Sports

November 16, 2013

Mat time: New season brings hope, challenges

Who will find their place on the top step of the medal stand this season?

While there’s certainly no guarantee, in recent years it has been closer to a habit than not for a high school wrestling program in Murray County or Whitfield County to produce at least one champion at the state traditional tournament each season.

Last year it was Southeast Whitfield’s Carlos Fraire who won the 285-pound championship in Class 4A a year after finishing second.

What has been tougher for local teams is excelling at state duals. Although Southeast took a big step in making its first trip to the event last season, no area program has claimed a top-four finish since Dalton took second in Class 4A during the 2008-09 season.

Georgia High School Association wrestling teams began practicing in late October, and local teams will soon be on the competition mat, with some starting today with varsity or junior varsity events. However, the ultimate goal is to be ready for the postseason for duals in January and traditional (individual-based) tournaments in February.

Here’s a look at where local teams are starting the season and what they might have to get done to be ready for the postseason.

Coahulla Creek

Colts coach Anthony Thomas begins his third season at Coahulla Creek, which opened in 2011, with two things he’s never had at the school — a packed wrestling room and a full lineup.

He might add a third item to the list as well — the potential for unprecedented success.

After going through past seasons with few chances of winning dual meets because the Colts couldn’t fill half the weight classes, Coahulla Creek wrestlers now have the added incentive of competing not only for their own glory but that of the team. Thomas said he had more than 40 wrestlers at a recent practice and has depth at most weight classes, which he said puts the Colts “on even footing.”

The drive to wrestle harder won’t just show up on match day, either, Thomas believes.

“I’m just really tickled I’ve got a number of kids that have to wrestle off and win the spot (in the lineup),” he said. “Any time you’ve got that, you don’t have to be the only thing that motivates them to win.”

Thomas is looking to five seniors to lead the way: Francisco Sanchez (113/120), Labron Kendrick (138/145), Joseph Long (152), Austin Coker (152/160) and Alex Hefner (170). Sanchez has known the most success among the group. He is the only area medalist in program history, having placed fourth as a sophomore and second as a junior.

“Those five seniors are all athletic and have experience and can win some matches,” Thomas said. “How well they will do depends on how much work they put in.”

The Colts open their varsity schedule a week from today at Ringgold High School’s Tri-State Classic.

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