River Ridge will be travel to Gilmer today to begin the Region 7AAAA tournament. Coach Joseph Mullinax expects several of his wrestlers to perform well and possibly advance to sectionals.
In addition to sophomore Noah Smith (145 pounds), Mullinax has high hopes for freshman Marvin Cunningham (126) and junior Lenard Jones (113).
“I expect, given with the other weight classes and the toughness of our region, those three having a realistic chance at sectionals,” Mullinax said. “You can never tell. Anything came happen, but those are the top three.”
Among the top teams in Region 7AAAA are Gilmer, Cass and Northwest Whitfield.
“Our region is stacked, honestly,” Mullinax said. “We’ll see. I feel pretty confident that we will have someone make it out to sectionals.”
Creekview is hosting the Region 7AAAAA tournament today and Saturday, with Sequoyah also competing, as will nationally ranked Pope.
One favorite for Creekview is senior Hunter Udall (170), who was a state-qualifier last year. Also expected to perform well for the Grizzlies are Joseph Sorrentino (182) — another state-qualifier from a season ago — and state-placer Michael Edwards (138). Hunter Smith (160) and Brock Tupman (285) also have solid chances at advancing.
Sequoyah sophomores Matt Greer (132) and Keegan Grodi (160) should be competitive, too.
Cherokee, Etowah and Woodstock will compete in the Region 5AAAAAA meet Saturday at Wheeler.
Among the top Cherokee wrestlers are Blake Walker (113), Andrew Torrence (126) and Brady Sandercock (170).
Coach Lance Riccio said that 113, 120 and 126 are tough classes this year.
“Sometimes you have a real strong weight class in (a region) and sometimes you won’t,” Riccio said. “This time, we have a few. It just depends on the kids.”
The Warriors won’t have a wrestler at 132, but they will be taking a full roster to compete.
Woodstock coach Michael Powell feels pretty confident about his wrestlers. The Wolverines have two returning state-qualifiers and one defending region champion.
Junior Tristan Watson (113) was a state-qualifier last year in the same class.
“(Watson) is in a pretty tough weight class,” Powell said. “Cherokee has probably the No. 2-ranked kid in the state (in Walker) at that weight, and you have a tough Roswell kid, and a top kid over at Etowah (in Dylan) Wagner, so it’s a tough class. I definitely think he is one of the few that will get through this weekend.”
Sophomore Cody Beach (120), sophomore Zach Shareef (138), senior Chris Nani (145), junior Duncan Morris (170) and Wes Pella (185) also have a strong chance to qualify out of their classes.
Morris was a sectional qualifier last season, while Pella is defending his region title and hopes to make a third straight trip to the state tournament.
Powell said Woodstock is young, but ready to compete.
“This is my third year as the head coach,” he said. “When we took over the program, we had like nine kids on the team. We started last season at 50 wrestlers, so we have a handful of juniors, two seniors and then freshmen and sophomores. We are real young.
“The older guys understand the nature of the region tournament, and these young guys have just jumped in there from Day 1. They are excited about it.”
Like his counterparts, Etowah coach Charles Higdon is also excited about some of his wrestlers.
In addition to Wagner at 113, Josh Thomas (106), Joey Payton (120), Alex Rusk (126), Bronson Rechsteiner (138) and Maveric Rechsteiner (195) have excellent chances to advance.
The top four placers in each weight class will advance from the region tournaments to the sectionals, which will be held Feb. 8-9 at Kennesaw Mountain (Class AAAAAA), Loganville (AAAAA) and Pickens (AAAA).