By Devin Golden
Only three teams competed this year in the high school duals tournament that accompanied the National Collegiate Wrestling Association National Duals, but the big-picture plan for the future is to have a premier high school wrestling program from each state compete at the tournament.
Alabama’s Thompson and Grissom were joined by Tennessee’s Bradley Central at the Northwest Georgia Trade and Convention Center on Saturday, the first time high school duals have accompanied the college event. Chattanooga’s Notre Dame was expected to compete but was forced to cancel at the last minute, NCWA officials said.
“They had some injuries at a meet Thursday, and it took out part of their lineup,” NCWA Sports Information Director Scott Farrell said.
Thompson finished 3-0, Grissom was 2-1 and Bradley Central was 1-2 — each team was given a victory via a Notre Dame forfeit.
The goal is to keep growing in participation, Farrell said.
“We’d like to double it up to eight or 12 for next year,” he said. “Long range, what we’d like to do is get a top team from every state.”
But that could be a lot of wrestling for one weekend. The college level features 24 teams, and NCWA Executive Director Jim Giunta does not see inviting more teams in future years for that competition; he would like to get the number of high school teams on par with the college level.
His idea? “Border wars.”
“We would have Ohio and Michigan, North Dakota and South Dakota facing off in border wars,” he said, “and the winner comes to the national tournament.”
There were no Georgia high schools represented at the event. Giunta said two Georgia high schools were in talks about coming, but both fell through. He hopes for at least two Georgia high schools to come to Dalton next year.
Farrell said Dalton is in a great location for attracting nearby schools.
“The good thing about Dalton,” he said, “is that there are six states nearby that are all within driving distance.”
• Giunta and Farrell plan to bring the National Duals back to Dalton next year, but there is a question regarding whether it will still be the right location once the high school event expands.
“There is some concern that as we grow, we will grow out of Dalton,” Giunta said. “Provided they want us back, we’ll come back (next year).”
This was the second straight year the NCWA came to Dalton for the National Duals and the third time an NCWA event was held in Georgia — last year’s NCWA Championships, a traditional tournament, was held in Macon.
Giunta also mentioned having the event one week earlier starting next year to avoid scheduling conflicts with high schools.
A number of high school tournaments were the same weekend as the event, Giunta said, and scheduling one week earlier would avoid having to make teams choose.
• Three Peach State colleges represented at the event, with Mercer placing the best of the teams and reaching the quarterfinals before losing to eventual champion Liberty University — and the Flames had one wrestler from Georgia on their roster, Newnan’s Matthew Voss.
Georgia Southern and the University of Georgia were the other two Georgia schools to compete in the 24-team tournament. Mercer finished seventh, Georgia Southern was 12th and Georgia finished 19th.