While North Hall continues a tradition of sending wrestlers to the sectional tournaments, Chestatee wrestling is setting a new precedent in 2013 as the War Eagles continue to build on the most successful season in program history.
North Hall’s program is building on a year of wins in 2012, but the War Eagles’ program is growing stronger as the team sends over half of the team to the AAAA East Sectional this weekend at West Laurens High in Dexter.
“We actually now have 11 instead of 10,” Chestatee coach Carey Whitlow said. “Joey Perez is going at 220 now.”
The 11 wrestlers in the tournament prove how much the Chestatee wrestling program has changed in the past few years, and Whitlow believes the only place left to go is up.
“Six years ago there were 11 kids in the program,” Whitlow said. “Now there’s 11 going to sectionals.”
Chestatee has already reached their three team goals for this season: winning area duals, winning the Hall County Championship and winning the area individual tournament. The rest, Whitlow said, is “the icing on the cake.”
However sweet the icing may be, the War Eagles are focused on not letting the success or the pressure of being a winning team get to them. In fact, Whitlow hasn’t even looked at the brackets for this weekend because he feels the opponents are much less important how his team prepares.
“We tell our guys not to even worry about it,” Whitlow said. “We tell them this, ‘you have one match, and one match only,’ and then when it’s done ‘you have one match, and one match only.’ We take it one at a time.”
Whitlow’s philosophy seems to be working in the school, and as the wrestling team continues to improve, so do the other War Eagles teams, and Whitlow believes this helps everyone involved.
“I think it’s a two-fold street,” he said. “Whatever is good for the school is good for the teams. We’ve got guys that go watch the other sports and the other teams come and watch us.
“We’re turning into a family. We really don’t care who gets the credit if we do well.”
North Hall is sending seven wrestlers to the AAA East Sectional on Saturday in Morgan County, a number Trojans coach Jay Hargis is absolutely happy with.
“We already took these guys to Area and seven were able to come out in the toughest area to get out of in the whole state,” Hargis said. “I’m pleased with that.”
Both coaches fully believe they have a number of wrestlers that can place at sectionals and in the state tournament, and both have wrestlers headed to the mats this weekend with significant experience at this level.
“Because our area’s so hard we’re going into (sectionals) with confidence,” Hargis said. “We’ve had a tough schedule all year long. We had a dual with Oconee County which we lost by one points, and they ended up placing third in state.”
Tyler Kratzer is the lone senior on the Trojans’ team, but he has wrestled at sectionals and state before. Since this is his final year in the program, however, the next couple of weekends are even more important to him.
“Every match at area, sectionals, state, I’ve just gotta take it as my last match,” Kratzer said.
At the same time, however, he feels that sectionals are just the same as any other individual tournament. Like some of those tournaments, Kratzer isn’t familiar with his first round opponent, but he is prepared nonetheless.
“I’ve just gotta go into it with a clear mind and wrestle hard,” he said.
Even if the traditional tournaments are similar in format and what’s at stake, wrestlers can learn something from each one they wrestle in, and Kratzer thinks wrestling in a tough area certainly helped him get ready for the weekend.
“One things I definitely learned is a lot of guys are taller than me, so I have to learn to battle length,” Kratzer said.
For the Trojans, the team has worked hard all season, and now the wrestlers must take a bit of a break in order to be in top form for sectionals and reduce the risk of injury.
“We kind of had to lighten up this week,” Hargis said. “It’s late in the season, and they’ve done lots of practicing already, so we did some drills and we also had some fun.”
Wrestlers all over the area will try to take everything they’ve learned in practices and matches to heart as they prepare to face more of the top talents in the state. The athletes must place in the top eight in their weight class to advance to the state tournament next weekend at the Macon Centreplex in Macon.