The highest-seeded local team is the Raiders, who enter fifth and with a first-round bye and 5:30 p.m. matchup with fourth-seeded Cass. Southeast (17-11), which finished fifth in last year’s Area 7-3A tournament, may encounter a well-known powerhouse if it wins. Gilmer, which won the 2010 and 2011 state duals and traditional tournament championships, is at the head of the Area 7 pack. The top-seeded Bobcats defeated the Raiders 42-32 in the winner’s bracket semifinals of last year’s area tournament.
“We’re practically in the same spot we were last year,” Southeast coach Michael Herndon said. “We wrestled well against Gilmer last year. After we lost, it was a big loss and we didn’t respond real well against Allatoona.”
Heritage-Catoosa, which beat Gilmer in last year’s area championship, is the other force and seeded second. LaFayette is seeded third.
“Last year we were a round away from placing in the top four,” Herndon said. “So placing in the top four is one of our goals. If everyone wrestles to the best of their ability, I think we may have a chance to squeak into the top two.”
Northwest, with the No. 6 seed, will face the No. 11 seed at 4 p.m. Coach Allen Tucker did not know who the Bruins face first, but the map to the state finals tournament requires an upset or two. Northwest finished seventh in the last season’s 11-team Area 7-4A tournament, which had a much different landscape within the five-classification format. The Bruins finished second in the all-local Conasauga Cup last month, a possible sign that they could be the Raiders’ biggest competition for the underdog role.
“That’s what we’ve got to do. We’ve got to beat someone who beat us earlier this year,” Tucker said. “I know that if we win our first match, we’ll get (Cass). If we win that, then we may have to try and catch the No. 2 seed (Heritage).”
Dalton did not place last year in area, but will be returning to a place it already has performed well. The Catamounts’ Dylan Carlile (126) and Sidney Wheeler (182) both won individual championships Wednesday at Cedartown’s Bulldog Slam. Werner Braun (195) took third for a Dalton team of just seven wrestlers. However, due to issues with wrestlers not coming to practice and making cuts to the roster, coach Michael Keefe said he’s only bringing 10 guys for the 4 p.m. first-round matchup. That makes Dalton’s goals for this weekend on par with North Murray — do well individually and look to the traditional tournament.
“Right now we don’t have a dual-meet team,” said Keefe, who didn’t know the Cats’ seed or opponent. “My focus is on the guys who are committed. I told the guys, ‘We want to win every single individual match. And if you don’t, you fight the whole way.’”