CHICKAMAUGA, Ga. - Brent Raby understands the irony, but the Gordon Lee High School wrestling coach is pleased with the status quo in Georgia Class A wrestling.
While the GHSA elected to split public and private Class A schools for the postseason beginning this school year, the decision does not affect wrestling. The irony comes in the fact that no Class A sport had as much contention between public and private schools as wrestling last year.
Raby's Trojans earned a share of the state duals title after appealing a controversial ruling in the championship match with private school Holy Innocents'. The process dragged out for weeks and created a lot of tension between the schools and sparked statewide debate. Despite that, Raby is glad the wrestling postseason will not change its format.
"It's a good thing, to me," he said. "We're actually gaining some teams from the GISA that have some really good kids that compete nationally."
The Trojans will look decidedly different from last year despite not graduating a starter off a team that had three individual champions and six others who placed in the top five. State champion Ethan West transferred to Cleveland, another wrestler is no longer at the school and two other talented wrestlers have yet to commit to the season, which is being delayed until the football team is eliminated from the playoffs.
"We've lost some kids, but I still think this will be our best team yet," Raby said. "We've had some kids get bigger, so our upper weights will be better, and we have some guys who will step in that I expect big things from."
Returning are state champions Johnny Ragsdale, a sophomore who will wrestle up to 113 this year, and senior 195-pounder Cory Jewell, to go along with multiple-time state placers Mika Clark and Will Jacks and 2011-12 placers Clayton Reeves, Shane Farmer and Chase Wood. The top newcomers are 120-pound Blake Clayton and 106-pounder Nick Wilson, who broke his ankle playing football and likely will be back in late January.
Jewell, like his coach, is glad the postseason won't be watered down and believes this new-look Trojans team will again be strong.
"I don't want it to be a cakewalk," said Jewell, the 195-pound champion who will join the team when football is finished. "I'm looking forward to getting started. I know a lot of the kids have been working hard in the offseason on their own, and we've got several guys who are moving into the lineup that haven't had the chance to show how good they are.
"I'm confident we'll be there in the end."