The Daily Citizen
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.
Coahulla Creek is seeded toward the bottom in the 10-team field and is scheduled to face Chapel Hill in the first round. Coach Anthony Thomas feels the landscape is wide open.
“I really don’t think there is a powerhouse in our area,” Thomas said, noting Adairsville is the top seed and would be the Colts’ opponent if they won in the first round. “Four teams will be out of it tonight and only six teams come back Saturday. Everybody is down from where they were, but I imagine everyone is getting better. We’re a lot better from where we are at the beginning of the year.”
Sonoraville is the second seed, followed in order by Rockmart, Cartersville and Ringgold.
“I could see us being a top-four team,” Thomas said. “I don’t think that’s too far out the realm of possibilities. It really just comes down to where the other team’s good kids are out and how they match with our top kids.”
He expects Coahulla Creek to sport a full lineup with Francisco Sanchez (113) and Labron Kendrick (145) leading the way. Christian Castro could wrestle at either 220 or 285, depending where he’s needed, Thomas said.
Murray County goes into the tournament at Pepperell on the outside looking in, but standing very close to the fence. The Indians have had good showings at tournaments throughout the year, but the team faces serious issues with depth.
“When we have everyone there, we are OK,” coach Clay Thornbury said. “We can’t afford to have anyone sick or anyone miss weight. For us to have a shot, we have to have everything come together.
“Things happen during wrestling season, but we have about 15-16 kids total on the whole thing and that makes a big deal.”
Lovett is the No. 1 seed for the tournament, followed by Calhoun, Westminster and Model. The Indians have placed higher than Calhoun at the two regular-season tournaments both schools have participated in.
“I think a top-four finish would be a good showing for us and I think that is certainly attainable,” Thornbury said. “We have to have every one there and have everyone on top of their game.”
The Indians will be led by 113-pounder Domingo Bautista, who has placed in every tournament Murray County has participated in. Seth Gilbert (220) has two places this year, and freshman Noah Patton has been solid at 275.