The six local wrestling teams beginning area duals tournaments today have one thing in common — none of them are seeded to advance.
Dalton, Northwest Whitfield and Southeast Whitfield head to Cedartown for the Area 7-4A double-elimination duals competition, while North Murray hosts Coahulla Creek and the rest of Area 2-3A. Murray County heads to Lovett for the Area 3-2A event. All action begins today and the area champions will be crowned Saturday with the top two teams in the area advancing to the team duals state championships in Macon on Jan. 10-12.
In last year’s tournament in Class 3A, Murray County was eliminated in two matches.
This season, the Indians are the only local team seeded to place in area.
Murray County (11-7 in duals competitions) enters with the No. 4 seed and has a 9 a.m. match against fifth-seeded Model. Lovett is the top seed, with Calhoun second and Westminster third.
To advance, the Indians probably still need to beat one of the area’s powerhouses.
“We haven’t even talked about anything like that,” Murray County coach Chris Thornbury said. “I didn’t seed the tournament, but I think we’re better than fourth. It’s a very competitive tournament. I think Lovett is pretty good. We haven’t seen these teams.”
In order to make the top two, the Indians need some help from “the upper weights,” Thornbury said.
“The kind of team I have, it’s really been a lot of fun this year, because different people have stepped up at different times,” he added.
For North Murray coach Steve Colley, the goals this weekend are fundamentally simple.
“The goal is to come out with nobody else hurt and to set up some seeding for area,” he said.
It has been a tough season for the Mountaineers (12-5) after finishing fifth in area last season. North Murray has had season-ending injuries to Brandon Brock (138) and Ethan Center with Matt Pelam (126) and Hagen Stealman (126) also sidelined with aches. The Mountaineers are seeded sixth and got a first-round bye, which equals a 6:30 p.m. match with third-seeded Rockmart. Sonoraville is the top seed, followed by Ringgold at No. 2, Rockmart and Cartersville at No. 4.
“I can argue for more, because we actually beat Adairsville,” Colley said Thursday before the seeding meeting. “I’m a realist. I won’t go in and say we’re the No. 4 seed, even though on paper we are, because it wouldn’t be the right thing.”
Coahulla Creek (4-10), which wasn’t seeded, faces fifth-seeded Adairsville in the first round at 5 p.m. Colts coach Anthony Thomas shares Colley’s thoughts on what this tournament is about.
“I just look at it as an individual effort tomorrow,” said Thomas, who only has one senior on the team. “Team-wise, you have to be in the top two to advance. I told them we weren’t a top-four seed and hopefully we get paired up with someone we could wrestle with.”
The highest-seeded local team is the Raiders, who enter fifth and with a first-round bye and 5:30 p.m. matchup with fourth-seeded Cass. Southeast (17-11), which finished fifth in last year’s Area 7-3A tournament, may encounter a well-known powerhouse if it wins. Gilmer, which won the 2010 and 2011 state duals and traditional tournament championships, is at the head of the Area 7 pack. The top-seeded Bobcats defeated the Raiders 42-32 in the winner’s bracket semifinals of last year’s area tournament.
“We’re practically in the same spot we were last year,” Southeast coach Michael Herndon said. “We wrestled well against Gilmer last year. After we lost, it was a big loss and we didn’t respond real well against Allatoona.”
Heritage-Catoosa, which beat Gilmer in last year’s area championship, is the other force and seeded second. LaFayette is seeded third.
“Last year we were a round away from placing in the top four,” Herndon said. “So placing in the top four is one of our goals. If everyone wrestles to the best of their ability, I think we may have a chance to squeak into the top two.”
Northwest, with the No. 6 seed, will face the No. 11 seed at 4 p.m. Coach Allen Tucker did not know who the Bruins face first, but the map to the state finals tournament requires an upset or two. Northwest finished seventh in the last season’s 11-team Area 7-4A tournament, which had a much different landscape within the five-classification format. The Bruins finished second in the all-local Conasauga Cup last month, a possible sign that they could be the Raiders’ biggest competition for the underdog role.
“That’s what we’ve got to do. We’ve got to beat someone who beat us earlier this year,” Tucker said. “I know that if we win our first match, we’ll get (Cass). If we win that, then we may have to try and catch the No. 2 seed (Heritage).”
Dalton did not place last year in area, but will be returning to a place it already has performed well. The Catamounts’ Dylan Carlile (126) and Sidney Wheeler (182) both won individual championships Wednesday at Cedartown’s Bulldog Slam. Werner Braun (195) took third for a Dalton team of just seven wrestlers. However, due to issues with wrestlers not coming to practice and making cuts to the roster, coach Michael Keefe said he’s only bringing 10 guys for the 4 p.m. first-round matchup. That makes Dalton’s goals for this weekend on par with North Murray — do well individually and look to the traditional tournament.
“Right now we don’t have a dual-meet team,” said Keefe, who didn’t know the Cats’ seed or opponent. “My focus is on the guys who are committed. I told the guys, ‘We want to win every single individual match. And if you don’t, you fight the whole way.’”