While a state title is the ultimate goal for both wrestling programs, simply qualifying for state is an accomplishment in and of itself.
Etowah coach Charlie Higdon said that for his team to win the Area 5AAAAAA duals last weekend was impressive because of the strength of the programs competing.
“I’m excited to be going,” said Higdon, whose Eagles beat Roswell by a single point in the championship round of the area tournament. “I feel like we had a competitive (area), and to get out of that is something.”
As the No. 5 seed in Class AAAAAA, Etowah will face No. 12 East Coweta in the opening round of the state duals. Should it advance out of that pairing, it would then face either Chattahoochee or Collins Hill. Higdon said that would provide a big test for Etowah as Collins Hill — the likely victor in its first-round matchup — is widely considered one of the top programs in Class AAAAAA.
“I’m excited about the possibilities,” Higdon said. “I think that we can compete well. We are one of the top 16 teams in Class AAAAAA. That is something to get excited about. I consider it an opportunity to go out and compete.
“We haven’t been to state in a while — or much at all — around here, so it’s something different for us. Other teams might do this every year, but we haven’t gone a whole lot. Maybe that will give us an advantage. We are pumped.”
That story isn’t quite the same for Creekview, which finished second to Pope in Area 7AAAAA. Despite being its area runner-up, the Grizzlies are seeded second of 16 teams — behind only Pope, the two-time defending state champion — and will face No. 15 Lee County in the opening round.
The Grizzlies have made several trips to the state duals, including last season. That experience might have left the returning wrestlers even hungrier for a state title, but any individual honors will have to wait for the traditional championships next month. The duals are more about individuals contributing to the team’s output.
“I think that this tournament allows everyone to be a part of a program’s success,” Higdon said. “You can have some really talented individuals and not be a good program, but you can’t be in the top 16 in the state and not be a fairly good program. It’s just like the guys on Friday night who never step on the (football) field. Our guys are going to have some memories of competing at the highest level, and that isn’t always the case. We are pretty excited about it.”