North Forsyth wrestling should get a bit of a reprieve from a grueling early schedule when its hosts the Coal Mountain Classic today and tomorrow.
Aside from the Raiders, the state runners-up in Class 6A last season, and county rival Forsyth Central, the 10-team field is mostly comprised of younger teams, albeit teams with wrestling pedigree like Cambridge, Dawson County and Parkview.
North will still have plenty of motivation, particularly if it plays out that the Raiders face rival and Area 5-7A opponent Central with a chance to win the 500th dual in program history.
Regardless, the main objective is to survive the weekend.
“I want them to wake up on Sunday and not be real sore,” North head coach Travis Jarrard said. “We’ve got through the ringer. We’ve been matching up against some high-quality teams.”
Indeed, of North’s 24 dual matches so far, 16 were against teams that reached the GHSA State Duals last season in their respective classifications. The Raiders are 21-3, with losses to Buford (2015 Class 4A runner-up), Cass (third, Class 5A) and Mountain View (third, Class 7A).
North’s tortuous run so far was by design. Coming off a breakout 2015 season, the Raiders knew they’d be one of the handful of teams returning with a chance to win a state championship. North lost just two starters and returned 11 state qualifiers, including three state placers.
But the success of last season’s runner-up finishes in Class 6A at both the state duals and traditional meets was new for North’s young core. This season’s schedule figured to guard against any chance of complacency.
What Jarrard couldn’t account for – what no coach can account for – are the injuries and illnesses that have beset the Raiders: bruised shoulders, a stomach bug, ringworm, head colds and sore throats. Cedric Touchstone, one of North’s more versatile wrestlers, might be lost for the season to injury. Cole Tenety, a returning area champion and state qualifier, hasn’t wrestled yet as he tries to return from shoulder problems.
“We’ve had a lot of injuries this year, more than probably the previous three years combined already,” Jarrard said. “So, we haven’t been anywhere close to whole yet. We don’t have the depth right now for our starting lineup that I would have liked to have had at the start of the season.”
The injuries have put young wrestlers, like freshmen Bryce Touchstone (120) and Tate Bissell (132), into varsity action earlier and more often than expected.
This weekend’s matches could be especially productive for that group.
“I want the kids to get a tough match, too, but want some of my younger kids that might have been beaten up by the brutal early schedule to have some decent matches too,” Jarrard said.
At a glance
What: Coal Mountain Classic
When: Friday, 5:45 p.m.; Saturday, 9 a.m.
Where: North Forsyth High School.
Teams: Cambridge, Dawson County, Forsyth Central, Lowndes, North Forsyth, North Oconee, Parkview, Rome, Walnut Grove, West Forsyth.
Top wrestlers: Will Brittain, Cambridge, 152, Jr.; Zach Corcoran, Cambridge, 138, Jr.; Abraham Perez, Forsyth Central, 113, Soph.; Hunter Kurowski, Forsyth Central, 132, Sr.; Miles Bankston, Forsyth Central, 152, Sr.; Sebastian Legarra, Forsyth Central, 220, Sr.; Connor Carroll, North Forsyth, 160/170, Jr.; Brantley Little, North Forsyth, 182, Jr.; Bradley Thomas, North Forsyth, 152/160, Sr.; Paul Watkins, North Forsyth, 120/126, Soph.; Reese Dalton, Parkview, 152, Sr.; Jack Woodall, West Forsyth, 152, Jr.; Hunter Jolly, West Forsyth, 285, Sr.