Area traditional meets
Area 8-AA: 5 p.m. Friday, 9 a.m. Saturday at Greater Atlanta Christian School, Norcross
Area 4-AAA: 5 p.m. Friday, 9 a.m. Saturday at Elbert County High, Elberton
Area 8-AAAA: 9:30 a.m. Saturday at Chestatee High, Gainesville
Area 8-AAAAA: 5 p.m. Friday, 9 a.m. Saturday at C.W. Davis Middle, Flowery Branch
Tickets: $7 per day, $10 two-day pass
Imagine for a second being a high school wrestler with one of the most important weekends of the season on the horizon, only to have your practice routine interrupted by a major weather event.
Grapplers have dedicated themselves to being in the gym and wrestling hard every day in preparation for the area traditionals, which begin for most on Friday.
However, a couple of inches of snow swept through Tuesday afternoon, forcing athletes to miss hours of valuable mat time and forcing coaches to trust their kids to be disciplined enough to train the best they could. All area schools were closed to students Wednesday and Thursday.
And no school generally means no practice. In Hall County, they were granted time in the afternoon to get back in the gym Thursday to shake off some of the rust from their time out of a coveted routine. If there’s any consolation, everyone was in the same boat during the winter snow that impacted everyone equally in Northeast Georgia.
In general, it was a headache for coaches and wrestlers alike.
“This is about the worst-case scenario,” said Flowery Branch coach Shane Millwood, whose program will host the Area 8-AAAAA traditionals starting Friday at C.W. Davis Middle in Flowery Branch. “Wrestlers are creatures of habit and really need that practice time together.”
With the duals portion of the wrestling season already completed, they’re all focused on making it to the individual state meet Feb. 13-15 at the Gwinnett Arena. The first step is to make it out of Area, which is a challenge in itself.
The top four wrestlers from each Area move on to the East State sectionals next weekend at a different location for each classification. There’s eight Area meets for the three largest classifications in the state, while Class A-AAA have four Areas.
Already this season, Jefferson in Class AA and Buford in Class AAA have been crowned team state champs. However, this is the weekend that wrestlers from every program are on an equal footing with team points no longer the focus.
With weather playing such a major factor this week, coaches have counted on wrestlers to stay active and off the couch, as much as possible, while away from school. Chestatee coach Carey Whitlow sent a text to all his wrestlers to make it clear they were supposed to be running or working out, since school let out early as the snow arrived Tuesday.
“I just had to count on them to have the integrity to do the right thing,” said Chestatee’s coach, whose program hosts the one-day Area 8-AAAA traditional meet Saturday in Gainesville.
Millwood said it was uplifting to see his Falcons wrestlers so eager to coordinate their voluntary workouts, which took place at the Compound Training Facility in Buford. Flowery Branch’s coach monitored endless messages back and forth between team members as they made sure to get time on the mat together.
“We really used social media and sent thousands of text messages,” Millwood said. “That was really satisfying to see as a coach, that kids would step up and make sure and do what needed to be done.”
When the tradition meet rolls around, wrestlers get a three-pound allowance up for their weight class, which is a standard rule this time of the season based on growth by the Georgia High School Association. This week, due to weather, wrestlers get an additional two-pound buffer since they were away from school and practice.
While almost everyone would rather have practice time together, at least the weight allowance is universal for all wrestlers.
Late in the season, another factor to consider is that no one is completely healthy. By late January, a majority of wrestlers are probably wearing bruises and bumps from the grind of the season.
Jefferson goes into the Area 8-AA traditional without its undefeated 103 wrestler able to take the mat, according to coach Doug Thurmond, but is likely to qualify most of its wrestlers for the Class AA sectionals next weekend in Dublin. Even though Jefferson has won 14 straight titles in the traditional state meet, Thurmond knows they’ll go against very capable programs out of Social Circle and Greater Atlanta Christian this weekend.
“We hope to carry 13 guys to the state sectionals,” Thurmond said.
Area 4-AAA is one of the toughest Areas to push through to the state sectionals. According to North Hall coach Jay Hargis, 48 percent of individual state placers at Macon in 2013 came out of this 13-team grouping.