposed to we’ll have a chance against anybody.”

Rockmart fell to Armuchee in Saturday’s opening round but came back through the consolation bracket to challenge Dade County for true second and a shot at qualifying for state. The bout came down to the final match, which Dade won by fall to defeat the Jackets 41-36 and take second.

Seniors Zoryan Hendricks (170) and Griffin Pace (185) each came away undefeated on the day for Rockmart with five wins each.

“We lost the very first match and fought back to win three in row to get to Dade, so I’m very proud of my team for not giving up,” Lindsey said. “We’ll gear toward the individual tournament now and move forward. But it was definitely a great day of wrestling to get everybody from our area together.”

Model also had a resurgence in the consolation rounds, losing to Chattooga first thing and then beating Gordon Central and Armuchee. The Blue Devils fell to Rockmart to finish in fourth.

Trion drew a bye in the first round of the Area 4-A tournament and went on to trounce Mt. Paran 75-3 before coming out ahead of Mt. Zion in the championship round 53-27.

Brock name checked a couple of his kids — including Alex Stewart at 220 pounds and Lincoln Maddux at 138 — but said winning the title was a full team effort with many wrestlers doing well. And with Trion Middle School’s team winning the middle school state duals title on Saturday, he’s pretty excited about the future.

“We’ve got a great feeder program with some great wrestlers coming up,” Brock said. “I’m getting good kids, so I feel good about what we’ve got coming up the next couple of years.”