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Darton wrestling team qualifies six for NJCAA nationals

Chris Fleeger

Chris Fleeger

ALBANY — Six Darton College wrestlers qualified for the NJCAA Wrestling Championship at the Eastern District Qualifier in Lancaster, Pa., and first-year Darton head coach Chris Fleeger received “Man of The Year” honors Saturday.

Trey Hicks, of Tifton, Cole Claar, of Claysburg, Penn., and Raheem Hill, of Lithonia, all finished as runners-up in the 184-pound, 141-pound, and 174-pound classes, respectively.

Dametres Ellis, of Dublin, and Terry Harris, of Johns Creek, finished third in the 133-pound and 149-pound classes, respectively. Ryan DeVita, of McDonough, finished fourth in the 125-pound category.

“Going in, we had only three guys seeded, and they all wrestled above their seeds,” Fleeger said. “Six ended up qualifying — and that’s something I expected, but I think it surprised the people there.”

Fleeger described the Eastern District’s northern schools in Pennsylvania, New Jersey and New York as a “hotbed for wrestling” that may have underestimated the Darton program from South Georgia, where competitive wrestling is still growing.

However Middlesex County College’s John McArdle, who became the 184-pound district champion, is a returning All American who earned the “Outstanding Wrestler” award for his narrow win over Hicks.

“That was a pretty good sign of respect,” Fleeger said. “They knew that Hicks was going to be the one to beat.”

And with the officials of the Eastern District recognizing Fleeger as “Man of The Year” for his hard work in his first season with the Darton program, it’s safe to say that Darton College wrestling is gaining attention.

These six Darton student-athletes are scheduled to compete beginning Feb. 24 at the NJCAA Wrestling Championship in Rochester, Minn., where Fleeger hopes to “get six people on the podium.”