Fresh off the Falcons’ first Hall County Duals title last weekend, they have a shot this weekend at the Area 7-AAA Duals to earn the school’s first berth in the state duals. The top two finishers at the Area meet advance to face the state’s best teams in Class AAA Duals next weekend at the Macon Centerplex.
But realistically there’s only one trip to state on the line with the state’s top ranked Gilmer in the mix.
Flowery Branch was close to advancing to state last year after finishing fourth. This year, the Falcons want to keep the winning ways going after winning Hall County last weekend.
"Our program has a lot of momentum right now," Flowery Branch senior Corey Johnson said. "But now we’re going to be wrestling against some of the state’s best and have to be prepared to wrestle hard."
"We were so close last season, and didn’t make it," Flowery Branch junior Ben Yu said. "I remember that was not a good feeling."
The Falcons enter the Area 7-AAA meet as Hall County’s highest seeded team at No. 5.
No. 1 ranked Gilmer (19-3) has the top spot in the Area meet. The defending state champion Bobcats have already assembled quite a resumé this season with wins in the Hardaway Invitational, Amicalola Classic and a second place finish among a pool of Class AAAAA metro Atlanta powers in the Parkview Duals.
Pickens earned the No. 2 seed by way of a win against Lumpkin County on Tuesday night. White County is the No. 3 seed with head-to-head advantage over Lumpkin County from earlier in the season.
The Indians are the No. 4 seed.
In the double-elimination format, each of the top four seeds earn a first-round bye in the two-day Area 7-AAA Duals.
Gilmer clearly has history on its side with its wrestling dynasty. The Bobcats have won the Area 7-AAA meet the past three seasons and advanced to state six consecutive seasons.
But Flowery Branch coach Shane Lancaster still thinks his program has as good of a shot as any of the other "6-8 teams that are pretty even" grappling for the No. 2 spot to state. The Falcons’ coach isn’t trying to change anything after finishing 6-0 last weekend in the Hall County Duals and having six wrestlers earn the top spot in the county.
Lancaster is counting on his lighter weight wrestlers including Zach Cannon at 103 pounds and Danny Bell at 112 to keep the momentum going. Another point of emphasis for the Falcons coach is to avoid pins.
"This is going to be a really big weekend for our team," Lancaster said. "We have some really solid teams in this Area.
"We really want to be able to get out there and pull some upsets."
Flowery Branch’s first match is against Gainesville at 4:30 today.
Meanwhile, the No. 1 seed Bobcats will face the winner of the North Hall/Johnson match. Pickens’ first match comes against the West Hall/Chestatee winner. Lumpkin County awaits the Flowery Branch/Gainesville winner, and White County has a bye in the first round to face the East Hall/West Forsyth winner.
"It should be exciting," Gilmer coach Sam Snider said. "It’s always a battle with the Area Duals."
The Bobcats shouldn’t have any difficulty advancing into the finals. With a line-up of 12 seniors loaded with state placers, state qualifiers and defending Area champions, Gilmer is considered a favorite to defend its seat atop the Area.
Gilmer is lead by senior David Snider (171) who placed second last year at state.
Danyuhl Becker (103), Ethan Gudger (112), Luke Mosley (119), Dale Becker (125), Cody Bollinger (130), Mikey Mooney (135), Michael Fox (140), Jordan Gray (145), Hunter Barnes (152), Lewis Hensley (160), E.J. Jackson (189), Wesley Nestor (215) and Landon Bramblett (285) are also wrestling well for the Bobcats.
"Pickens is always tough," Snider added. "We’re also concerned about West Forsyth, White County and Lumpkin County.
"It should be a good meet."
Also count on West Hall being one of the teams pushing for a spot at the state duals. The Spartans lost in the finals of the Hall County championships to Flowery Branch last weekend by a very close 39-30 decision. Spartans coach Rod Galvan expects it to be neck-and-neck with the six or seven teams battling for a shot at state.
West Hall leans on senior Colby Yates (135) to lead its team. He currently stands at 192 wins on his career and has the chance to earn as many as four more wins this weekend in his chase for 200 career wins. The Spartans also have Rudy Vasquez (140) and James Gray (145) both back healthy on the mat.
"It’s going to be fun this weekend," Galvan said. "The main thing for us is that we have to good senior leadership."