Staff File Photo by Laura-Chase McGehee/Chattanooga Times Free Press Cory Canada of Heritage High School wrestles in a match against Bradley County High School.
RINGGOLD, Ga. -- Cory Canada has heard the critics voice their opinions. It's just added motivation for a wrestler seeking his second state championship.
The Heritage High School senior, who won his title at 145 pounds a year ago, surprised a few folks when he competed at 160 pounds during last week's Area 7-AAA traditional tournament after dominating the competition at 152 for most of the season. Seeded first, he was upset in the title match by Allatoona's Luke Rakes, 6-1, causing some to question the move.
It's common for a wrestler to compete up a class in dual meets as coaches adjust their lineup to take advantage of matchups. But GHSA rules state that once a wrestler declares his weight in the traditional tournaments, he has to remain at that class. Canada's move and subsequent loss underscore the risks involved.
"When you move up, chances are you're going to face wrestlers who are used to that weight and that are bigger and stronger," said Heritage coach Kenny Hill, who takes 10 wrestlers into the Class AAA West Sectionals today and Saturday at Woodward Academy. "Cory had a problem in the finals of getting off the bottom because that guy was bigger. I feel he can bounce back and will be in the finals again. I think those two will battle it out again."
One question Hill has yet to have answered is if the GHSA will allow Canada to move back down for the state duals, which normally are held before the traditional area tournaments. The duals were postponed because of inclement weather and rescheduled for the week following the traditional state.
"Can he drop back down for the duals or does he have to stay up?" Hill wondered. "No doubt, we're a better dual team with him at 152, so we'll see."
As for now, Canada has to play the hand he's been dealt. To better prepare his wrestler for the added bulk, Hill has had him wrestling against his heavier competitors in practice this week. Canada believes the extra work -- and motivation -- will serve him well in the coming weeks.
"I'm excited to be wrestling at 160, and I feel better at that class," he said. "That's really what it was all about. I talked it over with my family and coaches, and we went over it a thousand times, and I still think I did the right thing."
Canada said being unfamiliar with the heavier competition makes no difference to him.
"In fact, I try not to think about who I wrestle because I tend to worry too much," he said. "I try to go out there and wrestle like every match is your last. I mean, you're going to face somebody different all the time. It's always a new challenge. That's why I love the sport."
Canada and the Generals, area runners-up to defending state champion Gilmer County, will be among the favorites both this weekend and next week at the state tournament in Duluth, provided they don't lose wrestlers this weekend. To qualify for the state, a wrestler will have to win twice, something Hill believes won't be a problem for the stronger northwest Georgia teams.
"There are some good wrestlers in the south part of the state, no doubt," he said, "but our area is much stronger overall. If you made it out of the area tournament, you should be OK in the sectionals. Now anything can happen, but I like our chances of getting all 10 through."
Lindsey Young is a sports writer at the Chattanooga Times Free Press who started work at the Chattanooga News-Free Press 24 years ago. He covers the Northwest Georgia prep beat and NASCAR. Lindsey’s hometown is Ringgold, Ga., and he graduated from Lakeview-Fort Oglethorpe High School. He received an associate’s degree from Dalton Junior College (now Dalton State) and a bachelor’s degree in communications from UTC. He has won several writing awards, including two Tennessee Sports ...