RINGGOLD, Ga. -- Before his Heritage High School wrestlers headed Thursday for Macon in advance of today's start of the GHSA Duals Championships, coach Kenny Hill had a simple message for a team getting its first taste of being the chasee instead of the chaser.
"If you don't show everybody you deserve to be No. 1, then it means nothing," said Hill, whose team earned the Class AAA top ranking after knocking off defending champion Gilmer County in last weekend's area duals. "With the No. 1 seed comes pressure, but I feel our kids are ready. I mean, this is what we've been working for all season."
Heritage finds out early today if that pressure will be too much as the Generals open against Chestatee at 8:30. A win would create a long wait until the quarterfinal round at 5:30, where the opponent would be Columbus or Cairo.
"Well, a lot of these guys aren't morning people, so they'll be irritable and that might be a good thing," Hill said with a laugh. "Wrestling that early does give us a chance to watch some of the other teams like [fourth-seeded] Locust Grove and [second-seeded] West Laurens."
If seedings hold true, the Generals would face Locust Grove in Saturday morning's semifinals. Gilmer, West Laurens and perennial power Eastside reside on the other side of the bracket.
"I like our bracket, but all these teams are tough, and if we overlook any of them we could be in trouble," Hill said. "We're ready, though, and I can't imagine this bunch not taking it seriously from the start."
Two other northwestern Georgia teams will begin competition today as well. Gordon Lee is part of the eight-team Class A field and will wrestle Telfair County at 1:45, while Area 7 winner Calhoun faces Jordan at noon in the Class AA tournament. Both of those area squads could face stiff tests on their sides of the brackets.
Fourth-seeded Calhoun likely would face Fitzgerald in round two, and the winner probably would face Jefferson, the prohibitive favorite, in the semifinals Saturday. A Gordon Lee win would send the Trojans against defending champion Bremen in the Class A semifinals.
"It's going to be a good dual tournament and I think the Class A field is really open," Gordon Lee coach Brent Raby said. "Bremen is the top seed and I think we are a lot alike this year. I really think we can get a rematch with Holy Innocents', but we have to win the ones we're supposed to and get a few we're not supposed to."
Holy Innocents', the No. 2 seed, knocked off Gordon Lee in last week's area duals tournament.
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 ...