Area Dual Meets
At Clarke Central High
Saturday, 9 a.m.
At Walnut Grove High
Saturday, 9 a.m.
At Oconee County High
Today, 4:15 p.m.
Saturday, 9 a.m.
At Jefferson High
Saturday, 10 a.m.
All tickets $7, per GHSA rules
Doug Thurmond’s message to his Jefferson wrestling team heading into this weekend’s area duals was simple: Don’t be the team that ends the streak.
Jefferson enters the area dual meet, which for 8-AA will be held at Jefferson High on Saturday, riding a 12-year state championship streak. Thurmond knows the steak will eventually be broken, but he just hopes it isn’t this season.
“We just tell the guys, ‘the streak is going to get broken at some point, you don’t know whenever that is going to be, and you guys have to get ready for it,’” Thurmond said.
“‘Every team out there wants to be the team to knock you off. Do you want to be the team that is remembered as the team that got knocked off? Or do you want to keep the streak alive?’”
Jefferson is hosting one of the 44 area meets taking place around the state this weekend. Other area schools aren’t as lucky as the Dragons, and are forced to go on the road for their meet.
The top two placing teams in each area meet will advance to next weekend’s state championship dual meet at the Macon Coliseum.
In Class AAAAA, Flowery Branch and Gainesville are both expected to compete for one of the two spots out of Area 8 this weekend at Clarke Central High in Athens.
“We tell them, we’ve battled in tough tournaments all year, and they know that,” Flowery Branch coach Shane Millwood said. “We’ve beat some really good teams and they know if they wrestle the way they’re capable, that we should be all right.”
The Area 8-AAAA coaches will meet tonight to seed the teams for the tournament, but Flowery Branch is expected to enter the tournament as the top seed, while Clarke Central and Gainesville are both expected to be seeded in the top three.
“We’re feeling pretty good,” Millwood said. “We’re not over confident or anything like that, but we’re actually coming together. We haven’t had a full lineup most of the year, so we are having the best kids in our lineup at this particular time.”
Three wrestlers who all placed at the state meet a year ago lead the Falcons, along with vocal leader Devante King. Brady Dyer will compete for the top place in the 145 weight class for the Falcons, while Zach Winter will compete in the 152 class and Grant Simonds in the 182.
Chestatee and Lumpkin County are expected to meet in the finals of the Area 8-AAAA meet on Saturday at Walnut Grove High. The War Eagles enter this weekend’s tournament as the No. 3 seed, while the Indians are the top seed, meaning they can meet in the finals of the tournament.
The two schools met earlier this season, with Lumpkin County edging Chestatee by just two points, even with three War Eagle wrestlers missing due to football.
“We’re going for it,” Chestatee coach Carey Whitlow said. “We should be in the final two, but we’re going for the top spot that’s for sure. Lumpkin County is the team to beat.”
Whitlow said the area coaches had a hard time seeding the tournament, because schools like Chestatee haven’t competed in many dual meets this season.
“We haven’t wrestled a lot of dual meets and the criteria people use to seed this tournament we don’t agree with, so they had to put it to a vote, as to who was going to be the three seed,” Whitlow said.
“It was either us or Eastside. And see Lumpkin County and Chestatee want to be on opposite ends of the bracket because we think we’re the top two teams there. So we didn’t want to take each other out in the semis.”
Buford and North Hall are two of the favorites in the two-day Area 4 meet in Class AAA. The Wolves enter as the top seed, while North Hall will serve as the three seed, with reigning state champion Banks County as the two seed.
All three teams will earn a bye in the first round of the two-day tournament, held at Oconee County High in Watkinsville.
The hardest part for the teams, said North Hall coach Jay Hargis, is having his wrestlers stay focused across the two-day event, which features a late finish tonight and an early start Saturday morning.
“Because of the location of it, we are having to stay overnight,” Hargis said. “Last year we finished really late and then it is an early start the following morning.”
Buford has had plenty of success thus far in the wrestling season. Led by three-time state champion Chip Ness, Buford recently won the Gwinnett County tournament, on the heels of a solid performance at a tournament in Pennsylvania.
Heading into this weekend, the Wolves like their chances, especially with the team coming together.
“We haven’t had everyone in the lineup, because of injuries and football players, so this weekend will be the first with having everybody in the lineup,” Buford coach Rob Carlyle said. “They’ve done a good job at coming together and supporting each other, and staying focused.”
North Hall has had a good bit of success this season, too.
On multiple occasions this season, the Trojans have had wrestlers place first in their respective weight classes.
Despite the success, though, finishing in the top two won’t be easy, as the areas in the lowest three classifications of the Georgia High School Association are filled with more teams, thus adding to the pool of talent at each meet.
“Unfortunately with (Class) AAA teams, they are combining areas, so our area is a super-large area, with a two-day tournament,” Hargis said. “But they are still only taking two teams. It is extra, extra tough.”
Staying consistent and injury free is the key in the area tournaments, when one bad day for a team could cost them a bid for a state championship. That’s the focus for Thurmond, as he looks to guide Jefferson back to the state championship meet in the school’s final year in Class AA.
The Dragons, who will compete in Class AAA starting next year, will rely on the power of their four seniors, Kyle Kashuba, Tyler Marinelli, Jack Dollar and Zach Rhymer, to be carry the team toward a victory this weekend, with heavy competition like Social Circle coming to compete.
“We’ve got some guys that work hard,” Thurmond said. “We’ve got our work cut out for us with Social Circle this year, though. They’ve been in several tournaments and done very, very well. They’ve won lots of tournaments they’ve been in.”