ROME — This year, it will be up to the rivals of local wrestling programs to protect the honor of Area 7-4A at state duals.

Ringgold defended its title at the 7-4A Duals in Rome on Saturday, Woodland wrapped up the other state berth and Dalton, Murray County and Northwest Whitfield were frustrated in their attempts to advance to next weekend’s state duals in Macon.

The Indians were the only local team to place, finishing fourth, but the body language of Murray wrestlers and coaches after they lost to Paulding County in the consolation final, 39-30, said everything.

There were downward glances, slumped shoulders and even some tears after the Indians — who finished second at last season’s area duals to advance to state — lost their second dual meet of the day.

“We came here expecting to win and it didn’t happen,” said Murray senior Blake Palmer. “We gave up too many pins and we didn’t win when we needed too. We feel like we didn’t reach our full potential.”

The second-seeded Indians began the day with high hopes and energy, winning their first two individual matches in their mid-morning championship semifinal against No. 3 seed Woodland.

The Wildcats, though, took five of the next six matches with four pins and a technical fall to pull away. With the dual victory mathematically in hand two matches later, Woodland forfeited its final three weight classes in order to end the meet quickly, earning a spot in the final against Ringgold with a 41-33 win.

But Murray bounced back to defeat Hiram in the wrestlebacks, 36-24, and set up the consolation final against Paulding County. Against the Hornets, Murray won the last three matches, including an exclamation point provided by Jeremy Norman’s first-period pin in the 152-pound match.

The Indians stayed in their dual with the Patriots until the final match, too, but couldn’t come up with the necessary results to grab the victory.

“I thought we were inconsistent,” Murray assistant coach Tal Scott said. “Against Dalton (on Friday), we wrestled extremely well ... then going against Woodland, we knew they were tough and we figured that there were a couple matches that we thought we’d win, but not pin, and we ended up getting pinned. That turned everything around, and then the bottom fell out.”

The Indians will have a chance to apply any lessons learned from Saturday’s disappointment relatively soon. The Area 7-4A Traditional Tournament at Southeast is less than three weeks away.

“Hopefully, this will be a stepping stone for the area,” Scott said. “Hopefully, these guys know they’ve got to get better. We’re just going to have to work harder.”

Southeast defeated Ridgeland’s patchwork lineup, 48-27, in their first match in the wrestlebacks, then flirted with an upset of Hiram before falling, 39-36.

Coach David Gann said the Raiders missed some opportunities to notch big points with pins, but was still pleased with his team for taking the Hornets to the brink.

“That’s probably the best we’ve wrestled all year from top to bottom,” he said. “I was very happy with how our team finished out for the weekend. We were a match away from having a chance to take a trophy home.”

Northwest coach Allen Tucker left Rome frustrated after watching his team beat the host Wolves 48-19, then fall out with a 35-33 loss to Lakeview-Fort Oglethorpe.

That was a match Tucker was sure the Bruins should have won.

“I just want six minutes of effort from every wrestler on the mat,” Tucker said. “And that match, we did not get it. We got it from some, but not the whole team — and when you’re in a dual, you’ve got to get it from everybody.”

Dalton’s day ended quickly, as LFO knocked the Catamounts out of the wrestlebacks with an early-morning victory.

In the championship final, Ringgold defeated Woodland, 49-22, following up a 56-16 pasting of Paulding County in the semifinals.

“We wrestled real well this weekend,” Ringgold coach Phil Daniel said. “I didn’t know really how well we stacked up against some of the better teams. Five of the top 10 teams in our state are in this area, so you come here, man, you’re looking at the state tournament basically.”

In order to determine a true second-place winner, Woodland and Paulding County wrestled following the championship, with the Wildcats winning, 47-3.

Saturday’s local matches, results, winners:

Woodland 41, Murray 33: Mark Feeley (152), dec.; Zach Baggett (160), pin; Blake Palmer (275), pin.

Murray 36, Hiram 24: Marcus Favors (125), tech. fall; Bryce Gibson (135), pin; Jonathan Smith (140), dec.; Feeley (145), maj. dec.; Jeremy Norman (152), pin; Matt Buchanan (215), pin; Palmer (275), pin.

Northwest 48, Rome 19: Merle Bolton (112), pin; Rafael Romero (125), maj. dec.; Kenny Michael (130), dec.; Brian Ensminger (135), maj. dec.; J.J. Trammell (140), fft.; Rich Michael (145), maj. dec.; Steven Walkey (152), dec.; Drew Ahmed (160), pin; Kyle Burnett (171), fft.; Carlos Alvarado (275), pin.

LFO 35, Northwest 33: Bolton (112), pin; Bennett (119), pin; Walkey (152), dec.; Burnett (171), fft.; Chris Hopper (189), fft.; Alvarado (275), fft.

Southeast 48, Ridgeland 27: Randy York (112), fft.; Cole Faulkner (119), fft.; David Goforth (125), fft.; Nolan Smith (135), fft.; Tim Sosebee (140), fft.; Isaac Carreon (145), fft.; Raul Ramirez (152), pin; Alan Jackson (215), dec.

Hiram 36, Southeast 39: Charles Napier (112), pin; Smith (135), pin; Sosebee (140), pin; Ramirez (152), maj. dec.; Jackson (215), pin; Corey Rogers (275), pin.

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