MILTON, Ga. – The Cambridge High School wrestling team captured the first state championship for the second-year school, taking the Class AAAAA meet Feb. 22 at Loganville High School.
Three Cambridge wrestlers won individual state championships and two others finished as runner-up, as the Bears ended a string of six straight state championships by Region 7-AAAAA rival Pope.
“I am very happy with the guys,” said Cambridge coach Don St. James. “As a team, we snuck up on a lot of people at the end because we were able to rotate the lineup throughout the season.
“We finally put our strongest lineup on the mat at the end of the season.”
Several team members competed at different weights during the season, with the Bears qualifying nine wrestlers for state in the 14 weight classes. Eight Bears won at least one match at state, with the team’s top five competitors going 18-2.
The Bears finished with 132 points in the championship meet. Allatoona was second at 123.5, with Pope third at 122.5. Creekview, which along with Pope qualified from Region 7-AAAAA for the state championship dual meet in January, was fifth at 91.5.
Cambridge went 22-6 for the season in dual meets, but did not qualify for the dual meet championship. After that event was held, the Bears won the North Metro Championship at Brookwood against a field that included top teams from different classifications (including AAAAAA), and then swept area and sectional meets in AAAAA.
The Bears won their last four tournaments in a five-week span, with the state meet postponed one week by the recent severe weather.
Winning state titles for the Bears were junior J.R. Salemi at 120 pounds and sophomores Brandon Filosi (126) and Devin Kane (145). Freshman Will Britain (138) and senior Malik McNeil (heavyweight) both lost in the finals.
Salemi, Filosi and Kane provided the Bears with a near unbeatable trio, as the three wrestlers won the area and sectional titles leading up to state. In the championship matches, the three Cambridge standouts yielded just two points each, with Salemi winning 11-2, Filosi winning 5-2 and Kane winning 6-2.
Filosi was the only one of the three to have a close match in the finals, winning 5-3 in the first round. The other eight matches for the three champions leading up to the finals were decided by at least eight points or ended with a pin.
In the sectionals, which determine the qualifiers for state, the three wrestlers combined for 11 pins and a 16-0 major decision in their 12 matches.
It was a second straight state championship for Salemi, who finished the season 59-1. His only loss came on a default and followed a 57-0 mark as a sophomore. Filosi was 62-4 this season, and Kane went 57-3.
Britain, who was 49-7, also was a champion at sectionals and placed second in the area meet. He won his first three matches at state 5-2, 15-7 and 10-4 before losing in the finals to a Pope wrestler who also defeated him in the area finals.
McNeil was an area champion and sectional runner-up, pinning three opponents in each of his last three meets. He lost 4-1 in the sectional finals and 8-3 at state. McNeil was 30-4, splitting time during the season with fellow senior Kryshna Tanksley, who went 32-4.
Sophomore Eric Cizek (182) and freshman Luke Williams (160) both won two matches at state. Cizek won his first match 8-7 and won his first consolation match on a pin before losing 2-1 in overtime to finish 41-15. Williams moved up to the varsity midway through the season and went 17-13, losing to one of the finalists in the second round at state.
Sophomore Chris Anderson (132) won his first consolation match at state and compiled a 36-25 record, placing fourth in both the area and sectional meets. Cizek also was fourth in both meets, with Williams third in the area meet.
Also qualifying for state was senior Jalen Hammons-Jeter, who was the area champion at 220 and posted a 19-10 record.
Junior Sean Kaira (195) placed third in the area meet, but came up one match short at sectionals of qualifying for state, ending the season 42-19. Freshman Dawson Brooks went 32-23 for the season at 106, but did not advance beyond the area meet. Two-year starter Brock Nielson was 22-11 at 160, but did not compete due to an injury after January.
St. James also started the wrestling program at Centennial, and was there 15 years before coming to Cambridge prior to the 2012-13 season.
(Records and results from MatStats.com)