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Staff file photo by Matt Hamilton / Dade County's Jake Gatlin, left, will try to help the Wolverines wrestling program bring home its first team state championship this weekend. With state duals for all seven GHSA classifications set for Saturday, Dade is one of the eight qualifying teams for the Class AA field at Bremen High School.

The GHSA state duals have a distinctly different look these days, but the challenges of bringing home the ultimate hardware remain the same.

Northwest Georgia's state qualifers include six area wrestling programs that will compete Saturday across four classifications as the elite eight of each field determines its state champion. The duals brackets are full of perennial powers looking to add to the trophy case — Commerce, Gilmer, Jefferson and Social Circle among them — as well as surprising programs such as Murray County and North Murray.

Here's a closer look at each of the four tournaments involving area teams, starting with the most top-heavy of the events.

 

CLASS A AT COMMERCE

While most of the state's seven tournaments have prohibitive favorites, Class A has four teams that have won recent championships and are legitimate contenders Saturday, including the host school.

Commerce won six consecutive state duals titles until Trion ended the run in 2020. Social Circle won five straight Class AA titles (2015-19) and is aiming for its first since moving down to Class A, where Mount Pisgah Christian is the reigning champion. This field is also the only one where each of the eight top seeds from last week's preliminary round will compete.

Trion, which opens against Screven County, has dominated in the duals postseason this month, allowing only six points in four matches. Coach Eric Brock's lineup is deep and experienced, led by veterans Blaydn Bowman, Connor Deparlier, Zach Sharp and Brantley Willbanks. The Bulldogs have also been tested.

"I have tried to schedule some tough competition, and they have responded," Brock said. "The team is now 36-1 in dual meets and have placed first in several tournaments. We have a solid lineup that I believe can win every time they step on the mat.

"This field is tough, as you would expect. Mount Pisgah and Commerce are always tough and well coached, but I think that if everyone does what I know they are capable of, then we could very well be in the finals against Social Circle this Saturday evening."

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Staff file photo by Matt Hamilton / Sonoraville wrestling coach Randy Steward will try to lead the program to its first state duals title this weekend. The Phoenix, who have three state traditional tournament championships, are one of the eight programs set to compete in the GHSA Class AAA state duals Saturday at Stephens County.

CLASS AAA AT STEPHENS COUNTY

This is another extremely top-heavy field, led by a Gilmer program that won seven consecutive duals championships from 2010-16 and was last year's runner-up. Rockmart is the No. 2 seed after a solid regular season, with No. 3 seed Sonoraville also showing championship form.

"We have a team this season that is getting better as the season progresses — the key is peaking at the right time — and I feel we are headed in that direction," said Sonoraville coach Randy Steward, whose program owns three state traditional tournament titles but is seeking its first in duals. "The key to making a title run Saturday is our experienced kids doing what they are supposed to do — wrestling to win and scoring bonus points — and the rest of our kids fighting hard and not giving up bonus points."

The strength of the team lies in its heavier weights, where Colt Weaver, Gavin Harper, Jebb Knight, Draven Peppers and Jaxx Knight have a combined 105-10 record in duals competition this season.

Regardless of outcome, North Murray's Mountaineers and Murray County's Indians will leave Stephens County on positive notes. The Mountaineers, the Area 5 runners-up to Gilmer, are led by nine seniors, including Hernan Hernandez, who is 35-1 at 132 pounds, and Devin Hunte, who is 31-5 at 195.

The Indians, on the other hand, have used an infusion of young talent in conjunction with new coach Drake Enloe to go from No. 3 seed in Area 5 to the elite eight. Sophomore Todd Banks and freshmen Caleb Blair and German Raymundo have been key wrestlers in addition to seniors Drew Carter and Caleb Peden.

Neither of the programs from Murray County has won a state duals championship, although the Indians won back-to-back traditional titles in 1993-94.

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Staff file photo by Matt Hamilton / Sonoraville's wrestling team has a strong run of talent at its heavier weights, where Jebb Knight, pictured, and Gavin Harper, Jaxx Knight, Draven Peppers and Colt Weaver have a combined 105-10 record in duals competition this season.

CLASS AA AT BREMEN

Dade County, after losing in last year's title match by nine points to Oglethorpe County, has a solid shot at breaking through for its first duals title behind an experienced group of seniors making their fourth consecutive trip to the tournament.

Coach Jeff Poston's lineup is led by a trio of seniors — reigning 195-pound individual champion Cody Williams, 220-pounder Isaac Pangle and 285-pounder Austin Sorrelle, who has lost just twice this season — and sophomore Landon Williams, who is undefeated at 182.

"We have a legitimate shot at the championship, but our side of the bracket is definitely the toughest, so if we get to the semis, we will probably see Lovett, and they are the team that scares me the most," said Poston, who also relies on seniors Cayden Cooper, Jake Gatlin, Hayden Langley and Zac Smith.

"The difference between winning and losing this weekend will come down to some of our underclassmen. We need them to stay in their matches and not give up bonus points."

 

CLASS AAAA AT LaGRANGE

Heritage has fought through injury and illness to make a surprising run to state, where 19-time duals champion Jefferson is the prohibitive favorite. The Generals, coach Mike Craft believes, could be in the mix for a top-four finish in a field where six of the eight teams did not make the elite eight a year ago.

"We've had our ups and downs this year, but we've had guys step in and do well," Craft said. "Our duals record is 25-11, and most of our losses have been determined by one match or a point or two."

Four of Craft's wrestlers — Andrew Dietz, Skylar Grant, Tate Thomas and Evan Wingrove — have eclipsed 30 wins this season. The Generals own a state traditional title (AAA in 2012) but are seeking their first duals crown.

Contact Lindsey Young at lyoung@timesfreepress.com. Follow him on Twitter @youngsports22.

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