CHICKAMAUGA, Ga. — There are a few things Brent Raby knows about his 2013-14 Gordon Lee High School wrestling team — and a few he doesn't.
The coach knows the Trojans, who swept both Class A team championships last season, again are talented -- evidenced by seven returning state placers, including two individual champs -- and he knows there will be plenty of fresh bodies on the mat after five state medalists graduate.
Raby's not sure who will man some of the open slots, and those names could change on a weekly basis, but the biggest certainty he has for the new team is that it will be versatile, which always comes in handy at tournament time.
"To be honest, I think it will be the best team we've ever had, but we may not show it until January," Raby said. "We've got a great group of guys back and a very good freshman group, and we've got a lot of guys that can wrestle up and not lose anything, which gives us a lot of lineup flexibility."
Leading that group is two-time state champion Johnny Ragsdale. The junior, Raby said, will wrestle anywhere from his sophomore weight of 113 up to 126.
"Johnny wants to wrestle up, and I don't think there's a kid in the state that can handle him," Raby said of Ragsdale, who was 47-1 a year ago. "We've got a sophomore, Nick Wilson, who was injured last year and will likely come in at 113, so moving Johnny up can help us."
The other returning state champion is senior Will Jacks, who likely will alternate between 152 and 160. Junior Stihl Lance, who was the state runner-up at 106, probably will move up to 126, allowing for talented freshman Zach Murdock to slide in at the lightest weight. The other knowns for the Trojans are Dylan Skipper, who will be at either 138 or 145, Sidney Rhinehart at 160 or 170, state runner-up Shane Farmer at 182 and junior Dallas Goodlet at 220.
Farmer, like his coach, believes the Trojans will have a strong shot to defend their team titles. He also hopes to bring home some new hardware himself.
"Finishing second last year has me more motivated individually, and teamwise I believe we can achieve our goals again," said Farmer, who was 45-6 last year. "We've got a good freshman group coming in, and we're all working hard and conditioning."
Raby, unlike many coaches, doesn't ask his kids to cut much weight in the early part of the season. The practice has paid off, so he's not about to change now.
"We don't believe in asking them to go down in weight early, because we want them to build their strength up," he said. "Our plan is to peak at the right time, and part of that is getting our weight management right. We're a much different team in January than we'll show in December, and if that means losing some dual matchups early, that's OK with me as long as we win state titles."
Contact Lindsey Young at firstname.lastname@example.org or at 423-757-6296.
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 ...