Kenny Hill, Eric Elrod and Brent Raby have had more in common this week than usual.
Each area wrestling coach directs his team against a top-ranked opponent in the Georgia state duals tournaments today. And the Heritage, Sonoraville and Gordon Lee coaches first had to find a way to get their teams to put last week's traditional state runner-up finishes behind them.
The duals normally are held in the Macon Centreplex in mid-January but were postponed and are at five different locations this weekend. Heritage and the Class AAA field will be at Locust Grove High School, Sonoraville and Class AA will be at Toombs County and Gordon Lee has to travel to Bremen in Class A.
The Class A tournament, since two teams have dropped out, will be held in its entirety today.
Sonoraville gave perennial champion Jefferson a strong run before falling 19 points short in the traditional state, and the Firebirds left a lot of emotion on the mat. Elrod's team also finished runner-up to Jefferson in last year's duals. Though the budding rivalry is just three years old, it's growing quickly into a fierce one.
"I'm not content with continuing to get beat by them, but I know my guys will always lay it on the line and I am pleased with that," Elrod said. "They beat us last week but they didn't win it easily. It's going to take a special effort to knock off a team like that. We're real close and we get a straight-up, head-to-head shot at them in the duals, provided we make the finals."
The Firebirds open against Fitzgerald and likely would have to defeat Toombs County and Lovett before getting a rematch with the champions.
The Heritage Generals enter the duals after finishing second to Gilmer County by 43 points with several wrestlers upset during the quarterfinal round.
"I know our team is better than what we showed this past weekend," said Heritage junior Landon Reed, the 125-pound state champion. "Hopefully we can take a little extra motivation into the duals."
The Generals face host Locust Grove, which finished just behind them at the traditional tournament, in the first round.
Gordon Lee's road to the finals won't be nearly as difficult, but if the Trojans get there, they likely will face a veteran Bremen team that defeated them by 89 points last week. Raby, whose team had two individual champions in Mika Clark and Alex Spires, believes his team's depth will play a key role today.
"We're a good dual team," said Raby, whose team has a bye in the first round and will need to defeat either Commerce or Mount Zion to reach the finals. "Being as young as we are, we placed everybody [for the traditional], but some of them were alternates and that didn't give us any points. Bremen is senior heavy and they're a great team, and it's going to be tough."
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 ...