The Jefferson Dragons wrestling team will start their quest for an unprecedented 15th straight state championship today as they compete in the GHSA state team dual wrestling championships at the Macon Centreplex.
“Oh Lord, it never gets old,” Jefferson coach Doug Thurmond said. “It’s been a fun run and you never want to see something like that end. We don’t talk about it or anything, but the kids know what’s at stake every time they hit the mat.”
Jefferson (30-0) will be joined in the Class AAA bracket by two other area schools: Lumpkin County and Jackson County. Competing in the AAAA bracket will be North Hall and Buford, while Commerce qualified in Class A.
The team duals this weekend are all about earning points for a team total.
Or as Thurmond put it, “It’s your best 14 guys going against their best 14 guys.”
At the traditional championship next month at Gwinnett, wrestlers will battle for individual glory.
Leading Thurmond’s Jefferson squad are seniors Mitch McGhee (120 pounds, 2015 state champ), Tanner Thurmond (132, 2015 state champ) and Will Ballard (152, 2014 state champ). Rounding out the seniors are Chuck Allen (third in his weight class in 2015) and Deshon Lester (fifth in 2015).
What to watch for in Class AAAA is the budding rivalry between Buford and North Hall. Buford won the Class AAA title in 2014, but were upset by North Hall in the Region 8-AAAA finals the following year. Buford avenged that loss and returned the favor on Saturday defeating North Hall to win their first Area championship.
Both North Hall and Buford lost in the quarterfinals of the state tournament last year, as Gilmer went on to win its sixth consecutive state championship.
“Gilmer is so good I don’t know if anyone can beat them, but our goal is to try and get to the finals and see what we can do,” Buford coach Jason Burton said.
Buford juniors Trent Ferguson (138 pounds, 2015 state champ) and Jack Ness (182, fourth place in 2015) will do their best to guide the Wolves to that point.
Commerce is fighting for its third straight state championship in Class A.
“We’ve been moving guys around and they’ve done a great job, but we’re real excited because we’re fully healthy for the first time this year,” Commerce coach Kendall Love said. “We’re ready to go.”
The championships start each day with a morning weigh-in. The first round matchups are today, followed by the quarterfinals Friday morning and the semifinals Friday afternoon. The championship matchups will be held on Saturday.
“You have to stay focused, keep your weight down and do what your capable of,” Thurmond said. “Each kid has his own role. You have to stay focused on your goals.”