CUMMING—The storyline has been a pretty consistent one at the Area 7-AAA Duals since Gilmer joined the mix in 2005.
As winners of four straight area titles, the Bobcats have been the team to beat each year. Everyone else has been scrapping, trying to lock up the No. 2 spot and also earn a berth in the state duals.
While Gilmer coach Sam Snider doesn’t see it being a run away fifth straight area title this year, the Bobcats are still in the driver’s seat after their 66-12 win against West Hall on the first day of the Area 7-AAA Duals on Friday at West Forsyth in Cumming.
"The finals are going to be very interesting (today)," Snider said. "I feel that Lumpkin County, West Forsyth and White County are very close to us.
"We have to keep the momentum going because this area is very tough this year."
Gilmer faces Lumpkin County in the semifinals at 10:30 a.m. today.
West Forsyth coach Dennis Stromie is one that believes Gilmer is still the team to beat. He isn’t going to be lulled by the fact that the Bobcats graduated 12 wrestlers from its area championship squad.
"Even though they graduated so many from last year’s team, they’ve won so many times in a row that they’ve probably had some good ones waiting behind them," Stromie said after the Wolverines’ 34-28 win against Creekview. "To get ahead of Gilmer you’re going to have to do it head-to-head."
Stromie was particularly frustrated with his team’s apparent lack of concentration associated with hosting the area tournament. "But an ugly win is better than a pretty loss," he said.
West Forsyth faces White County in the other semifinal at 10:30 a.m. today. The Warriors advanced to the semifinals with a first-round bye and a 39-17 win against Flowery Branch in the second round.
White County coach Tim Bragg knows that it’s going to be a fierce fight with four teams competing for the two spots to the state meet.
"This is an unbelievable area," Bragg said. "Whoever comes from this area is going to represent us well at state."
The Indians are looking to earn their first trip to the state duals since the current format was adopted in 2000.
"We have a lot of respect for Gilmer and the good wrestlers and coaches they have," Lumpkin County coach Brian Matthews said. "But we have a lot of experience on our team, so I don’t think the pressure will get to them."
Lumpkin County advanced to the semifinals with wins against Johnson (72-0) and Pickens (39-29). The Indians’ win against the Dragons was a touch of revenge after being put out by Pickens each of the last two years in the area duals.
Gilmer cruised to victory with seven pins in its only match of the opening day of competition. Ian Smith (152 pounds), Hunter Barnes (160) and Andrew Smith (171) got things going early with two pins and a major decision in the first three weight classes. The Bobcats are the youngest of the contenders this season after graduating 12 seniors from last year’s area championship team.
Nobody was surprised by the Indians strong performance either. James Snipes (112), Wes Forrester (119), Michael Fortner (125,130), Chris Burnette (135), Jake McClure (171), Brandon Roberts (189), Travis Burton (215) and Cody Cantrell (285) each finished with a pair of pins Friday for the Indians.
Matthews said that his program should match up well with Gilmer today in the semifinals.
For White County, Caleb Morris (103), Dustin Forrester (119), Jamal Payette (135), Dallas Dutter (140), Blake Limbaugh (160), Bradley McDougald (171), John Young (189), Shannon Gooch (215) and Tyler Hamilton (285) all had pins against the Falcons.
The closest match of the day was a 36-36 draw between Flowery Branch and North Hall. Flowery Branch won on the fourth tie-breaker criteria (most technical falls) after pins, wins and unsportsmanlike penalties couldn’t determine a winner. Flowery Branch had one technical fall and North Hall didn’t have any.
"Matches like that are not fun for the coaches," Flowery Branch coach Shane Lancaster said.
Wrestling in the consolation rounds begins at 8:30 a.m. The finals are expected to start at 1:30 p.m. at West Forsyth.