Three local wrestling programs have worked tirelessly to get to this point in the season. Now, it all comes down to one final weekend.
Area wrestlers will have their shot at glory and a state championship when they travel to the Macon Centreplex today-Saturday for the duals state championship. Of the select few teams that have a shot claiming a state title this weekend are Habersham Central in Class 6A, Buford in Class 5A and North Hall in Class 3A.
North Hall is back in the team state championship meet after finishing third in 2016. Last year the Trojans missed the state tournament, and they’ve made major improvements this year by capturing the Area 4-3A Dual championship.
“I am really excited for them,” North Hall coach David Nichols said. “I am excited that they did what they were supposed to do.”
In the area tournament, the Trojans opened up with a bye in the first round before topping Franklin County, 69-6, in the second round. In the area semifinals, the Trojans defeated Fannin County, 76-0. North Hall took the area crown by defeating Jackson County, 45-16.
North Hall has proven experience, including previous success at the state meet. Bryson Smith is one of the Trojans who was on the 2016 team that placed third.
Last year he experienced his most excruciating loss in his wrestling career, and it remains in his mind as a source of motivation.
“My worst memory was losing to Trevor Burdick in the state finals last year,” Smith said.
Burdick, of Sonoraville, defeated Smith to win the individual Class 3A state championship. Smith wants to rid himself of that bad taste by helping his team win state. Since that loss, he went back to work so he would not have to feel that way again.
“I was kind of down,” Smith said. “I was thinking, ‘What I can do next year to be more prepared?’
“I went back and watched the video to see what I can do to better myself in the match.”
North Hall senior John Pedraza can relate to his teammate.
Pedraza also lost in his weight class at the Class 3A state championship to another Sonoraville wrestler. Pedraza fell to Tyler Hunt in the Class 3A finals last year, and just like Smith, he wants a state championship.
“It would be a dream come true,” Pedraza said.
Smith and the rest of his North Hall teammates made the sacrifices necessary to stay prepared for a run at the state championship, including working diligently to make weight.
Even during the holidays.
“It stinks really bad because everybody is eating well, but I know what I have to do,” Smith said. “I have to put myself and my team in the right situation.”
Winning state for North Hall would be a redemptive measure to erase the bad taste for both Smith and Pedraza losing in the championship match.
Meanwhile, Buford is looking to defend its 2017 duals state championship. The Wolves moved on to state by defending their Area 8-5A crown Jan. 7 with wins against Walnut Grove, 73-6, and Clarke Central, 67-12.
At state, North Hall opens against Pierce County in the first round, while Buford faces Miller Grove. In Class 6A, Habersham Central faces Creekview first.