January 18, 2013

Local and prep sports: No shortage of options for fans this weekend

From Sports Staff

— With middle school, high school and college sports competition galore, plus a visit from an Atlanta Braves legend, this weekend is shaping up to be one of this winter’s busiest for the area.

Weather permitting, of course.

The threat of inclement weather led to early dismissals for Dalton, Murray and Whitfield’s school systems on Thursday, and with it followed the postponement or cancellation of after-school activities, including contests on local basketball courts and wrestling mats and in the pool. But any severe weather is expected to be gone from the area by mid-morning today, and if that’s the case, fans will have no shortage of things to do this weekend.

In addition to the National College Wrestling Association holding its national duals championship at the trade center for the third straight year, with competition starting today and continuing through Sunday, there’s plenty of middle and high school wrestling action.

The North Georgia Middle School Athletic League is scheduled to hold its postseason duals today at Bagley Middle, with the league’s traditional tournament slated for Saturday at the same site. Also in Chatsworth, but on the high school mats, Murray County will host its annual duals and traditional tournament at the school’s Kenneth Ross Gymnasium.

The Murray Duals are set for 5:30 p.m. today and will include Dalton, Calhoun and Ridgeland in addition to the host Indians. Those same teams will be back at 10 a.m. Saturday for the Murray Invitational, where the expanded field will also include Coahulla Creek, Coosa, Gordon Central, Gordon Lee and Ringgold.

While it is not the biggest tournament in Northwest Georgia, the Indians take pride in the quality of competition their event usually features, and Murray County coach Chris Thornbury believes this year shouldn’t be any different.

“I’m still getting seeding information, but there’s going to be some really quality wrestling there,” Thornbury said Wednesday. “With Gordon Lee coming, I don’t know how many, but I know we’ll have three returning state champions competing.”

Thornbury said Gordon Lee — which won the Class A state duals title last weekend — has two reigning state champions. Dalton junior 182-pounder Sidney Wheeler, who won his weight class at last year’s Class 4A state traditional tournament, is also expected to compete.

For the Indians, the chance to play host and showcase their program is a welcomed opportunity, Thornbury said.

“I love having it, and the reason why is because I think the kids enjoy it,” he said. “Over the years, they’ve really liked wrestling in their own gym, and it gives parents a chance to see them where they don’t have to travel. But the biggest thing is the kids really enjoy it.”

In the pool, Dalton High will host its annual North Georgia Regional Championship, an invitational meet that included 21 teams last season as the Catamounts won the title for the 12th year in a row — every single edition of the event. Joining Dalton’s boys and girls — the Lady Cats have won the title three times — in this year’s 18-school field are the area’s other swimming and diving programs, Northwest Whitfield and first-year Coahulla Creek.

“It looks pretty good,” Dalton coach Charles Todd said. “The competition looks pretty strong on paper.”

More than 400 swimmers are expected to be on hand as the event begins at 5 p.m. today and resumes at 10 a.m. Saturday, with the finals scheduled to start at 4 p.m.

But the Cats may face a tougher challenge than usual to the title. Freshman standout Ethan Young will not compete this weekend with the Cats, instead entering a USA Swimming meet in Knoxville, Tenn. In addition, senior Taylor Dale, who won two individual state titles and helped the Cats win a relay crown at last year’s state championships, has been fighting illness and may sit out as well.

In high school basketball, while most area teams are on the road tonight, a pivotal Sub-region 7B-4A girls game will happen here as Southeast Whitfield visits Dalton for a 7 p.m. tipoff. Both teams are 4-0 in league play and share the top spot in the sub-region standings, so tonight’s game will be another step toward a good seed for next month’s region tournament.

Finally, while he won’t be swinging the bat or running the bases, former Atlanta Braves first baseman Sid Bream will be in Chatsworth on Saturday as part of the Murray County Sportsman’s Expo at North Murray. The event, hosted by Holly Creek Baptist Church, will include the expo from 4:30 to 6:30 p.m., with Bream slated to speak from 6:30 to 7:30. Admission to the event is $10.

The most famous moment of Bream’s career is known as “The Slide” and came in Game 7 of the 1992 National League Championship Series. Bream slid underneath the tag at home plate to complete a three-run rally in the bottom of the ninth inning of Atlanta’s 3-2 victory against the Pittsburgh Pirates.

 As for Thursday’s high school athletic competition that didn’t take place, North Murray wrestling’s scheduled home match against Coosa will not be made up, Mountaineers coach Steven Colley said. Dalton High’s home swimming and diving meet against Tennessee’s Signal Mountain and Chattanooga School for the Arts and Sciences was postponed, with Todd hopeful of making the meet up next week, although no date has been set.

In addition, Dalton High football’s postseason banquet was postponed. That event has been rescheduled for 6 p.m. Wednesday in the commons area of the school.