With the final stretch of the wrestling season underway, local wrestling programs have spent the last several weeks focused on the 6-AAAAAA traditional duals, which will take place Saturday at North Forsyth.
North, considered the favorite this weekend, recently finished fourth in the state duals tournament—an improvement from last year’s seventh place finish, but unsatisfactory for the Raiders nonetheless.
Head coach Travis Jarrard believes that, more than anything else, their downfall at state was due to a lack of intensity. They plan to learn from that experience and bring a higher level of energy to the mats down the stretch.
"We’ve been trying to recover from state duals to some degree," said Jarrard. "We’ve been dealing with injuries, sickness and all that stuff. Hopefully everybody is close to 100 percent."
North’s top priority this weekend is to qualify all 14 wrestlers for sectionals. No easy feat, but one the Raiders are confident they can achieve.
"I think we can do it," Jarrard said. "I really think we can, though it won’t be easy. Eight or nine of our wrestlers should make it, and we need to make sure the other five or six can get through."
With dual competition over for the season, North has altered its training regime to fit the different nature of individual tournaments.
"It’s no longer a team game so to speak," Jarrard explains. "We are much more focused on individuals and individual matchups."
Now, practices are shorter yet often more intense. Competition amongst teammates has heated up as they fight for the 14 available spots allotted to each team for Saturday’s tournament. More emphasis is placed on getting the "little things" right which, in the end, could make the biggest of differences.
Other teams may not be as ambitious as North, but Lambert remains optimistic about its chances. Longhorns head coach Kevin Contardi thinks seven of his 10 wrestlers can qualify for sectionals, which would be the most in school history.
"There a lot of other things we all have to deal with at the moment besides just getting ready," said Contardi. "For us we have some things we are hoping happen by then that will allow some guys to get back in our line up."
One of Lambert’s concerns is health, which will play a major role on Saturday. Luckily for those who are banged up, they’ve had plenty of time to rest of late.
No team in 6-AAAAAA has been able to train much this week due to the storm that hit Tuesday. This could have a significant effect on the meet and should favor those who got the bulk of their preparation done before the snow.
"I’m sure everyone is like us," said Contardi. "[We] haven’t practiced since Monday and won’t until maybe Friday."
In addition to North, Chattahoochee wrestlers are expected to do well on Saturday. The Cougars and Longhorns comprise the upper echelon of 6-AAAAAA wrestling, and how the two match up will be a story line to watch.
"There’s going to be some good competition," said Jarrard. "We’re ready, we’re fresh and we’re excited to get back to action."