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Buford High School wrestling coach John Mahaffey, with the return of seven wrestlers, is confident the Jackets can have their share of mat success this season.
The Jackets’ seven returnees include two state qualifiers off the 2010-11 squad.
The ace duo includes seniors Eric McPhearson and Zach Wright.
McPhearson, at 160, earned a bronze medal and all-state honors at the Class AA state meet last season.
McPhearson, over the weekend, captured the 159-pound title in the Red Hawk Invitational at Monroe High School in Union County, N.C., with a 4-0 record, including three pins.
Wright, who will wrestle at 182, placed fifth at 189 in the Class AA state tournament. Wright, who earned the Jackets’ Most Improved Award last season, also reaped all-region honors.
In addition, Mahaffey can bank on five other experienced Jackets’ wrestlers including junior Dylan Altman (120), junior Garrett Johnson (126), junior Josh Mullens (145), junior Jeremy Broyles (152) and senior James Mackey (170).
Mackey, like McPhearson, captured his weight class at the Red Hawk tournament on Saturday when he notched four pins.
Altman was an all-region pick last season.
The Jackets also have a host of talented newcomers, including freshman Matt Griffin, who captured a middle school state title last season. He will wrestle at 132 this season.
Freshman Ronnie Watts, who wrestled on the middle school team last season, will compete at 106.
Freshman Trevor Burch will wrestle at 113 and freshman Ricky Hinson will be at 138.
Freshman Kyle Norcia and Broyles will be at 152.
Matt Bass, a junior, will wrestle at 195.
Freshman Grant Cauthen will wrestle at 220, with Chris Varnadore, a senior, in the heavyweight slot.
“For the first time in a long time, we’re fielding a complete lineup where we’re not giving up easy points on forfeits when we’re going into a match,” Mahaffey said. “Our veteran wrestlers are also showing good leadership by helping our younger wrestlers with their transition to the varsity. That can only make the team better.
“I think the key for this team is to stay healthy and make weight,” he said. “Those two factors will help us keep a full lineup.”
BHS strong in Red Hawk tourney
Buford posted a strong showing in the Red Hawk Invitational at Monroe High School over the weekend, placing fifth out of 13 teams in the two-day tournament.
Seniors Eric McPhearson and James Mackey led the Jackets.
McPhearson, 4-0, won the 160-pound class with a 4-0 mark, including three pins and a decision.
James Mackey, a senior, won the 170-pound class with a 4-0 mark – four pins.
BHS had three second-place finishers, including Josh Mullens (3-1, 145), Zach Wright (3-1, 182) and Matt Bass (3-1, 195).
Dylan Altman was third at 120 with a 4-1 record.
“I thought we did well and this effort will give us a boost as we head into the season,” BHS coach John Mahaffey said.
Buford opens its season Thursday when the Jackets wrestle Class AAA foe Hartsville High School. The varsity match is at 6 p.m., with the middle school match at 5 p.m.