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Wrestlers going for individual glory
Area 7-AAA, 8-AA traditionals start today
West Hall senior Rudy Vazquez holds Logan Herford in a head lock during Thursday's practice in the Spartans' wrestling room. - photo by SARA GUEVARA

Area 7-AAA

traditional championships

When: 5:30 p.m. today, 8:30 a.m. Saturday

Where: Creekview High, Canton

Cost: $7 per day; $10 two-day pass

Defending champions: Gilmer

Directions: From Gainesville, take Hwy. 369 west and turn left on Hwy. 306. Turn left onto GA 400 South and travel to exit 14 (Hwy. 20 West). Turn right on GA 20 and drive approximately 12 miles. Turn left on Owens Store Road and Creekview High is one mile on the left.

The traditional wrestling tournaments are a way for coaches to let wrestlers off the leash and see how they can fare individually. At this point in the season, there’s no more strategizing for the sake of a team title. Wrestlers are out for individual glory at this point in the season.

"It’s every man for himself now," Flowery Branch coach Shane Lancaster said.

The Area 7-AAA traditional meet starts today at Creekview High in Canton, with wrestlers vying for a shot at next weekend’s state sectionals at Eagles Landing High in Stockbridge. Region 8-AA is wrestling at Fannin County with the top four in each class headed to the sectionals next weekend at Jefferson.

Jefferson is the headliner this weekend as they begin the quest for a ninth consecutive traditional state title. It already earned its eighth straight at the state duals in Macon earlier this season.

Still, Dragons coach Doug Thurmond is happy to just take things one step at a time in the first year in Class AA. His biggest concern this weekend is an injury-riddled lineup, including one starter that will not wrestle since breaking his hand.

While wrestlers are out for individual state titles, the points are accumulated in the process to determine the team state champions.

"Our kids have been told that every match is important, and they don’t want to be left at home next weekend for the sectionals," Thurmond said.

Seeding and byes in the first round for the Area 7-AAA tournament is based on head-to-head record and common opponents. Seeding for the 8-AA tournament was held on Thursday night in Blue Ridge.

Lancaster said that the best competition in 7-AAA is going to come in the 112-pound and 119-pound weight classes, with a bulk of the teams bringing an experienced wrestler to the mat. Those weight classes have more state-caliber quality talent than can qualify for the sectionals, Lancaster said.

West Hall and Flowery Branch are two of the deepest Hall County programs in the lightweights. Omar Lopez (103), Tanner Yates (112), Logan Herford (119) and Rudy Vazquez (145) are the Spartans’ keys to earning team points.

Nick Lankford (103), Zach Cannon (112) and Danny Bell (119) are all state placer material for the Falcons in the lightweights.

"Every team has their own heavy hitters," West Hall coach Eric Radich said. "That makes the format a lot more balanced among the teams with wrestlers earning points."

West Forsyth is still considered a favorite to win after taking the Area 7-AAA title. Gilmer and White County are also looked upon to make it a close race.

Jefferson is a clear favorite to win 8-AA team bragging rights heading into the Class AA state sectionals. "We’d be very disappointed if we didn’t qualify our guys for state," Thurmond said.

North Hall’s Colby McClain (215) is looking to have a strong weekend at the 7-AAA meet to kick start his run for the state championships. He was the Upper Weight Most Outstanding Wrestler in the Hall County Championships. Wesley Adams (125) and Shane Doster (140) are looking to qualify for the sectionals for the Trojans, after also emerging with Hall County titles this season.

Brandon Dyer (135) and Ben Yu (152) were Hall County champions for the Falcons.

Gainesville has a pair of Hall County champions still wrestling with Graham Simmons (160) and Trahern Ricks (171).

The finals for the Area 7-AAA traditionals will be held Saturday night.

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