Murray County started last season with no returning state qualifiers in its lineup but finished the season with a state medalist — Clay Thornbury, who finished fifth at 182 pounds in Class 2A.
Even with the participation of Thornbury in doubt for his senior year after he suffered a devastating knee injury in Murray County’s season-opening football game, the Indians have solid experience as they begin their season today with a 9 a.m. double dual at Sequoyah that includes Lithia Springs.
Murray County coach Chris Thornbury — Clay’s father is entering his 22nd season leading the program — said he has a “good little group” and hopes the Indians will have a lot more wrestling savvy in just a few weeks.
“We’ve got a pretty full schedule and we’re wrestling a whole bunch early, trying to get mat time,” coach Thornbury said.
Clay is working to recover from knee surgery and is currently walking with a cane, said coach Thornbury, who doesn’t expect his son to be able to return to action before Christmas.
“He definitely wants to come back and he’s going to do everything he can to come back,” the coach said.
In Clay’s absence, coach Thornbury has been impressed with the leadership-by-example initiative shown by senior Domingo Bautista (113), a state qualifier last season. Others who will be counted on early are juniors Austin McCall (120), Daniel Dayton (126), Wilson Reynoso (138), Tielor Johnson (145) and Annibal Raymundo (160). Freshmen Blaine Thornbury (170) — also the coach’s son — David Walden (170) and Noah Patton (285) look promising after earning league medals last year at Gladden Middle School.
North Murray coach Steve Colley hasn’t given up all hope of fielding a complete lineup, but for now his team is three weight classes shy of a fair fight.
That means those who do step on the mat have to be that much better for the Mountaineers — who would give up 18 points via forfeit unless Colley is able to recruit wrestlers to fill the slots at 106, 195 and 220 — to succeed this season.
“We’re talking that way,” said Colley, who’s entering his fourth season in charge. “There are kids that I expect to win no matter what.”
That group includes juniors Alex Gambino (113), C.J. Delgadillo (138) and sophomore Brandon Adame (285), all on The Daily Citizen’s 2012-13 All-Area Wrestling team. Gambino was fourth at 106 at last season’s Class 3A state tournament. Others with notable experience or potential are sophomores Tyler McKenzie (145), Juan Salaises (145) and Vincent Hidalgo (182), junior Ethan Center (160/170) and seniors Brett Bishop (120), Matt Pellum (126/132), Hagan Steelman (126/132), Chris Brown (145) and Tyler McKee (152).
Although the season opens Monday with a home dual against Gordon Central, Colley has tilted the balance of North Murray’s schedule more toward traditional tournaments — where a handful of individuals can make a big difference in the team standings — than duals competition.
During the traditional postseason, he’s looking for trips to state for all of his seniors and as many Mountaineers as possible.
“Just getting that first state placer last year has already made a difference this year,” Colley said. “The kids who are practicing with (Gambino) are picking up their game and having really good practices. That was a huge step in the right direction.”