Hall County Championships
When: 5 p.m. Friday and 9:30 a.m. Saturday
Where: Johnson High
Cost: $5 adults/$3 students
Round 1 schedule: North Hall vs. Riverside Military, Chestatee vs. East Hall, West Hall vs. Gainesville, Johnson vs. Flowery Branch.
The Hall County wrestling championships fit nicely in the progression of meets at the end of the regular season.
Starting Friday all seven public high schools in the county, plus Riverside Military, will get a chance to wrestle the rest of the field in a round-robin format at Johnson High.
Trophies for the top three teams and awards for outstanding wrestlers will be doled out after the seventh and final round of the meet is completed Saturday.
"Hall County wrestling has been down for a couple years, but this year there is no mistaking that it is headed in the right direction this year," Flowery Branch coach Shane Millwood said.
After Hall County, it's a quick sprint to the finish of the season with each meet becoming more important.
Feb. 3-4, schools in Area 8-AAA, which constitutes the majority of Hall County, will compete for an Area title at spot in the state sectionals, while Flowery Branch has the Area 8-AAAA duals that same weekend at Habersham Central.
The final two weekends of the season are reserved for the state sectionals Feb. 10-11, followed by the traditional state championship Feb. 16-18 at the Gwinnett Arena.
"While I don't favor a large round-robin event the weekend before Area, we're excited to compete against the other schools in the county," East Hall coach Matt Morkel said.
Moved back from when it used to be contested on New Year's Day, Chestatee coach Carey Whitlow says the timing of the Hall County championships is great since it lets the wrestlers end the team portion of the schedule with such an important event.
The War Eagles' coach adds that the robin-robin format is best, in his opinion, since it lets everyone get a chance to wrestle against one another.
"Our team is really geared up to finish on a high note this weekend," Whitlow said.
Chestatee, North Hall and Flowery Branch are the three circled in as favorites to win the county title.
Chestatee and North Hall each represented Area 8-AAA on Jan. 13-14 in Macon at the State Duals. Flowery Branch is 24-5 in duals competition this season, including a 45-2 mark this season by senior Nick Lankford.
"And West Hall, East Hall and Gainesville are all going to win some matches too," Whitlow said.
"The nice thing is that every team has improved quite a bit," North Hall coach Jay Hargis said.
One red flag for holding this meet just seven days before the Area championships is that the risk of injury is heightened with seven matches in two days.
"This tournament means more to the kids than the coaches because these are their peers that they will see everyday, so they will unquestionably have their game faces on," Millwood said.