Today, Sequoyah and River Ridge will couple with a Creekview split-squad for the Chiefs’ Black and Gold Duals, in an attempt to prepare for the busiest time of the season.
The 10-team tournament will be divided into pools, with the winners of each pool advancing to fight for the tournament crown.
For Creekview assistant coach John Judkins, the tournament is a homecoming of sorts.
Not long before Creekview welcomed its first students in 2005, Judkins was an assistant at Sequoyah under Kevin Higgins — who would become the Grizzlies’ wrestling coach and athletic director when the new program launched — and they founded the Black and Gold meet.
Now on the Creekview wrestling staff, Judkins hopes to see Sequoyah’s tournament continue to flourish.
“You always want to see what you’ve worked for continue on,” said Judkins, who spent time as the head coach at Pickens before moving to Creekview. “It’s always nice to be able to help out this tournament by attending it. Of course, we want to win the whole thing, but we’d like to see Sequoyah do well.”
Creekview won last year’s tournament, and Judkins hopes to see the team repeat as champion, but he anticipates that it will be difficult for his young and depleted squad. Many of the Grizzlies’ veteran wrestlers are at a tournament in Chapel Hill, N.C., leaving junior varsity wrestlers to compete at Sequoyah.
“It is going to be tough this year to win it, as we will have a lot of holes in our squad, but we’ll try,” Judkins said. “We went to the River Ridge duals with the same team, and we only lost one match on the mat, so I feel good about the kids that we are bringing.”
Judkins hopes that by exposing Creekview’s younger wrestlers to a varsity-level tournament, they will be better prepared in the event that they are forced to step up to the varsity squad later on in the year.
“You never know what will happen due to injuries. Some of these kids may be called upon,” Judkins said. “We want them to get some experience wrestling at the varsity level, so that if they have to step in, it won’t seem like such a big deal.”
Judkins won’t be the only one to enter the tournament with a weakened squad. River Ridge coach Joseph Mullinax expects to see the Knights be forced to forfeit up to five weight classes due to illnesses or absences.
“Us achieving a top seed is unlikely,” said the Knights’ first-year coach. “All season long, we’ve seemed to be placed in the toughest pools, and I expect the same thing (today).”
Despite his squad’s slim chance of winning the tournament, Mullinax stressed the importance of getting his wrestlers more time on the mat in preparation for next week’s Region 7AAAA duals at Cedartown.
“I have been telling our guys that, no matter what the outcome is, we need to take this weekend as a learning experience,” Mullinax said. “This tournament is extremely important for us, because we need to see what we need to improve on in practice for region next week.”