CANTON — Area 7-AAA wrestling coaches talked all week about how razor-thin the margin for error would be for wrestlers in this year’s traditionals tournament at Creekview High. Weight classes loaded with talent left people wandering who will head to next weekend’s state sectionals at Eagles Landing High and who would be left home.
Friday’s first two rounds of action proved the predictions true. Plenty of close matches decided by one or two singles moves made the difference between qualifying for today’s semifinals and having to settle for an early morning match in the wrestle backs.
"These have been some great matches," White County coach Tim Bragg said. "We may be looking at as many as five state champions right here.
"If you make it out of this area, you deserve to be in the sectionals."
One of the closest matches of the first day came in a 160-pound match, which West Forsyth’s Matt Hatcher won 15-14 over Gainesville’s Trahern Ricks.
West Forsyth, the Area 7-AAA duals champions, finished with eight wrestlers qualifying for the semifinals and are currently second in the points standing (53).
In first place after day one is Gilmer (72) with 10 wrestlers securing berths into today’s semifinals. The Bobcats are the defending Class AAA traditional state champions.
Flowery Branch had a remarkable first day with nine wrestlers qualifying for the semifinals. The Falcons are currently third in the team points standings with 51. Lumpkin County is in sixth place (32) and White County is seventh (30).
"Things went our way today and we were able to capitalize," Flowery Branch coach Shane Lancaster said. "There’s really going to be some solid semifinal matches today."
The Falcons had two keys wins that sparked their big day. The first came in the 160-pound class when unseeded wrestler Cory Orr picked up an upset quarterfinal victory against White County’s No. 2 seed Blake Limbaugh.
Another big win for Flowery Branch was at 189 when George Kudyba managed a come-from-behind-victory against West Forsyth’s Scott Laney. Trailing by two points, Kudyba managed to put his opponent in a headlock and secured a near fall for a 5-4 win.
Flowery Branch has been consistently strong in the lightweights this season, which is proving to be the case once again. Nick Lankford (103), Zach Cannon (112), Danny Bell (119) and Brandon Dyer (130) all won matches to qualify for the semifinals. Ben Yu (152), Orr (160), Chris Amos (171), Kudyba (189) and Jonathan Martinez (285) also picked up wins to qualify for the semifinals.
"Coming in I felt like we had a shot to have four or five make the semifinals," Lancaster added. "So I was really pleased with how things went today."
Some wrestlers are out to make a repeat trip to the state championships this season. Others are just looking for a little redemption. North Hall’s Shane Doster (140) picked up a quarterfinal victory against West Forsyth’s Colby Tallant to advance to this morning’s semifinals.
The win was especially pleasing for Doster after breaking his foot in the 2008 Hall County championships and missing the rest of the season. He’ll have his hands full in this year’s semifinals against Gilmer’s No. 1 seed Cody Bollinger with the winner assuring a spot in the state sectionals.
"I think all the weight classes are stacked in this area," Doster said. "I’m really looking forward to this match (today)."
Semifinals action starts at 11 a.m. today at Creekview. The finals are expected to begin at 5:30 p.m. The top four wrestlers in each weight class advance to next Saturday’s Class AAA state sectionals.
The state championships are Feb 20-22 at the Arena at Gwinnett.