January 4, 2013

Prep wrestling: Injuries, illness taking a toll to fill weight classes

Injuries always come during a wrestling season.

However, for all but two local teams, it’s becoming tough to fill out a full lineup.

When Coahulla Creek, Dalton, Murray County, North Murray, Northwest Whitfield and Southeast Whitfield each begin their respective area tournaments today, each will need to overcome at least one injury to the preferred starting lineup. Only the Indians and Raiders expect to avoid forfeiting a weight class.

The Mountaineers, the Area 2-3A tournament hosts, have become the main example for in-season roster shakeups. North Murray has had seven wrestlers — 106-pounder Kayla Webb, Raul Perez (120), Matt Pelam (126), Hagen Stealman (126), Elias Lechuga (132), Brandon Brock (138) and Ethan Center (160) — either leave the team or receive injuries. Tyler McKee (152) received a neck injury during Thursday’s practice and could be added to the list. North Murray coach Steve Colley expects the Mountaineers to forfeit classes 113, 126, 170 and 195.

“I’ve never had anything like it,” he said. “The kids are even scared now. They’re scared to do anything.”

Some teams are more hospital ward than weight room.

Joining them in the area tournament will be the Colts, who will fill each class except for two. Coach Anthony Thomas said 113-pounder Francisco Sanchez, who made sectionals last season, suffered a broken wrist. Fortunately for Coahulla Creek, Dennis Carrier will fill the void. The Colts still will forfeit classes 106 and 195.

“We haven’t had anybody at those all year,” he said.

Northwest heavyweight Joey Roth’s broken ankle equals a definite forfeit for the Bruins heading into the Area 7-4A tournament in Cedartown.

“Some teams are deep enough that they can put a JV kid in,” Northwest coach Allen Tucker said. “I expect that most of the 11 teams down there will have one or two weight classes that they can’t fill.”

Murray County coach Chris Thornbury, who has enough depth to fill voids made from a couple injuries, said forfeits and non-full lineups are a common occurrence in lower classifications.

“When you’re a (Class 2A) school, like us, that’s true for a lot of teams, because you’re drawing from a smaller pool of students,” said Thornbury, whose team competes in Area 3-2A at Lovett. “All those things are just excuses, and someone has to step up and do what they’re supposed to do.”

Southeast also has been fortunate in avoiding major injuries. Raiders (17-11) coach Michael Herndon predicts not forfeiting any classes in the Area 7-4A competition despite having his wrestlers shift weight classes mid-season to provide a complete lineup, and the best one possible.

“We took last weekend off just for that reason,” he said. “After coaching last year, this is the point I realized we’d have sickness and injuries. So we took a week off (to heal). Hopefully it has paid off.”

Another hindrance to many teams is the timing of the tournament. With the Christmas and New Year’s holiday season barely in the past, many wrestlers are still far from home. Dalton coach Michael Keefe only sent seven wrestlers to Wednesday’s Bulldog Slam in Cedartown, the same place the Catamounts return to today.

“I had kids who were out the entire break because they (went on vacation) with their family and went out of town,” said Keefe, who expects to forfeit at least four weight classes. “It’s hard to have a practice with a team like that.”

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