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Grinding through the wrestling season
Area traditionals begin today
West Hall’s Omar Lopez pins North Hall’s Clay Williamson during a match in the 119-pound weight class Saturday as part of the Hall County Duals finals at Gainesville High School. Lopez won the match. - photo by SARA GUEVARA | The Times

8-AAA Area traditionals info

Area traditionals
8-AAAA: At Habersham Central, Friday 5:30 p.m., Saturday 9 a.m.
8-AAA: At Chestatee, Friday 4:30 p.m., Saturday 9 a.m.
8-AA: At Jefferson; Friday 5 p.m., Saturday 9 a.m.
6-AA: At Lovett; Saturday only, 9 a.m.
8-A: At Riverside; Saturday only, 9 a.m.
Admission: $7 per day

It’s the point in the wrestling season when all records go out the window. For each wrestler, it’s a clean slate that comes with a chance to be an individual state champion. Today, the area traditionals begin the road to state.

For each weight class, the top 16 will advance to next week’s sectionals. The top eight from sectionals will compete in the state championships.

Though wrestlers get a clean slate, their bodies don’t. This is the toughest time of the season in fact.

“It’s so mental at this point,” White County coach Tim Bragg said. “Attitude is the difference, because it’s been such a grind. These kids have been at it since October, they battled through the break, and their body gets so spent. Some play spring sports, so there’s a lot of pulling in different directions.

“I’ve seen a lot of good kids lose their interest and focus and don’t wrestle to their ability (during traditionals).”

The Warriors will compete in the Area 8-AAA traditionals, which began today at Chestatee and finish Saturday.

Also competing in the meet are area schools Chestatee, Gainesville, Johnson, North Hall, West Hall, White County and Lumpkin County.

There are several schools that could advance multiple wrestlers to sectionals, including Area Duals champion Oconee County, White County, Hall County champion West Hall and North Hall.

Bragg has characterized his team as hot at times, cold at others. He’s looking for a more consistent showing this weekend and said the Warriors have spent the week getting healthy, working lightly and running a lot.

“We want to be injury free and at our best,” Bragg said.

The Spartans, who edged Flowery Branch last weekend in the Hall County Championships, have several wrestlers undefeated in area matches and former state placers. Coach Eric Radich believes there’s something to be said for wrestlers who compete at a high level at this point in the season.

“It can wear you down,” Radich said. “It really says something for the people that make it this far and who stand at the top of the podium. It takes a special person to do that, because they made it through a long season of bumps and bruises.

“We’re responding well to (this challenge). We’ve got some younger kids who are hungry and some seniors and juniors who have been working real hard. We’re ready to go.”

Flowery Branch will travel to Habersham Central for the 8-AAAA meet, which begins today at 5:30 p.m. It’s the Falcons’ first season in Class AAAA, and coach Shane Lancaster has identified defending state champions Loganville, Clarke Central, Rockdale and Heritage as tough competition.

But he also includes the Falcons in that mix.

“We stack up well and I’m not sure if there’s necessarily a frontrunner,” Lancaster said. “We can contend for a top three or four spots.”

In Area 8-AA, local schools like East hall, Jackson County, Dawson County, Banks County and Union County have to deal with the dynasty Jefferson has built and maintained for a decade.

The 8-AA meet begins today at 5 p.m. and runs through Saturday.

“Jefferson is the team to beat, not only in area but state,” Vikings coach Matt Morkel said.
Morkel is hoping the Vikings will use the area meet as a learning experience. The Vikings are a young, developing team with no returning state placers and just one senior.

“For us, to have someone, or multiple guys (qualify for sectionals), would be great,” Morkel said. “But we’re just hoping to gain experience and establish our program.”

Riverside Military is hosting the 8-A meet, which will be held Saturday and includes area schools Commerce and Towns County.

Riverside returns just three wrestlers from last year and Eagles coach Errol Bisso is hoping for his kids to put up a good fight.

“All I want to do is run a good tournament and if we slip a few kids through, that’s fine,” Bisso said.

Buford will travel to Lovett for the 6-AA meet, which is Saturday at 9 a.m.

Wolves coach Gary McCroskey considers Lovett, Westminster and Greater Atlanta Christian among the top 6-AA teams. The Wolves are looking for state placers after none last year.

“We’ve been wrestling and working hard,” McCroskey said. “We’ll see where we come out and what happens.”

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