Southeast Whitfield’s wrestling team made a whole lot of noise as the Raiders advanced through the Area 7-4A duals and into the state meet.
An uncommon feat for wrestling teams in Murray and Whitfield counties — in that, in recent years, it has happened fewer times than not — much of the attention goes to the individual-based traditionals event happening in a few weeks. But Southeast’s second-place finish in last year’s area duals proved it possible, and despite no local teams entering today’s events seeded to finish in the necessary top two to advance, hope remains for a few teams looking to follow up on the Raiders’ accomplishments last year.
Southeast joins Dalton and Northwest Whitfield in the Area 7-4A event at Gilmer High School. Coahulla Creek competes at the Area 5-3A duals at Adairsville High School. Murray County joins the other Area 7-2A teams at Pepperell High School. North Murray, which is part of 4-3A, elected not to compete due to an incomplete lineup.
Here’s a look at each of the three areas and the local teams competing in the tournaments.
In order, Gilmer, Cass, LaFayette and Heritage-Catoosa are the top four seeds entering the meet at Gilmer, which won last year’s event and won the Class 4A state title.
Seeded fifth and feeling like it has a shot? Northwest.
The Bruins have wrestled Gilmer and LaFayette in duals this season — and lost both times — without a full lineup.
Coach Allen Tucker, though, said the team has wrestled well the last two weeks and knows the necessary ingredients to winning close duals.
“Don’t get pinned,” he said. “Don’t lose by more than eight points if you’re being outmatched. Wrestle smart.”
A decision win earns a team three points. A major decision, which is winning by at least an eight-point margin, earns four points. A technical decision results in five points, and a pinfall victory receives six points.
“We tell our kids who are wrestling well, ‘Hey, we need a pin. If you can get it, then get it,’” Tucker explained. “If you pin in five matches, that’s 30 points. If you lose the other nine by decision, that’s 27 and you still win.”
Bryan Gembe at the 106-pound weight class will be one wrestler Northwest relies on for strong showings and added points. The same goes for Blake Hayes (113), Austin Taylor (152) and others.
Northwest has a bye to the second round, where it faces LaFayette in the double-elimination format.
Southeast, seeded sixth, will face last-seed Cedartown in the first round.
The Raiders made a run to the state event last year, but coach Michael Herndon has lower expectations this season.
“This year, we’re just hoping to finish where we’re seeded,” he said. “We’re missing weight classes and we’re hoping to come out with an even record from the event.”
Herndon hopes for strong showings from Noah Bartenfield (106), Chris Rosas (113), Omar Ruiz (120), Tyler Brown (145) and Austin Allen (182).
“Right now, we’re looking more toward the team aspect and trying to fill weight classes,” Herndon said. “We have a couple wrestlers who are staying up in weight class just to fill them out.”
Despite winning its own Carpet Classic last month, Dalton is the lowest-seeded team of the three local teams in this area.
Still, the Catamounts have quite a few wrestlers who could have strong showings in the tournament.
Sidney Wheeler (182) is a former state champion. Dylan Carlile (132) and Bryan Nuñez (138) joined Wheeler as Dalton’s three individual champions from the Carpet Classic. Dalton also will rely on Werner Braun (145) to help in matchups against some of the area foes.
Dalton coach Michael Keefe did not return messages left by The Daily Citizen.