It’s not surprising to Forsyth Central wrestling coach Jeremiah Walker that the field for this weekend’s Area 7-AAAAA duals tournament is considered among the strongest in the state.
Cass won state championships in 2006 and 2008. Woodland-Cartersville did, too, in 2003 and 2011. Even the infant of the bunch, Cambridge, won a state title two years ago.
The Bulldogs, meanwhile, are coming up on the 10th-year anniversary of the last time they reached the state duals.
“It’s gonna be tough,” Walker said.
Perhaps then it would take a surprise run from Central to finish in the top two this weekend to qualify for the state duals in Macon next week. But the Bulldogs’ season has already been defined by surprises in the way they’ve assimilated freshmen into half the varsity lineup and competed against county rivals.
A senior-less team, Central has been forced to rely on contributions from an influx of freshmen this season, and they span the entire lineup – from Steven Messer (106 pounds), Abraham Perez (113), Parker Evans (132), Sam Aldrich (132) and Aaron Roberts (138) in the lower weights to Ethan Platzke (182) and Jake Garner (285) in the upper weights.
For a program still forming its identity under Walker, that’s not necessarily bad, particularly with leadership from juniors Miles Bankston, Hunter Kurowski and Sebastian Legarra.
“They’re buying into the vision of the program,” said Walker, who’s in his third year as head coach. “I think that’s why we’ve had the successes that we have had with such a young group.”
Successes like a third-place finish at the Mountain View Duals that included victories against perennial contender Whitewater and county rival South Forsyth; a mid-week dual victory against Lambert; a loss on criteria to West Forsyth; and a third-place finish at the Hiram New Year’s Duals this past weekend.
Even an early-season one-point loss to area opponent Creekview had a silver-lining; the Bulldogs were without Bankston.
So maybe Central faces long odds. The Bulldogs will likely be seeded fifth or sixth behind Cass, Cambridge, Creekview and Woodland-Cartersville. An upset – or two – seems the only way to qualify for the state duals.
No matter. Central is already used to surprising opponents this season.
“We’re going to do everything we can this weekend,” Walker said. “We’re not going to hold anything back.”