Sullens caps off stellar prep career with Class AAA title
Devin Sullens finished off his high school wrestling career in the best way possible last week in Macon, winning the Class AAA 220-pound state championship.
Sullens polished off an unbeaten senior season with a 4-0 record at the state, capped off with a 3-2 win over Gilmer County's Dylan Galloway in the title match. Sullens, who finished 34-0 on the season, will take his wrestling talent to the collegiate level in the fall after earning a scholarship for wrestling and football at Reinhardt University.
After finishing as the state runner-up as a sophomore and junior, Sullens became the Warriors' first state champion in a decade since Caleb Morris won back-to-back state titles in 2010-11.
“Since he was a freshman, Devin has been one of those kids that was never out of a match,” WCHS head coach Patrick Lowendick said. “He has always been a kid that will battle and fight to the end. He's always given everything he's got when he's on the mat. He never cared who was next, whoever he faced was going to get a piece of Devin Sullens, and that's a great mindset for a wrestler.”
Sullens started the tournament with a 22-second pin of Dawson County's Bradley Newton, and then pinned Pierce County's Jadon Lyons in 39 seconds in the quarterfinals.
In the semifinals, Sullens and Sonoraville's Draven Peppers locked up in a six-minute match, with the Sullens taking a 7-6 decision.
“I had two of fastest pins of the entire tournament (in the first two rounds), so I was confident going into the match,” Sullens said. “He was strong and athletic, and I got sloppy with some of my throws and he was able to score some points. I never trailed and I felt like I had control of the match the whole way.”
Lowendick agreed with Sullens about being in control of the semifinal win.
“The final score really isn't indicative of how the match went,” Lowendick said. “Devin never trailed and he was never in danger of losing the match. Some weird things happened to make it close; four of the six points came off mistakes. The kid was really strong and athletic, and I think this was the first time Devin's had to go the distance all year.”
In the championship match, Sullens squared off with Galloway, who posted three straight pins to earn a spot in the finals.
Sullens scored on a takedown midway through the first period and picked up an escape point in the third-period to key the win. Sullens gave up an escape point in third period and then was called for stalling late in the match, but stayed out of trouble in the final seconds to secure the win.
“We changed some things up, changed his stance, changed his approach on offense a little,” Lowendick said. “A lot of people don't realize wrestling is like a chess match. It's not just about grabbing somebody and throwing them on the mat. You get to this level, there are no easy matches.”
Sullens said he was a little uncomfortable in the early moments of the title match, but an early takedown was all Sullens' needed to get things going. After the takedown for a 2-0 lead, Sullens added an escape point to push it to 3-0, before Galloway added a pair of points late in the match to make the final 3-2 in Sullens' favor.
“It was a struggle early, I just wasn't feeling it early in the match, but once I got the takedown halfway through the first period I felt in control and knew I could ride it out and win,” Sullens “I was up 3-0 and he stood up (escape point) and then I got called for stalling late so that gave him another point.”
Sullens got a little extra incentive heading into the championship match as he watched his sister Sidney win the 152-pound state title in the Girl's All-Classification tournament.
The Sullens siblings are the second set of siblings to win state title in the same year.
“She won it in about 20 seconds, and it was right before my match, so that got my adrenaline going,” Sullens said. “It was great for both of us, we kind of pumped each other up.”
Sullens wins first girl's state wrestling title
After finishing as a state runner-up the past two years at the Georgia High School Association's Girls All-Classification tournament, White County High School junior Sidney Sullens broke down the door this year, winning the 152-pound state title.
Sullens, the runner-up in the 142-pound division last season, posted a 4-0 record last week in Macon to become the first girl's state champion in school history.
“I started wrestling when I was seven, I think,” Sullens said. “That experience has helped me a lot. I finished second as a freshman, and then second again last year, and this year I just wanted to win. That's all I've wanted to do. “I was really excited; I didn't know what to do. I was just so happy, it was a great moment.”
Sullens, along with her brother, Devin, made history as well, becoming only the second set of sister/brother siblings to claim state title in the same year. Ola's Amani Jones and Reese Jones were the first sister/brother duo to accomplish the feat, each winning a state title at the 2020 state tournament.
“As a whole this season, she's really stepped up her toughness, and that's been a key,” WCHS head coach Patrick Lowendick said. “She's always been one of the tougher girls, but for the past two years, there has been one girl in her weight class that had her number. Midway through this season, it was obvious she had reached another level.”
