LaFayette, Heritage expected to challenge at area duals

LaFayette, Heritage expected to challenge at area duals

January 3rd, 2014 by Lindsey Young in Sports - Preps

Will Jacks, bottom),shows a teammate a move with the help of Dylan Skipper during a Gordon Lee High School wrestling practice at the high schoolin Chickamauga, Ga.

Photo by Maura Friedman/Times Free Press.

The holiday season is only a couple of days gone, which means ... it's postseason time in Georgia high school wrestling?

The GHSA state wrestling duals field will be determined this weekend at area events throughout the state, including the 7-AAAA tournament at Gilmer County, where the top-ranked hosts are the prohibitive favorites. If the Bobcats, the defending state champions, roll as expected to the title Saturday, the other state-tournament berth is up for grabs.

"Gilmer is solid from top to bottom, and the rest of us are going in with a few holes in our lineups," said first-year LaFayette coach Joe Franks, who was wrestling in this event just five years ago. "If we bring it like we did our last dual tournament I feel certain we can qualify for the state, but it's going to be interesting."

The Ramblers, who are seeded third behind Gilmer and Cass, have lost only one dual meet this season and feature experienced wrestlers in Matthew Mathis, Sam Lemons and Dylan Oliver. Fourth-seeded Heritage, which is state ranked, also is expected to be in the mix, as is Northwest Whitfield.

Last year's surprise area runner-up, Southeast Whitfield, is seeded sixth with a very different lineup from last season.

"We graduated six solid seniors last year that qualified for the state [traditional] tournament, and we've had several guys who would be starting elect not to compete this year so they could work," Raiders coach Michael Herndon said. "We're forfeiting four weight classes, so it's very tough to compete in dual tournaments. I believe Gilmer is the team to beat. We saw them in December and they were very strong."

The tournament begins today at noon and, with school out, is scheduled to get through the semifinal round. The championship match is set for noon Saturday, with a match for second place to follow if the loser has not wrestled the consolation-round winner.

The Area 3-AAA and 3-AA tournaments will be held at Fannin County and Pepperell, respectively, and will send four teams each to the state, while the Area 3-A tournament at Trion will send two to the smaller single-A field. Defending champion Gordon Lee is expected to earn one of those spots, but the Trojans expect strong competition from Carroll's Mount Zion.

"Mount Zion is tough," Gordon Lee coach Brent Raby said. "They did not lose anyone from last year. We lost seven seniors and we haven't fielded a full team yet this season, though we're getting close."

Raby will welcome Dylan Skipper back following an injury to join a lineup that features returning state champions Johnny Ragsdale (35-0 this year) and Will Jacks (34-1). The 3-A tournament is being held Saturday only because only six teams are competing.

Contact Lindsey Young at lyoung@timesfreepress.com or at 423-757-6296.