Hall County Duals
When: 5:30 p.m. Friday, 9 a.m. Saturday
Where: West Hall High, Oakwood
The high school wrestling season is still young, but Hall County’s teams will get a good look at each other at West Hall this weekend in the Hall County Duals.
Matches begin at 5:30 p.m. Friday and 9 a.m. Saturday. Each county program will face the seven others in dual competition.
It’s quite the change-up from last year, when the event was held in late January.
Flowery Branch coach Shane Millwood said teams had time to form a set lineup by then. This time around, facing familiar foes will be an integral part of coming to those decisions. That could certainly change the dynamics of the competition.
“It’s definitely going to be the team with the most depth,” Millwood said.
Millwood said his group is pretty thin in the high weights but good in the light and middle weights.
North Hall won the Hall County championship last season, followed by Chestatee and Flowery Branch. The Trojans feature plenty of new faces this year, though.
Stuart Cunningham takes over as head coach after 12 years at Habersham Central and previous stops at Dawson County and Lumpkin County. His team lost 12 seniors to graduation and has two other wrestlers from last year who aren’t back. It made for some struggles in early practices, and North Hall has been having to forfeit two weight classes in dual action.
“It’s an uphill battle,” Cunningham said. “But they’ve been steadily improving.”
First-year Chestatee coach Kyle Barr is also guiding a group that sustained serious losses to graduation. He said his young team is competitive but inconsistent. But Hall County coaches are in the dark about more than the potential of their own teams ahead of this weekend.
“We really don’t know much about any of the other teams yet,” said Barr, who spent the previous two seasons as an assistant at Chestatee. “Everybody’s kind of going into the tournament blind.”
Chestatee has only seen East Hall among the county teams, but Barr said West Hall has racked up some wins in the early going.
Millwood knows having the competition with county rivals will help his guys.
“This is right in your backyard,” Millwood said. “These are the kids you’re going to see all the time. It kind of sets the tone. You want to win them all.”
Cunningham also looks forward to seeing his guys respond with bragging rights on the line.
“That always speeds up your effort,” the North Hall coach said. “You’d like to think they give the same effort every time, but I imagine most teams will turn it up a notch.”
Millwood said it’s all about matchups in dual matches. Other matches later in the season such as area and state carry greater significance, but the Hall County Duals are up next.
“It’s No. 1 on our schedule right now,” Millwood said.
North Hall was 7-0 in last season’s Hall County Duals, with Chestatee 6-1 and Flowery Branch 5-2. Gainesville and West Hall each went 4-3.
This is a new year, and coaches are ready to get a read on where they’re at for the 2014-15 season.
“I’d like to think we’re pretty good,” Barr said. “We’re about to find out.”