Wrestling’s revised schedule for state championships ‘like a box of chocolates’
“I made it to state” is a phrase that will be used more than ever by Georgia’s high school wrestlers this year.
Why is that? Due to the icy conditions last weekend, wrestling’s sectional tournaments were cancelled. It was part of an emergency plan by the Georgia High School Association, which compensated by adding an extra bracket for this weekend’s traditional state championships. In Class AAAAA-AA, the 16-man bracket has been expanded to 32. Class A will go from 8-man brackets to 16.
The three-day competition begins on Thursday at Gwinnett Arena, with the title matches scheduled for 5 p.m. Saturday.
The cancellation of the sectionals definitely has its advantages: It allows wrestlers with nagging injuries more time to heal, more team members to experience the atmosphere of the state tournament, more time for coaches to study and plan for the brackets, and for deeper teams to rack up more points at state.
For veteran teams such as Centennial, it’s a big bonus. “It was all positive,” coach Don St. James said. “We are able to … work on our weaknesses. The guys I have going are older with a lot of (experience) so I feel like they will not have a letdown because of one off week.”
What are the negatives? Here’s some feedback from area coaches:
- Peachtree Ridge’s Danny Sinnott: “I think that the cancellation of sectionals could possibly affect us in a bad way with some of the draws we now have in the brackets. It could also mess with kids’ heads. We all know that teenagers are already complicated … add a little change in schedule and it’s like a box of chocolates, “you never know what you’re gonna get”.
- Blessed Trinity’s Richard Barden: “The biggest impact will be the fact that my guys will not have wrestled a match in 12 days. In a season where we wrestle matches with a minimum of four days between matches, that is a bunch. In addition, without the sectionals, I will not be able to fine tune any of my wrestlers right before the state tournament. I will have to use what I saw during the area tournament, which was almost two weeks ago.”
- Riverwood’s Richard McKeone: ” I hate the first day of single elimination. It puts a tremendous amount of pressure on that first match. Also, one of the main reasons for the sectional was to separate the better wrestlers in the first rounds and hopefully allow the best wrestlers to meet in the semifinals. We have now lost that. Since the brackets were a random draw, the two best wrestlers may meet as early as the quarterfinals.”
- Dacula’s Jason Holcombe: “(It’s tough) with the ups and downs of trying to prepare to leave for a tournament, reschedule once, and then reschedule again. It has been almost two weeks since the area tournament and our wrestlers want to get back to live competition. Peaking at the right time is a huge issue because of the state tournament being single elimination in the first round. You have to wrestle your best match in the first round or your tournament is over.”
- Marist’s Riddick Beebe: “The only negative that may crop up will be a possible early-round meeting between two top-seeded wrestlers. There are a few weight classes that are really going to see some serious upsets early in the tournament.”
- South Gwinnett’s Teri Coates: “Our kids … will have to wrestler longer with a 32-man bracket. (It) will have an impact if a few studs get knocked off by an unknown wrestler, which could certainly happen with the brackets being bigger.”