When: 5 p.m. today and 9:30 a.m. Saturday
Where: Area 2-A, Social Circle High; Area 8-AA, Elbert County High; Area 8-AAA, Chestatee High; Area 8-AAAA, Habersham Central High
Cost: $7 per day
Less than a month ago, it was North Hall battling Chestatee to the wire in the Area 8-AAA duals. A week ago, it was the same two teams along with Flowery Branch deadlocked in a three-way tie at the Hall County duals.
Coaches around the area say to expect much of the same excitement this weekend when their teams compete in their respective area traditional tournaments.
“This is going to be an exciting weekend,” Lumpkin County coach Brian Matthews said. “It’s going to be tough. It’s going to be a difficult tournament, but we’re looking forward to it.”
The traditionals differ from the duals tournaments in that individual wrestlers are placed in a bracket and compete for a high individual standing rather than teams competing
At the end of the tournament, wrestlers that finish in the top five will win points for their respective teams, which will determine team standings. Wrestlers that finish in the top four will advance to the sectional tournament next week with a chance at state on the line.
Perhaps the best battle of all this weekend is going to be the one taking place in Area 8-AAA, which begins at 5 p.m. today at Chestatee.
North Hall and Chestatee have battled with each other all season. The Trojans have come out on top twice, once for the Area 8-AAA duals championship and once to force a three-way tie at the Hall County duals.
But Chestatee coach Carey Whitlow isn’t afraid to consider his wrestlers frontrunners this weekend.
“Did I mention Chestatee is going for it?” he said repeatedly. “We’re thinking about getting big X’s painted on our backs. If we wrestle like we’re capable of, we’re going to be right there at the top.”
Whitlow said that he expects strong individual performances across the board for his wrestlers.
He mentioned Jose Reyes-Lavallee (106), Bart Velasquez (113), Cody Etris (138) and Dylan Brock (195) as strong contenders, but did not limit his list to just those four.
“We’ve got eight seniors in this thing,” he said. “We’ve got a good shot to send 10 or 12 guys to sectionals. Maybe even 14. We’re going for it.”
Equally as strong, if not equal in expectations, is Lumpkin County, which, according to Matthews, is a better team in the traditionals than the duals.
“We’ve got some kids that can get deeper into the brackets and score some points for us,” he said. “We’ve got some guys that can make it to the finals, or they at least have a good shot. When you make it that far, you’re going to get some points.”
Matthews said that, while getting his kids to sectionals is high on the priority list, winning an area title in either the traditionals or the duals was one of the team’s goals before the season.
“That’s what we’re striving for,” he said. “And if we do that, we’ll be sending some kids to sectionals anyway.”
In Area 8-AA, as always, the favorite is Jefferson, which has won 11 consecutive state traditionals championships.
But that doesn’t mean coach Doug Thurmond is taking this weekend any lighter.
“We’re busting our behinds to be prepared for this thing,” he said. “We can’t make mistakes right now.”
The Dragons boast two individuals who have won two state championships. Cain Finch (152) and Forrest Przybysz (182) are each chasing a third state title, while Isaac Kelly (132) will go for a third appearance. He has won one state championship.
“And we’re looking for a lot more than that,” Thurmond said. “Our goal is to send all 14 to sectionals, and we’re capable of doing that. But being capable and actually doing it are two different things.”
Flowery Branch is looking for a good showing in Area 8-AAAA.
After being crowned champion in the Hall County duals, the Falcons are looking to extend their success into this weekend.
But coach Shane Millwood expects a tough fight.
“We had 10 points separating the top three teams at the area duals,” he said. “It’s going to be a dogfight.”
Flowery Branch will be without Robert Bland (152), who broke his foot on Jan. 25. According to Millwood, he would have been the second seed in his class.
“We’ve got to fight back from that,” he said. “But I like all 13 of my guys’ chances. We’ve got some guys that have been on a run all year. We’ve just got to finish.”