High School Wrestling
County lineups continue to gear up for area tournaments
by Chris Goltermann
East Coweta, Newnan and Northgate wrestling teams will go their separate ways this weekend, each choosing a unique direction the week prior to respective area traditional tournaments.
But all three have the same goal in mind — which is, namely to prepare their lineups mentally and physically for the most important part of the 2013-14 season.
Newnan will travel to Jonesboro for the annual Tara Classic today while Northgate makes its yearly trip to Bowdon for its invitational tournament. Meanwhile, East Coweta, as it has in years past, is using this weekend to assess rising standouts on the junior varsity during its season finale at Sandy Creek, while allowing the varsity to bond off the mat.
“We traditionally do a team bonding exercise at this time in the season,” said Indians head coach Josh Herring. “It allows us to come together right before we get ready for battle.”
Next weekend’s area tournaments, with East Coweta hosting the 3-AAAAAA event and Northgate traveling to McIntosh for the 4-AAAAA event, will determine which athletes advance on to the GHSA state sectionals.
While this month’s duals format takes on a more team-oriented feel, the traditionals allow each wrestler to focus on what they need to do to advance to the sectionals, and possibly beyond to the GHSA championships in Gwinnett.
“We’re still playing with a few weight classes, but we’re coming into our own,” Herring said. “After the state duals, you try to give every kid in the room the possibility of succeeding. When it comes to an individual standpoint, whoever wins [at practice] at a weight class gets their shot and you have to try and beat the kid at that spot.”
With a mix of veterans like seniors Zach Gabriel and Matthew Durham between 113 and 125 pounds, rising stars in juniors Kevin Lashley (170), Dawson Ellis (275) and sophomore Dusty Nelson (106) and emerging newcomers like freshman Garrett Klinger (145), it’s not always easy to match the schedule to the roster.
East Coweta’s trip to the annual Slam Sham was as much an eye-opener for the majority of the lineup. The event featured four state champions including Class AAAAAA State Duals winner Archer as well as two state runner-up programs.
The Indians then bounced back by sweeping Area 3-AAAAAA foe Langston Hughes and Northside Tuesday during Senior Night festivities, winning 26 of 28 contested matches.
“There’s got to be a valley before you get to a peak and last weekend was our valley,” Herring said. “We didn’t really blow the socks off of people on Tuesday, but we got the job done. (Wednesday)’s practice was the best we’ve had all year. So I think they’re peaking at the right time.”
The season has been a balancing act for Herring and his staff while juggling wrestlers with potential to place at the state tournament like Nelson, who expects to be a favorite among lightweights next weekend, and up-and-coming ones like Klinger, who has faced a gauntlet of opponents at 145 pounds. It’s included last week’s 4-0 victory over Northgate freshman Brady McCloud among two young wrestlers with loads of potential.
While both have been successful, Herring has asked some who have struggled to stay the course.
“That’s the tough part of coaching,” said Herring, one of several coaches in recent years that support the practicality for programs at the middle-school level. “You’ll see some give up sports for a lack of success. I tell my guys, give me one-and-a-half to two years with me. They’ll begin to understand that work comes before success. The only place it doesn’t is the dictionary.”