Around this time last year, the Lambert wrestling team put everything together when it mattered most.
The Longhorns had been beleaguered by injuries and below .500 in duals entering the Area 6-6A championship. Those injuries healed, and Lambert’s lineup gelled in time for the Longhorns to make a run to the area finals and qualify for the GHSA Team Duals Wrestling State Championships.
Longhorns head coach Kevin Contardi finds his team in similar condition as it gets set to host the Hook’em Invitational, a 34-team traditional tournament, this Thursday and Friday.
Injuries, again, are the main culprit. Contardi said as many as four starters could be held out of the tournament to give them extra time to heal for the Area 5-7A duals championship next Saturday, where the top two teams will advance to state. In particular, the Longhorns are just getting back senior Eric Kohlins, the returning state runner-up at 182 pounds in Class 6A.
“We’ve been very injured,” Contardi said. “It’s kind of been one of those years.”
Still, Contardi sees the potential in his team. For example, take the Peachtree Ridge Duals on Dec. 3. It was the only time Lambert has had its entire lineup healthy this season, and the Longhorns went 5-0 to win the event, edging area and county rival Forsyth Central in the finals. Six different wrestlers went undefeated, including Kohlins, Payton Mitchell (120), Alex Dobleman (138), Daniel Morin (152), Cole Burke (160) and Ethan Young (195).
It’s not likely Lambert will have similar success in its own tournament, but it’s possible the Longhorns could surprise with such a wide field of teams that features Chattahoochee, North Hall and Pope. Last season, North Forsyth dominated the tournament, but the Raiders are sending its top wrestlers to the Knockout Christmas Classic in Florida to scout Camden County, one of North’s potential top competitors for a state title.
“I don’t know if anybody’s going to overpower the field this year,” Contardi said. “Even with a team like us, which is injured, we’re still going to be extremely competitive in some weight classes.”
No matter how competitive the Longhorns are this week, they hope to be even more next week – just like last year.
“We feel we’re right there,” Contardi said. “We’re going to need a little bit of luck, as most teams do. If we’re at full strength with all our guys, we feel like we can maybe do the same as we did last year.”
WRESTLERS TO WATCH
Cole Anderson, Roswell: The junior placed fourth at 195 pounds in Class 6A last season.
Bradley Bitting, North Paulding: The junior placed fifth at 106 pounds in Class 6A last season.
Cody Bond, Madison County: The senior placed second at 120 pounds in Class 4A last season.
Jesse DeJames, North Paulding: The senior placed third at 145 pounds in Class 6A last season.
Abe Elias, Pope: The senior won the state title at 160 pounds in Class 6A last season.
Matt Glenn, North Hall: The sophomore placed third at 106 pounds in Class 4A last season.
Eric Kohlins, Lambert: The senior placed second at 182 pounds in Class 6A last season.
Justin Lewis, North Gwinnett: The junior placed third at 160 pounds in Class 6A last season.
Payton Mitchell, Lambert: The junior placed third at 106 pounds in Class 6A last season.
Tre Porter, Crisp County: The junior placed third at 113 pounds in Class 4A last season.
Ricardo Santana, Toombs County: The sophomore placed third at 113 pounds in Class 3A.