MILTON, Ga. – While many people were busy worrying about what to buy for that last-minute Christmas gift, the Cambridge wrestling team was busy getting ready to compete in some of the fiercest wrestling tournaments in the Southeast.
The Cambridge Bears wrestling team traveled to Creekview High School in Canton Dec. 7 and 8 to participate in their first traditional wrestling tournament of the year, the Creekview Invitational. Despite being a very young team with one senior and only a handful of juniors, the Bears proved they could compete by placing sixth out of the 17 high school teams entered in the tournament.
The Bears were led by sophomore J.R. Salemi, who placed first in the 113 pound weight class and freshman Brandon Filosi, who finished first at 132 pounds. Both wrestlers went undefeated for the two-day tournament. Other Cambridge placers included sophomore Brock Nielson, who finished second at 182, junior Malik McNeil, who finished fourth at 285, and junior Sean Kaira, who finished sixth at 195.
Cambridge wrestling coach Don St. James said he was pleased with the team’s performance.
“We still have some work to do, but I see tremendous improvement each time we go out,” St. James said. “Despite being a very young team, we are very competitive. The next few weeks will be a good test for our group as we go against some of the best teams and kids in the region, many of which have placed in their state.”
The Bears headed to Columbus State University in Columbus, Ga. Dec. 21. It was the venue for the 35th annual Hardaway Invitational, a tournament where the young Cambridge grapplers placed 12th out of 28 teams.
Paced once again by Salemi, who brought home the Bears’ sole championship by capturing the 113 pound weight class, a finals match proved to be one of the tournament highlights as undefeated Salemi (21-0) squared up and bested previously undefeated Smith Station, Ala. senior Quin Miles (18-0) by a score of 5-2.
Freshman standout Filosi wrestled back and placed third by beating Patrick from Opelika, Ala. 1-0 in the consolation finals. Filosi, who often wrestles up a weight class, lost in the quarterfinals to senior Max Sultan from Whitewater, Ga. It was a hard-fought battle in which Filosi lost to the eventual 132-pound champion Sultan.
The Cambridge team then completed their whirlwind tour Dec. 28 by stopping in Birmingham, Ala. to compete in the Vestavia Hills Invitational, in which they placed ninth out of 12 teams.
They brought home the hardware after the grueling two-day tournament by placing three wrestlers and capturing one championship.
They ended their first season with a dual match against Johns Creek and Centennial Jan. 9.
“All in all, we did well. Our kids showed they had heart. We had a lot of matches in December. Our experienced guys knew what they had to do, while others stepped up,” said St. James. “None quit. I am proud of every one of them.”