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Four Albany wrestlers vie for state crowns today; seven from Lee County also eye titles

Photo by Danny Aller

Photo by Danny Aller

ATLANTA -- In his five years as Westover's wrestling coach, Kevin Fretwell has taken the program to new heights.

But even after five straight area championships, there's one thing missing from Fretwell's resume': a state crown.

Chance No. 5 comes today.

"I'd hoped to have four or five kids make state this year, but we got three through and I think all three have a good chance to place (in the Top 6)," Fretwell said Wednesday evening on the verge of the GHSA State Championship Tournament in Gwinnett County today. "I'd say our best chance is (130-pound senior) Reginald Sherman. He may just be our next Brandon Scott."

Fretwell, of course, was referring to the closest Westover has ever coming to winning state during his tenure when Scott finished runner-up two years ago. Today, Sherman, senior Reginald Coley (152 pounds) and junior LeMarquis Tillman (112) will try to change that. The Westover trio will be joined by Albany High 152-pounder Devante Daniel, who rounds out the four area to reach state this year.

Daniel finished in the Top 8 at sectionals last weekend at Woodward Academy to help make up half of this weekend's field at state.

"That kid's impressive," Fretwell said of Daniel. "I'm proud of him and happy for Albany's program for making it this far."

Wrestlers first had to qualify at sectionals to reach state this season because for the first time in three years, the GHSA held a sectionals meet before the finals to pair it down to the Top 16 wrestlers in Georgia (8 from the east sectionals, 8 from the west). Last year's sectionals was snowed out, meaning teams brought a much larger contingent than this season's finale.

"It's the Sweet 16 at this point," Fretwell said. "The competition level is definitely going to be tougher than any we've seen in years."

Sherman may also be the best thing Fretwell has seen since Scott. Sherman finished as area champ, 4th in sectionals and takes a 34-5 record into state.

"He's been our leader all year and all the hard work he's put into this team -- and this season -- has paid off," the coach said. "He was 15 seconds away from beating last year's state runner-up at sectionals when the kid just out-pointed him at the last second. I heard (Sherman's opponent) tell his coach when he was coming off the mat, 'Man, I don't wanna see that kid again.' "

Coley, who transferred from Dougherty this offseason after three years with the Trojans' program, has also been major factor at 152 all season. Like Sherman, he was the area champ, finished 4th at sectionals and takes a 32-6 record into state. Tillman is Westover's dark horse at 112. He placed 7th at sectionals and finished the regular season with a 29-11 record.

"I really think all three can place," Fretwell said.

The state tournament starts today and lasts through Saturday.

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DOUGHERTY CLOSES STRONG, LOOKS TO FUTURE:

The other area wrestling program that hopes to challenge Westover in the years to come is led by second-year head coach Kareem Sanders, who didn't have any kids qualify for state this year, but had a strong season nonetheless.

And the best news? All of Sanders' standouts from the 2010-11 season are coming back.

"We're young and we have 10 guys coming back, plus I hope to add another 10 next year to balance us out," Sanders said. "We lost some kids to transfers (within the city) and had other kids move out of the area, so that hurt us some this year. But it's not an excuse. We plan to be right here competing hard again next year, and the year after that, and the year after that ..."

Josh Fuller (junior, 160) won the Trojans' only match at sectionals and finished the season 12-3 after winning his division at the Area Championships two weeks ago. Kavasaee Trapper (junior, 125) placed second at the area meet and ended the season 16-6, while Randy Wright (freshman, 103) also finished runner-up at the area meet and ended the season 14-3. Christopher Rapley (sophomore, 153) was third at the area meet and posted a staggering 19-1 record in the regular season -- a season that was cut short by an elbow injury.

"Injury was another thing that hurt us this year because there's no telling how far (Christopher) could've gone had he not got hurt," Sanders said.

And finally, Sanders lauded the season by upstart sophomore Zameian TenEyck (10-7), who was his heavyweight and finished 4th at the area meet.

"Between those guys -- TenEyck, Rapley, Trappier, Fuller and Wright -- they're young and they have a lot of potential," Sanders said. "We're just going to keep building."

That includes, according to Sanders, making a big offseason push to continue to grow the wrestling program at Dougherty.

"I plan on sitting down this offseason with (the athletic department) and trying to figure out what we can do to take this program to the next level," he said. " 'Cause that's where we're headed."