Georgia's second wrestling postseason begins today, and the challenges facing the area's best possibilities for team championships are eerily similar.
Both Heritage and Gordon Lee will be among the handful of traditional team favorites in their respective classes, but before the Generals and Trojans reach the state tournament in two weeks, they first have to compete in the same area tournaments as the teams that defeated them at the state duals last month.
Heritage and state duals champion Gilmer County will be the favorites at the 7-AAA area tournament at Allatoona, while Gordon Lee will have among its competition new rival Holy Innocents' at the Area 1-A tournament at Darlington. Also in action today and Saturday will be the Area 7-AA tournament at Rockmart, with Calhoun among the favorites, and the 7-AAAA event at Cass, where Northwest Whitfield will be trying to make some noise.
The top four qualifiers in each weight class will advance to next week's sectionals, where the state field will be cut in half. For Heritage, Gilmer and other strong 7-AAA teams such as LaFayette, Southeast Whitfield, Dalton and Ringgold, the overall quality can damage a team's state title hopes.
"I think we're ready," senior defending state champion Landon Reed said. "We weren't mentally prepared against Gilmer last time, but this is a different tournament. We've had to switch from duals to traditional mode, and that means just worrying about winning our match instead of getting pins. As long as we advance to next week we'll be all right."
Gordon Lee and Holy Innocents' will be in the same building for the first time since last month's controversial Class A duals championship match won by Holy Innocents' after a Gordon Lee wrestler was disqualified for what was ruled a flagrant head butt.
Gordon Lee administrators appealed the ruling, not for the penalty but because Holy Innocents' was awarded six points for the match win despite the match clock reaching zero when the referee's whistle blew. The referee, who at the time agreed the bout was over when the incident occurred, has since changed his mind. In the GHSA's answer to the appeal, he stated the match had not concluded.
Either way, Gordon Lee coach Brent Raby says a motivated Trojans team will take the mat today.
"They're ready to roll and they're very hungry right now," Raby said. "We won't be at full strength, so we're going to have to out-wrestle our [individual] seedings, but these kids have something to prove. They believe something was taken away from them last month. But to win the state championship they've got to get through this weekend first, and that won't be easy."
Each tournament will wrestle two championship rounds today, with semifinals and finals Saturday.
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 ...