Published Thursday, January 10, 2013

East Coweta wrestlers set to compete at GHSA state duals


East Coweta wresting coach Josh Herring knows he has a young team.

With 11 underclassmen, it’s inexperienced in certain weight classes, but that can’t stop him from bragging about the Indians’ 2012-13 accomplishments so far this season.

He has reason to speak with pride.

Starting tonight, the Indians are one of just 16 teams set to wrestle in the Class AAAAAA state duals at the Macon Coliseum.

“It’s a testament to their hard work," Herring said. “To be able to persevere and qualify for the state says a lot about this team.”

East Coweta earned its way to Macon with a solid second-place performance at the Area 3-AAAAAA duals last weekend, losing to Douglas County in the finals in the Tigers’ own gym.

East Coweta set the stage for their final against Douglas County with a close victory against rival Newnan.

It was the second nail-bitter this season with its rival Newnan. Earlier this year, the Indians and Cougars battled to a tie in the annual tri-meet with the Indians winning the overall championship after earning a series of tiebreakers.

“We knew going in that there were going to be three teams that had a really good chance to make it to state,” Herring said. “We were able to get through with some big victories early, and then beat Newnan in a huge match. I think it helped that we wrestled them before Douglas County.”

The rematch with Newnan was a chess match with both coaches shifting their lineups around in hopes of getting the upper hand.

“I don’t think we really match up well with Newnan, but I was able to change some things around and it worked,” Herring said.

It included moving Blake Green up to 138 pounds and Matthew Durham ahead to 120. Durham has had a solid winter, winning his second Fayette County Christmas Classic in a row over the holiday break.

Drew Higgins, who wrestles at 138 pounds normally, has the ability to wrestle up in weight class for the Indians. He is also making his third trip back to state, so he brings plenty of senior leadership to the mat.

“It’s a great feeling to get back to state duals,” Higgins said.”Just seeing all the other teams, it’s something every wrestler should get to experience.”

Jamal Ragland is also heading back to the state duals with plenty of expectations. Ragland says close matches against teams like Newnan can only make the Indians better down the line.

“In matches like that, you have to do your best to win because anything can happen,” he said.

One of the biggest surprises so far this year has been with first-time wrestler Tristan Mann.

Mann, who is one of seven members of the East Coweta football team to join the wrestling squad at the conclusion of the Indians’ season, recorded a pin for East Coweta at last week’s area duals after he was moved to 195.

Heavyweight Dawson Ellis also picked up a couple of wins to pace East Coweta at last weekend’s event.

The Indians begin their quest for a state duals title with a match against North Forysth, which made it in to the tournament with a strong showing out of Area 6-AAAAAA.

Herring has had plenty of success getting teams to Macon with the Indians qualifying for state four of the past six years.

“You are not ever going to find a team you are happy to wrestle,” Herring said. “They all are very deep and very well coached.”

The Indians’ coach knows why he has had so much success getting his programs to Macon.

“Our kids have always worked hard,” he said. “It just says a lot about the dedication our kids have always shown.”

The Indians will rely on their handful wrestlers who have been to state duals to help secure a successful weekend. And the kids are buying into one Herring is trying to teach them about never giving up.

“I have never been to state duals before, so I would love it if we could go out there and have a good showing. It is going to take all of us doing our jobs and coming together,” said 140-pound wrestler Jonathan Guy.

Austin Scales is excited about making his first trip to state after watching this team excel in throughout the year.

“I am proud of our team and I am sure we will go out there and perform,” Scales said.

Herring knows what makes his squad tick.

“The real story of this team is there are no individual stars,” Herring said. “There is no one person out there that takes over this team. That’s the great thing about this team.”

What Herring likes about his team is they stay well grounded.

“They are not foolish, they know they are first-year guys,” he said. “At the same time, they know they can do incredible things.”

Herring says it can be a successful weekend even if the Indians don’t win it.

“I am looking for us to go out there and rise to the occasion,” Herring said. “We know we are young and might be outgunned against some teams. But we are not going to run from anybody. We are going to toe the line, and do everything we can to win.”

But it’s the next two years that could really be special for the Indians' wrestlers.

“I think you could be looking at a top-five finish next year and the year after. As we get more experience, we could be special,” Herring said.

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