Hall County Championships
When: 1 p.m. Friday, 9 a.m. Saturday
Where: Flowery Branch High
Last year’s winner: Flowery Branch
Schools competing: Flowery Branch, Gainesville, Johnson, West Hall, North Hall, East Hall and Chestatee
Flowery Branch wrestling coach Shane Lancaster doesn’t want his team to get too consumed thinking about the opportunity that awaits the program this weekend in the Hall County Championships. He knows, as the back-to-back defending champions, everyone else is gunning to knock off the Falcons to become the Kings of Hall County themselves.
It’s even bigger than that though for Flowery Branch. With a win, the Falcons would become the first three-time defending champions in this event since North Hall did so in 2002. In fact North Hall (1988-1996 and 2000-2002) is the only other school to record a three-peat in the Hall County Championships, which is now in its 26th year.
“Trying to win three in a row is a great goal to have,” Lancaster said. “It’s certainly a motivator for the older guys that have been here for the other two.
“But it’s really a conversation topic we’ve kept on the back burner.”
When Flowery Branch won the tourney for the first time in 2008, it broke up West Hall’s bid for three straight. Similarly, when the Spartans won it in 2006, it kept Gainesville from its first three in a row at the country championships.
Johnson (1986-1987) is the only other Hall County school to win back-to-back titles at this meet, which was expanded to seven schools when Flowery Branch and Chestatee opened in 2002.
“To be in the position to go for three straight at Hall County is a blessing for our kids,” Lancaster said. “It shows that they’re willing to work hard to achieve their goals.”
Of course, the Hall County championships is not just about claiming a team title. Today at Flowery Branch, wrestlers will go for individual titles. At Flowery Branch, defending Class AAA state champion Danny Bell (119 pounds) is looking to leave as a four-time Hall County champion. Several other Falcons are looking for their third title.
“I think this is the appropriate way to crown champions on both sides,” West Hall coach Eric Radich said. “I really like the format we have for the Hall County championships.”
Wrestling will start today and conclude Saturday to crown the team champion in a round robin format.
While everyone is looking to take down the Falcons, there is plenty of parity to go around and should make for a close competition. Flowery Branch, North Hall, West Hall and Chestatee are among those looking to win it all. And with most teams taking part in tournaments and matches scattered around the area early in the season, this is the first time they’ll all be under the same roof this season.
For West Hall, it will be the first time to see most of the other Hall County schools this season. In a head-to-head meet on Dec. 8, the Spartans defeated Chestatee by only one point. That was West Hall’s only time seeing another Hall County school heading into the weekend.
And with only seven schools involved, one school will earn a bye in each round of the team format. In the individual competition today, byes will vary for each weight class depending on how many wrestlers are competing.
“I think the Hall County championships format is the best chance for the wrestlers to compete,” North Hall coach Jay Hargis said. “It’s the kind of format that you’re only able to do in a smaller county.”