53 locals battle for a state berth
Wrestlers get spread out across state for sectionals

COVINGTON - Fifty-three local wrestlers will see if all the hard work and training come to fruition as they compete in one more event today and Saturday in their sectional meets.

This season, the Georgia High School Association has decided to have all state qualifiers wrestle in a sectional tournament before advancing to the state meet.

As a result of the GHSA decision, 16 wrestlers from each weight class will head into two sectional meets with eight from each side advancing to the state meet, which begins Thursday in Duluth.

The sectional was split by east and west without regard to the level of competition on each side.

"This has been the debate for most of the year. I personally feel that a lot depends on the weight classes. There are some weight classes that one sectional is harder than the other, but most of the talk has been about the well-known wrestlers," Heritage coach Randy Cooley said.

"That is why wrestling is so unpredictable. Wrestling tournaments are made for upsets to happen. That is most of the excitement of tournaments, seeing an unknown come out of nowhere and beat some good wrestlers."

Rockdale, Heritage and Salem travel to Glynn Academy in Brunswick to compete in the Class AAAA East sectional.

Newton travels further south to Kingsland, Camden High School, to participate in the Class AAAAA East Sectional.

Alcovy will take its 12 grapplers to the Class AAAA West Sectional at Upson-Lee in Thomaston, while Eastside will take all 14 to Eagle's Landing in McDonough to battle in the Class AAA East meet.

Of the six schools participating in the sectional, Eastside has the best venue as far as location.

"That is only a 30-45 minute trip. Being that close to home is definitely a benefit and it gives the guys an opportunity to go home Friday night and sleep in their own beds," Eastside coach Brandon Blakeman said.

"For us, this weekend will no different than any other two-day tournament we have wrestled, in terms of routine. The time frame we will be conducting in is exactly the same that we have had throughout the season up until this point."

While it's easy for Blakeman to do things as usual, others will adjust and in order to keep things the same.

"Having to travel 300 miles to wrestle must be taken into consideration. We are getting down to Brunswick in plenty enough time to get a good warmup in before we wrestle," Rockdale coach Craig Hargrove said. "Once we get to Brunswick, our routine will be the same."

Manny Fils can be reached at manny.fils@newtoncitizen.com.