The road to the state finals in Duluth will begin today and Saturday as the county’s wrestlers compete in their respective traditional region tournaments.
Etowah, Cherokee and Woodstock will compete in the seven-team Region 5AAAAA tournament, which begins Saturday at 9 a.m. at Walton.
Etowah and Cherokee each drew two No. 1 seeds in their respective weight classes. Blake Walker (106 pounds) and Andrew Torrence (126) were the top seeds for the Warriors, while returning state champion Jeremiah Lutz (145) and Maveric Rechsteiner (195) are the Eagles’ No. 1 seeds.
Other prominent Cherokee wrestlers include Brady Sandercock (170) and Levi Satterfield (220). Etowah should have strong showings from Dylan Wagner (106), Alexander Rusk (113), Joey Payton (120), Bryce Verones (126) and Joel Schumaker (285).
“We really have to execute what we know how to do and what our strengths are and minimize our losses,” Etowah coach Eric Burton said. “If we go in there and apply ourselves the way we’ve done before and the way we did at the region duals, then we expect the same results, if not better.
“I think, in some of the weight classes, we’re going to come out a bit better. There are some weight classes where some really good kids aren’t going to make it, so hopefully, we can turn that into our favor.”
Cherokee coach Lance Riccio has taken some positives from his team over the past few weeks and hopes they continue Saturday.
“I just want to see us wrestle well,” he said. “We’ve been wrestling well for the past couple of weeks, and we just want to keep that momentum going. We want our guys that are a little older to keep going, and that’s the name of the game right now. We’re peaking at the right time.”
Chris Nani (138) is Woodstock’s lone No. 1 seed, though coach Michael Powell is also looking forward to seeing T.J. Parson (132), Gunner Henderson (145) and Wes Pella (285) do well in the tournament.
“This will be a great learning experience for our young guys,” Powell said. “Hopefully, they’ll come out competitively and be ready to wrestle. Nani and Pella are juniors, and they’ll get another shot at this. Unfortunately, Gunner is in a really loaded weight class, and he’s a senior, so hopefully, he’s ready to go and will be on his game on Saturday.”
Cass will host the 11-team Region 7AAAA tournament, which includes Creekview and Sequoyah, starting today at 4 p.m. Champions will be crowned Saturday
Creekview and Sequoyah are hoping to have multiple placers in a region filled with some of the toughest talent in the state. Cass, Chattahoochee, Northwest Whitfield, Woodland-Bartow and South Forsyth are just a few of the teams to beat, while Forsyth Central, Johns Creek, Lambert and Rome will also have some tough wrestlers.
Seeded wrestlers for Creekview, which won the 7AAAA tournament last year, include Nate Bridges (106), Cullen Castle (120), Michael Edwards (132), Joe Hulen (138), Hunter Udall (152), Justin Pettyjohn (160), Joseph Sorrentino (170) and Nick McClendon (182). Hulen earned the top seed, while Castle grabbed the No. 2.
“I’m not concerned so much about repeating as (region) champions,” co-coach Wyatt Wilkie said. “I just want our guys to do the best they can, and, if it happens that we win again, then great. But I want our guys to make it to sectionals so they can move on and wrestle again next weekend.”
Sequoyah coach Adrian Antonini is hoping see strong showings from Adam Graves (120), Payton Johnson (138), Dakota Maksimovich (138) and Dylan Hall (145).
“I expect those guys to make a run,” he said. “They have the ability to do it. Right now, I think our guys are peaking and they’ve earned the right to place.”
River Ridge will head to Rockmart for the Region 7AA traditional tournament, a 14-team event that begins today and ends Saturday.
Wrestlers who finish among the top four in their respective weight classes will advance to the state
sectional meets, which will be held Feb. 10 and 11 at Marietta (AAAAA), Northside-Columbus (AAAA) and Blessed Trinity (AA).