McEachern and Marietta each had two wrestlers win twice to make the semifinals, while Wheeler, Walton, Hillgrove, Kennesaw Mountain and Lassiter each had one.
Wheeler’s Aslan Kilic was the first to advance.
Kilic received a 1-point technical violation point early in his quarterfinal-round match at 113 pounds after being taken down illegally, and he needed time to recover after getting the wind knocked out of him. Kilic ultimately returned to dominate his quarterfinal match, en route to an 18-7 major decision over East Coweta’s Matthew Durham.
Hillgrove’s Aaron Powell rallied from a 5-0 third-period deficit to beat Mill Creek’s Marcos Rosenkier 6-5 in the 138-pound quarterfinal. Powell scored on a flurry of moves to get the lead in the first minute of the final period and held on for the victory.
“I just pushed harder at the end because I wanted to place,” he said. “It’s what I wanted so I got it done.”
Walton’s Jacob Murphy, a returning state champion, also advanced at 138. Tied with Rockdale County’s Clifton Casurra at 2-all in the second period, Murphy steadily extended his lead and won 11-3 to reach the semis.
“Some guys don’t rehydrate well after their first match of the first day,” Murphy said, “so I just pushed the pace. This is my fourth time placing, and Walton’s only had a couple of people do that, so it feels to be in the semifinals and still alive.”
Marietta’s Jonathan Gates, a senior, moved on with an 11-6 victory over McEachern’s Josh Farara at 170. Gates was in command 8-3 entering the third, but Farara scored an escape and takedown to trim the margin to 8-6. Gates, however, responded with an escape and takedown with 8 seconds remaining to hold on for the win.
“I can’t believe he got the takedown,” said Gates, who places at the state meet for the time in his career. “It shouldn’t have been that close. I’m excited to place, but I want more and I’m ready for (today).
Kennesaw Mountain junior Jonatan Rivera is still alive in his bid for a third straight state championship after scoring pins in back-to-back matches at 182.
“Since the storms, a lot of wrestlers were trapped and couldn’t practice,” Rivera said. “My team found a way to get our conditioning in and it showed for me out there.
“This is an exciting time for me. Freshman year, I just wanted to place. Now, I have two state championships and I’m trying to get my third. I’m glad to be in this position and show off what I’ve learned over the years.”
Lassiter’s Phillip Murray scored a stalling point on Marietta’s Isaiah Borne with 20 seconds left in their match at 195 and went on to win 3-2, while McEachern’s Christian Wade rallied from a 5-1 third-period deficit to beat Archer’s Jacob Lill 7-6 at 220.
Wade scored a reversal and 2-point near-fall midway through the third period to tie the match at 5-all. Lill earned an escape with 20 seconds remaining, but Wade quickly scored a takedown to get the 7-6 advantage and held on for victory.
“I don’t know how I did that,” said an exhausted Wade, who also placed last year. “It’s my last year. It’s state. It’s do or die — survival of the fittest and never give up. I’m not doing this for myself. I’m doing this for the whole school. They’re counting on me. McEachern hasn’t had a state champion in a while, so I’m just believing I can be the next one.”
Marietta’s Jeron Holsey and McEachern’s Uche Nkadi are on a collision course for the finals at 285.
Holsey dominated Douglas County’s Quinzaviou Sands — who Holsey lost to by pin in the semifinals at sectionals — and went on to post a 12-3 victory to reach the semifinals.
“I just did what coach said I should do,” Holsey said. “I wrestled my match and didn’t give (Sands) what he wanted. He pinned me at sectionals. That wasn’t going to happen again.”
Tied at 1-all, Nkadi scored a 2-point takedown with two seconds left in his match and held on for a 3-2 win over Tift County’s Jesse Snow.
“I just went for it,” Nkadi said. “I felt like I had nothing to lose. It’s my senior year and I’ve wanted to place at state my whole life. This proves that the hard work is paying off.”
With a few first-round consolation matches remaining Friday, defending Class AAAAAA champion Archer led the team standings with 97 points. Camden County (62) was second, followed by Collins Hill (43.5), Marietta (27.5) and host Chattahoochee (24). McEachern sat just outside the top 10, tied for 12th with 18 points.