CHICKAMAUGA, Ga. — In most sports a coach will do most anything to downplay a big upcoming event. But wrestling isn't typical and Brent Raby doesn't pull punches.
So as Raby's Gordon Lee High School wrestling team prepared for a possible GHSA Class A duals championship rematch with Holy Innocents' this weekend in Macon, Raby acknowledged that his Trojans and the Golden Bears have unfinished business after last year's controversial title match. After several appeals, both programs were named duals champions.
"This will be the most anticipated match of any of them," Raby said. "Everybody feels there is a score to settle. I know Holy Innocents' does, but I also know everybody in Class A is pulling for us to beat them. If we just wrestle tough, we'll take care of it."
It's not as if Raby is dismissing the other six teams in the bracket. Gordon Lee will have to likely defeat No. 3-ranked Commerce to get to Saturday's final.
"I don't want to overlook that Commerce team. They've given us fits and they have great kids every year," he said.
But since the moment last year's match ended, it's all been about Holy Innocents'.
"We hope to see Holy Innocents' in the finals," said the Trojans' Alex Spires, who wrestled with an injured ankle in last year's matchup. "I like the way the bracket played out with them in the finals. We're going to be ready for them. We're not worried about motivation, and we want to show the state who's the best."
Because of illness, injury and weight-management issues, the Trojans haven't had their optimum lineup available until this weekend. That lineup features such veteran wrestlers as Cory Jewell, Johnny Ragsdale, Mika Clark, Will Jacks and Clayton Reeves. Holy Innocents', which beat Commerce 48-12 in their area duals, also has plenty of firepower in the likes of Liam Quigley, Rod Davis, Jason Grimes and John Hiles.
"They have 11 starters back from last year," Raby said. "They've bumped around a lot with their weight classes. We're going to line our 14 up and go after them. From 106 to 126 we'll be heavily favored, and from 132 to 182 there will be some dogfights. They're a good team, no doubt about it."
Asked if there was a concern his team might be too hyped up for the matchup, Raby quickly discounted any worry.
"You've got to be up for big matches and you want them to be aggressive," he said. "I couldn't find any fault in any of our matches in the finals last year. We wrestle best when we're aggressive, so I don't want to."
Raiders fall in AAAA
Southeast Whitfield fell to Marist in Thursday's first round of the Class AAAA state duals. The Raiders, the Area 7 runners-up, lost 43-30 to the second-ranked War Eagles and will face Eagle's Landing this morning at 8 in the first round of consolations.
Also Thursday, top-ranked and defending state champion Gilmer County easily got past Lumpkin County, 49-12, and will face Perry, a 54-22 winner over Cairo, in the quarterfinals at 8 a.m. Other Class AAAA first-round winners were Carrollton, Locust Grove, Alexander, Chestatee and West Laurens.
Sonoraville in Class AAA and Calhoun in Class AA join Gordon Lee in beginning competition today. The Phoenix open against McNair at 9:45 a.m., and Calhoun's Yellow Jackets face top-ranked Jefferson at 11:30.
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 ...