Sullens had to compete against boys for the most part in the regular season, Lowendick said Sullens has benefitted from wrestling bigger and stronger opponents.
“When she wrestled guys, she was physically outmatched at times, and technique wise as well at times, but she got to the point where she realized she could compete and have a chance in every match,” Lowendick said. “It became obvious she had broken down that mental barrier and she deserved to be on the big stage.”
After rolling through the first two rounds with wins over Jordan's Kiera Johnson (pin) and Greenbrier's Arieana Bacon (6-4), Sullens ran into Apalachee's Samantha Hauff, who finished fifth in the 142-pound class in the 2020 state tournament, in the semifinals
Sullens took a 2-0 lead early in the match, but Hauff tied things up with an escape and a one-point penalty against Sullens. With less than a minute, the match was even at 2-2. Sullens managed to get off the mat and pull away from Hauff for an escape point and held on for the 3-2 win.
“It was really close down to the end. The biggest thing for me was that she was just stronger than me, but I was able to stand up and get the win.”
Sullens said having the experience of wrestling against boy's during the regular season paid off in the final seconds of the match with Hauff.
“If I hadn't been wrestling guys, I'm not sure I would have been able to stand up (in the semifinals” Sullens said. “Wrestling guys is more about technique than it is strength.”
Sullens meet a familiar face in the finals in Chestatee's Ashley Godinez, who placed sixth in the 142-pound class last season at the state meet.
Sullens and Godinez have wrestled several times before, and Sullens went into the match with an aggressive game plan. Sullens went on the attack and Godinez earned a stalling warning in the opening seconds. When the pair got back to the middle of the mat, Sullens landed a move to put Godinez on the mat, and Sullens needed only a few seconds to end, pinning Godinez 22 seconds into the first period.
“I knew I had it when she got a stalling call,” Sullens said. “I don't think she was physically ready for me. I snapped her down and then threw her in head lock.”
Sullens said while winning her first state title was pretty exciting, getting to watch her brother also win a state title made it even better.
It was exciting for us,” Sullens said. “He's a senior and this is my last year wrestling with him in high school. When he won, it made me so happy.”
Sullens has one more chance to chase another state title is already thinking about next year. When asked if she planned on repeating as a state champion, Sullens said with a laugh, “yes, I do.”
Whitlow, Trowell finish in Top 6
Freshman Isaiah Whitlow and sophomore JD Trowell both earned a pair of wins in their state tournament debuts, while sophomore Kane Lowery and freshman Caden Autry each picked up their first state wins.
“We had four guys competing in the state tournament for the first time,” Lowendick said. “This is the big stage, and it just feels different. It's a bigger arena, more fans, so it takes some time to get used to it. I think by the end of the tournament, all four of them realized that they aren't that far away from maybe being on the podium. If you just make it to the state tournament, you are already one of the best in the state, so these four guys now know what it takes to compete at this level.”
In the 106-pound division, Whitlow, the Area 7-AAA champion, opened the tournament with a 16-14 win over East Jackson's Charlie Wheeler, but suffered a loss in the quarterfinals to Pierce County's Ty Harbrough. Whitlow stayed alive in the consolation round with a second period pin of Ringgold's Zane Roher, but fell to LaFayette's Jacob Hamilton in the consolation quarterfinals, and finished in the top six in the weight class.
In the heavyweight class, Trowell, the Area 7-AAA champion, won his opening match in the 285-pound division, pinning Murray County's Eli Hope. But in the quarterfinals, Morgan County's Micah Reed posted a third-period pin to knock Trowell into the consolation bracket. Trowell shook off the loss and pinned Upson-Lee's Trenton Manning at the 1:14 mark of his next match to stay alive in the consolation bracket. Trowell was eliminated in the quarterfinals, falling to Rockmart's Jase Davis, finishing in the top six in the weight class
At 160 pounds, Kane Lowery posted a 1-2 on the effort at the state meet. After dropping his first match to LaFayette's Hunter Deal, he bounced back to beat Pierce County's Zach Fullard with a second-period pin. He was eliminated from the tournament in the next round, falling to Cherokee Bluff's Brayden Nance.
At 113 pounds, Caden Autry also posted a 1-2 record in his state debut. He dropped his opening match to Coahulla Creek's Jesus Sanchez, but pinned Harlem's Devon Overbee in 13 seconds. Autry's first state tournament experience ended in the next round of wrestle-backs as he fell to North Murray's Dawson Marr.