Turns out the coaches were right — barely.
Sixth-seeded Marietta advanced all the way to the finals, before losing to top-seeded Kennesaw Mountain 49-18.
The Mustangs (23-4), who captured their second region duals championship in program history and their first since 2009, will be making their fifth straight trip to the state duals after posting runner-up finishes the last three years.
Coincidentally, the last time Kennesaw Mountain had won the region duals crown was also the last time that Marietta made the trip down to Macon.
While there were questions surrounding which teams would advance to represent Region 4AAAAAA at the state championships, Kennesaw Mountain proved it was the team to beat after dominating the field. The Mustangs beat No. 8 seed South Cobb 66-12 in the quarterfinals and No. 4 McEachern 39-27 in the semifinals.
“It feels real good to get another region championship,” Kennesaw Mountain coach Roberto Rivera said. “It’s been a long time coming with everything we’ve been through getting runner-up the past few years. I like that none of the matches were real close. These were all real decisive wins over some very good teams.
“We wanted to leave no doubt that we were the best team in this region, so I’m really proud of the guys. I was worried about some of them, but this is the best I’ve seen them wrestle in any tournament this year.”
After a slow start through the first four bouts saw Kennesaw Mountain fall behind Marietta 12-6, the Mustangs ran off seven consecutive wins to stake a commanding 40-12 lead.
Three of the seven victories were pins — one each from Justan Rivera (195 pounds), Daniel Garcia (113) and Maxbryan Michaud (120) — while Rene Gutierrez earned a 15-0 technical fall at 182 pounds.
Augusto Paes started things off for the Mustangs with a thrilling 3-2 double-overtime win over Marietta’s Trager Kviten at 145. After battling to a 1-all tie through regulation and the first overtime, Paes voluntarily gave up an escape point to Kviten at the start of the second overtime and secured a 2-point reversal with 10 seconds left for the victory.
Henrio Thelemaque followed with a decision at 152, while David White (220), Kordel Brown (285), Wil Clavecilla (106) and Brycen Colo (132) also picked up victories for the Mustangs. Angel Ramirez’s pin at 138 resulted in the 49-18 final.
“Augusto really set the tempo for us early in the match, and the young guys eventually came through,” Roberto Rivera said.
Michaud’s 51-second pin over Jelani Miller clinched the win for Kennesaw Mountain.
“I feel honored to have clinched the match for us,” said Michaud, a freshman. “I didn’t wrestle in any of the other matches, because I haven’t felt well (Saturday), so I wish I could have done more to help the team. But I’m glad I got to wrestle in the finals and help us win.”
Jonathan Gates (160) and Brad King (126) each earned pins for Marietta. Lawton Ward (170) won via forfeit.
“We took a beating in that last match,” Marietta coach Tommy Carthers said. “Barring that, I think we battled and peaked at the right time. We didn’t look like a No. 6 seed (Saturday), and the guys really believed in themselves.”
No. 3 seed Hillgrove topped No. 2 Harrison 46-16 for third place.
Marietta beat Hillgrove (35-30) and Harrison (40-26) to reach the championship round. McEachern topped Campbell 35-26 to make the semifinals, while Harrison beat North Cobb 58-19.
Hillgrove’s 34-30 victory over McEachern and Harrison’s 48-21 triumph over Campbell in the consolation bracket propelled the Hawks and Hoyas into the consolation final.