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Every wrestler for themself at 7-AAA tourney
West Hall High’s Laykin Herford, top, and Gainesville High’s Joseph Lozano square off during the Hall County Duals in January at the Flowery Branch High gymnasium.

Area 7-AAA Championships

Traditional format

Where: Gilmer High

When: 4 p.m. Friday, 9 a.m. Saturday

Cost: $7 per day per GHSA rules

Last year’s winner: Gilmer

It’s time for Area 7-AAA’s wrestlers to get a little greedy and start looking out for No. 1: themselves.

With the duals season complete, wrestlers get the chance to start the trek to an individual state title this weekend during the area’s traditional championships at Gilmer High in Ellijay.

“This is one of the key points of the season,” West Hall coach Eric Radich said.

While a team winner will be crowned this weekend — Gilmer has claimed the title for five consecutive seasons — the purpose of the tournament is to qualify four wrestlers in each weight class for the Class AAA East sectionals set for Feb. 12-13 at Locust Grove High. Wrestling will also award fifth place in each weight class in the event that an alternate to the sectionals is needed.

“This is the wrestlers’ time to shine,” Flowery Branch coach Shane Lancaster said. “It’s go time for the kids.”

The mindset for wrestling in the traditionals also takes on a different mentality. With wrestlers looking to eventually qualify for state, the main concern is to survive and advance from each match, as opposed to during the duals team format where pins are encouraged to bolster team point totals.

However, the one constant is that the powers that be in Area 7-AAA, including the state’s top-ranked Gilmer and second-ranked West Forsyth, also translate into pretty stout teams in the individual competition.

The area and state duals champion Bobcats, as well as the Wolverines, White County and Lumpkin County (the top four placers from the area duals) will certainly qualify their fair share for the sectionals. Flowery Branch, North Hall, West Hall and Chestatee could also each qualify a handful to move on to the 16-man brackets in each weight class at the sectionals.

“You just have to worry about advancing at this point,” Gilmer coach Sam Snider said. “This is a great area for wrestling.”

“I think this is probably the toughest area for wrestling in any classification in the state,” North Hall coach Jay Hargis said.

Snider says that it is very likely that two wrestlers from 7-AAA will meet up in the finals Saturday, and then again meet up in the state finals in two weeks. That’s a bold statement considering there are eight areas making up Class AAA. Of course, the No. 1 seed in the sectionals has a definite advantage, since the No. 2 seed has to face No. 1 from the crossover area at the sectionals.

And with wrestlers seeking state championships as the ultimate prize, some weight classes are going to be more hotly contested than others. Most coaches believe that the best balance of competition rests in the lower weight classes between 112-135 pounds.

Lancaster, who has eight wrestlers he believes can qualify for sectional competition, thinks the most compelling action for fans to watch will be at 125. North Hall’s Wesley Adams, White County’s Caleb Morris, West Hall’s Tanner Yates, Lumpkin County’s Todd Berry, Flowery Branch’s Caleb Schulman and Gilmer’s Zach Horton are all talented wrestlers with a shot at the sectionals.

At 189, it’s just at tight with North Hall’s Lee Sisson, Lumpkin County’s Jake McClure, West Forsyth’s Reese Thompson, Flowery Branch’s George Kudyba, West Hall’s Chris Price, Chestatee’s Ed Villeda and Gainesville’s Graham Simmons will all make this an interesting weight class battle for fans to follow.

“This is going to be a great weekend for wrestling all the way around,” Lancaster said.

At the sectionals, the top 16 in each weight class will compete. The top eight in each weight class advance to the state finals Feb. 18-20 at the Gwinnett Arena.

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