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Mary Persons wrestling placed 2nd in the Area Duels on Saturday, Jan. 16, following a 10-day-quarantine and near month-long hiatus from competition. The team’s last meet was the Perry Invitational way back on Dec. 19. Five teams competed in the Duels out of the eight that were supposed to attend: Pike County, MP, Upson Lee, Jackson and Crisp County.

Due to the odd number of teams, the Duels had what’s called a “rat tail” in the bracket. The two lowest seeded teams, Jackson and Crisp County, had a preliminary match to decide who would compete in the top four. Jackson won the rat tail and then faced Pike, the #1 seed. Meanwhile Mary Persons, who was ranked the 2nd seed, faced 3-seed Upson Lee, who they’ve wrestled and beaten twice before this season. Winners in the Upson-Lee match included

Michael Whitfield in the 106 weight-class, Dylan Ivey in 126, Tanner Ivey in 132, Charley Ryles in 138, Tyler Norsworthy in 145, Elijah Shannon in 152, Cole Padgett in 160, Brayden Lauber in 170, Seth Greenway in 182 and JT Andrews in 285. Mary Persons won their matchup against Upson Lee 60 to 24.

The Bulldogs then moved on to the championship round against Pike. Pike managed to beat MP handily 12-63, with the Bulldogs only winning two of its matches. Those winners were Michael Whitfield in the 106 weight-class and Dylan Ivey in the 126. Coach Barron Hamlin says the team fought hard in the Pike County match but fell just short.

“Pike is the best team in our area. They’re honestly one of the better teams in Central Georgia. They’ve always had guys that make it the state tournament. And they’ve made it to the state dual tournament as a team multiple times. Coach Woerner has a good program over there. He’s been doing it a long time and they’re just solid across the board.”

Mary Persons will have another chance to go head-to-head with Pike in the Area Traditions Tournament on February 5-6. Traditions is the Individuals side, where wrestlers compete alone and not part of a team. Hamlin says he expects 4 or 5 of MP’s wrestlers to make it to State on the Individuals side. To simplify the process this year, the GHSA has done away with sectionals, which was a tournament that used to decide individual seeding for State. Now, the individuals competing in the State Finals will just be the top three in each weight class. Last year, six Mary Persons’ wrestlers made it to sectionals but none advanced past that.

On the team side, Mary Persons’ second-place finish at the Area Duels will allow them to move on to the state preliminaries this Friday, Jan 22 at Rockmart High School in Cartersville. In this quad-tournament, MP will first face Hephzibah High School, the 3-seed from Region-3. The winner of that match will likely compete against Rockmart, the 1-seed in the quad-tournament, and the winner of that match will be one of the eight teams that moves onto the State Dual-Tournament.

Hamlin says he’s happy with how the team competed in the Area Duels and is hopeful that the guys will perform well in the upcoming Individual and team tournaments leading up to State.