“Let’s get this thing going!”
After four days of missed practices and lost matches with schools closed, Cobb County’s wrestlers will finally get back on the mats today to begin a crucial stretch of tournaments.
The area championships will take place today, with the top four finishers in each weight class advancing to next week’s sectional meets.
“The kids turn it up a notch at this time of the year,” said Kennesaw Mountain coach Roberto Rivera, who will lead his team into the Area 4AAAAAA meet at McEachern. “This is it for them. They have to be peaking at the right time, and that time is now.
“Everybody was in the same boat as far as the weather and missing practices. Our guys found ways to get out and do things. They carpooled to some private facilities and got in the work. They should be ready to go. I’m sure the other schools will be ready to go too.”
The Mustangs are seeking redemption after the use of an ineligible wrestler forced them to settle for fourth at last year’s traditional area tournament. Instead, Hillgrove earned its second championship in three years.
Kennesaw Mountain, winner of last month’s area duals, has 12 seeded wrestlers for today’s tournament, including six No. 1s — Matt Michaud (132 pounds), returning champion Augusto Paes (138), Henrio Thelemaque (145), Bryce Colon (152), Brandon London (160) and two-time champion Justan Rivera (182).
Marietta and McEachern could also challenge for the team championship. The Blue Devils were second to Hillgrove last year, with the Indians third.
Marietta has four No. 1 seeds among its 14 wrestlers, led by Jason Caldwell (106), Jonathan Gates (170), Isaiah Borne (195) and Jeron Holsey (285).
“I’m hoping all of the guys perform to their ability,” Marietta coach Tommy Carthers said. “If they do that, then everything should take care of itself.”
McEachern has 11 seeded wrestlers and two No. 1s in Alex Noble (126) and Christian Wade (220).
“I feel very positive about this team,” McEachern coach Ben Hamburg said. “They know they were one match away from being (area) dual champs, so I don’t have to motivate them. They’ve been calling all week about practice, so I know they want this pretty badly.
“I think we’re a much better traditional team than we are a dual team anyway, so now the guys just need to meet up to my expectations.”
Pebblebrook’s Taqee Muhammad is the top seed at 113, while Harrison’s Aaron Powell is No. 1 at 120.
The tournament is scheduled to begin at 9 a.m. today, with semifinal matches slated for 11 a.m. The finals are set to start at 4 p.m.
“We’re still doing the ceremony with the music and the lights for the finals,” Hamburg said. “We still want to keep that tradition. Other than that and lunch, we shouldn’t have any delays.”
The Area 5AAAAAA meet at Etowah is set for an 11 a.m. start, with the finals scheduled for 6 p.m.
The host Eagles, who won the area duals last month, are the favorites to take the traditional crown. Roswell, which beat Cherokee in last year’s area traditional tournament, will be a strong challenger to Etowah.
Walton has 10 of its 11 wrestlers seeded, including top seed and returning champion Jacob Murphy (138). Eric Smith (220) is also a No. 1.
“We’re very excited about the tournament,” Raiders coach Pete Murphy said. “I feel like we’re in a good place, and whoever can get their kids to regroup and rise to the task at hand should do well.”
Lassiter has eight seeded wrestlers, including No. 1 seeds Connor Shields (182) and Philip Murray (195).
“If I can send all eight to sectionals, then it’s been a good day,” Lassiter coach Matt Brickley said. “Etowah won the duals, but I think (Saturday) is up for grabs. Everybody has a decent amount of seeds, and whoever scores the most bonus points will win.”
Wheeler has five seeded wrestlers, including No. 1s E.J. Walker (106) and Aslan Kilic (113).