Finishing third and just short of a trip to the Class 5A State Duals this week might be disappointing to many teams, but not to the reincarnated Cross Keys Indians’ wrestling program.
The Indians had not put a team on the wrestling mats in almost six years since the decision to shut down the program was made in 2011.
Mark Adams returned to Cross Keys as football coach in 2015 where he coached from 1998-2001 and agreed to restart the wrestling program at the school. Adams had won county titles at Redan in 1993 and 1995 and teamed with Shannon Miller to guide Tucker to the title in 2009.
“I knew it would be a challenge to get the program going again, but this being my second stint provides me with some understanding of our student body,” said Adams. “I knew we could get some hardnosed, coachable kids and they’ve been sponges.”
The nine wrestlers competing for the Indians had no wrestling experience entering the season, but responded to Adams’ intense work ethic working with them.
“I don’t have an assistant so I’ve had to be aggressive,” Adams said. “We’ve had some intense, repetitive practices and workouts (road work and weights). They’ve responded very well.”
Starting a program always has bumps in the road and Adams’ squad was 0-6 heading into the Area 5-5A Team Duals this past week.
“The run in the Area Duals was amazing considering we had no match wins heading into it,” Adams said. “It was kind of a perfect storm for us as far as weight matchups. We had three big toss up matches we had to have and we won all three.”
After dropping into the consolation round with a loss to start the tournament, the Indians picked up a 48-18 victory over Miller Grove. The win was clinched as senior David Velasquez (9-2) picked up a pin just 51 seconds into the final match to send the Indians into the next round against Lithonia.
Junior Cleyber Ventura (8-3) was the next Indian to come up with a key victory as his win by fall at 1:55 of the third period in the 113 weight class turned the tide in favor of Cross Keys 42-30 to advance into the consolation finals against local rival Chamblee.
Junior Dennis Lin (4-4) pulled off an upset at 152 with a fall to seal the 42-30 win over Chamblee to give the Indians an improbable third place team finish.
Arabia Mountain kept the Indians from making the state playoffs, but not without a battle as the match came down to the final two matches before the Rams clinched a 39-30 victory to advance to state. The two teams were tied at 24-24 with 5 matches left and the Indians needed a win to force the final match.
Arabia’s 113 wrestler Ahraya Coley got off the mat three times to come back and win to clinch the victory for the Rams.
“You have to give their wrestler a lot of credit for getting off the mat and getting that win,” Adams said.
The Rams (9-14) lost the Area 5-5A title to 13-3 Southwest DeKalb squad.
Besides Cleyber (133), Lin (152) and Velazquez (285) the team consists of Francisco Casiano-Chavez (113, JR), Vanesa Rubio (126, JR), Leo Castillo (132, SO), Angel Martinez (145, JR), Cesar Guzman (195, JR) and Hau Vo (220, SO).