In Area 7-AAA wrestling, there’s Gilmer High, and then there’s everyone else.
The 2007 state dual and defending area dual and individual champions are so far ahead of every other school in the area that the rest of the competition is prepared to hand over the region title prior to even stepping foot on the mat at this weekend’s Area 7-AAA wrestling tournament, at where else but Gilmer High.
But just because the Bobcats are the overwhelming favorites to win the team title, does not mean that the rest of the schools are prepared to hand them every individual title.
“The good thing is that Gilmer is fighting for a state championship, and the rest of us are focusing on individuals,” West Hall coach Rod Galvan said. “Gilmer is really the only team in our area that has a chance at a state championship, and they will try to qualify all 14 kids.”
Added Johnson coach Scott Kursh: “Gilmer is definitely the top team, and no one would argue with that.”
Gilmer has a good chance at advancing all 14 wrestlers, seeing that all 14 are seeded in the top four in their respective weight classes. The top four finishers from each weight class qualify for the state tournament, which begins next week at The Arena at Gwinnett.
Although the region championship is all but determined, the coaches still believe that they have some wrestlers who are fully capable of earning that ever elusive state tournament berth.
At Johnson, seniors Micah Mills (189 pounds) and Joey Wirsing (171) are the two Knights Kursh expects to qualify for state. And both have records to back up his expectations. Mills, the No. 3 seed entering the tournament, missed the state tournament last season, but is 34-9 this year, and Wirsing, who is 45-7 this year and the No. 2 seed in his weight class, went 2-2 in the state meet as a junior.
Fittingly, Mills’ toughest competition for the area title is top-seeded David Snider of Gilmer, who placed second in the state in 2007.
For West Hall, the Spartans are also expecting two seniors to qualify for the state tournament.
Colby Yates (130), who has amassed over 200 wins in his career at West Hall, is not only a favorite to compete for the area title, but he is expected to compete for a state title as well.
The top-seeded Yates, who wrestled in the 135-pound weight class all year is dropping down to the 130-pound division to better his chances at winning a title.
“He’s a huge 130,” Galvan said of Yates.
Fellow senior and No. 1 seed Chan Morris (152), Yates’ younger brother Tanner (112) and Antonio Ramirez (125) should also have a strong showing at the area tournament according to Galvan.
While West Hall and Johnson are counting on two wrestlers to qualify for the state meet, Flowery Branch’s coach Shane Lancaster expects atleast four of his wrestlers to take one of the top-four spots in this weekend’s area tournament.
“We have several kids that can go up there and hold there own,” Lancaster said.
Leading the way for the Falcons is 140-pound Ben Yu, who comes into the tournament only having lost to two area opponents all year.
No. 2 seed Corey Johnson (160), who has only lost to one area opponent all year, top-seeds Tom Pennington (215) and Danny Bell (112) will have a good chance to finish in the top four of the area tournament and qualify for state. This year, neither Bell nor Pennington have lost to an area opponent.
Another wrestler that has had a fair share of success against area opponents is Chestatee freshman Julian Oliger (119). Oliger has had an outstanding season for the War Eagles, defeating everybody in Hall County and all but three opponents in Region 7-AAA. Oliger enters the area tournament as the No. 4 seed and will be one of two Chestatee wrestlers vying for spot in the state tournament.
The other War Eagle with a good chance at making the state tournament is junior Conner Comuex (125). Comuex enters the area tournament with a 48-4 record and the No. 1 seed in his weight class.
According to Chestatee coach Tim Garner, Comuex’s toughest competition for the area championship is Gainesville’s Dwayne Hicks, the No. 3 seed.
“Hicks is the only guy that he’s lost to in the area and he had an injury when he wrestled him at the Hall County Championships,” Garner said of Comuex.
With half his team being freshmen and with only one senior, Garner admits that a top-four finish in the area tournament is “unlikely” for Chestatee.
One team that Garner does believe has a shot at a possible area title is Lumpkin County, who has eight wrestlers seeded in the top four of their respective weight classes.
“If Lumpkin County does not end up in second place I’d be very surprised,” Garner admitted. “And if something happens and one of Gilmer’s kids lose, Lumpkin might find itself fighting for first place.”
Also vying for second place will be White County, West Forsyth and Pickens, who each have six wrestlers seeded in the top four. Flowery Branch has five top-four seeds, while North Hall, Gainesville and West Hall each have three. Chestatee and Johnson only have two wrestlers seeded in the top four in their weight classes.
Regardless of the pre-tournament seedings, and aside from Gilmer being the overwhelming favorite for the region title, Johnson’s coach expects that there will be a good battle in every weight class.
“Lots of people say that we have the toughest AAA area in the state,” Kursh said. “No other area is as deep as we are.”