By allowing ads to appear on this site, you support the local businesses who, in turn, support great local journalism.
Wrestling: Area teams set sights on Saturday's region duals
Ethan Rickert
Each of West Forsyth's captains returned this season, including 160-pound wrestler Ethan Rickert, top. File photo

One wrestling team will leave Saturday’s Region 6-7A duals as the champion. In the double-elimination bracket, it takes only two wins to secure a spot in the state tournament.

West will host the duals, which begin at 9:30 a.m. Saturday, and has won back-to-back region duals. The Wolverines once again enter the tournament as the top seed and will be a tough competitor to beat.

West got a little bit richer this season after two freshman starters have combined to go 54-1.

Reed Walker at the 106-pound weight class has been wrestling nationally for years and has not lost yet this season. Noah Danforth, another freshman wrestling at 120 pounds, has only lost one match and will each aim to compete for a state title.

This is the first senior class that has spent all four years under West head coach Evan Goff.

Each of Goff’s captains returned this year: Chase Murray (126), Brody Knapp (138), Ethan Rickert (160), and Spencer Bovenizer (195). Add state champion Dylan Fairchild and West has a complete roster that Goff has not got to compete with all season.

On Saturday, Goff will have his whole roster and looks for West to win its third region title in a row.

“Something we’ve preached all year in the duals is not letting the emotion of the dual affect your personal match,” Goff said. “Depending on where you’re at in the dual, the momentum can look one-sided. Our guys just need to know that their teammates have their back. If we don’t let the emotion take over, our firepower is going to take over.”

Denmark is a budding program that has faced plenty of hurdles this season. Despite having a rather young team last year, 11 wrestlers opted out of rejoining the wrestling team this season.

Even though the Danes are going into area duals as the bottom seed in the region, head coach Ty Brown expects his team to put up a fight.

“This weekend is competitive,” Brown said. “We are struggling with some injuries and don’t have any big guys, so we’ll have to forfeit a few weight classes. We hope to finish in the top four, but realize a top-three finish isn’t likely if other teams are healthy.”

Kolby McCoy overcame a serious elbow injury this season and slightly altered his wrestling style for the season, but has still found success. Brown said that McCoy and Ethan Culbreth are the undisputed leaders of his team.

Brown added that Josh Wayland has flown under the radar all season. He gained some serious muscle during the offseason and has set himself up to be a tough 106-pound opponent.

Denmark will be challenged early on Saturday morning, facing second-seed Lambert in its first match.

In his first year as Central’s head coach, Kyle Barr’s journey to bring Central back to greatness continues Saturday morning.

After winning the region title in 2018, Central has had two different coaches take over the program. Central enters the tournament as the No. 6 seed and must battle North Forsyth in the first round.

Central has won matches this season with their backs against the wall. They won 54-30 in their last match against East Hall in the West Forsyth Thanksgiving Duals to finish in third place.

Barr notched his 200th career coaching victory at the start of this season.

Lambert is hungry to walk out of Saturday with a title and will enter the tournament as the No. 2 seed.

According to head coach Kevin Contardi, the Longhorns are a bigger, stronger team this season.

Freshman Jake Zearfoss transferred to Lambert this season and has been pinning opponents all season. The Longhorns’ 106-pound wrestler, Camren May, wrestled for the youth program, but had not planned on joining the team.

Contardi saw him at school, recognized him and talked him into wrestling once again for the Longhorns.

Contardi said he plans on nobody getting an easy victory on Saturday, with every match being hard-fought each round.

“We’re going to have to wrestle extremely well,” Contardi said. “Total team effort; win with bonuses, and if you lose, do it with pride and effort. No getting pinned.”

Contardi will have Ethan Kidd fully healthy after returning from a minor injury, and has been impressed with his team captain Addison Poor all season.

“Three years ago,” Contardi said, “I wouldn’t have thought he would be a team captain. He works hard, trains hard, and he’s a great person. Great role model for everyone on the team.”

The Longhorns’ first challenger to a region dual title will be No. 7-seeded Denmark.

If COVID-19 was the only issue for North’s wrestling team this year, the Raiders would have returned 12 starters from last season. Now they have only one senior on their roster and just eight returning starters because of guys moving out of the school, injury or opting out the season.

However, North head coach Travis Jarrard knows he has some guys who can run up the scoreboard in a dual.

Jarrard said that he’s been impressed with his entire starting roster this season. North overcame the big roster change and still finished third in one of the toughest areas to wrestle in the state.

Returning starter and junior Bentley Wheeler, who recently collected his 100th career win, finished second in the state last season in the 160-pound weight class and has been on a rampage once again this season.

“He’s an absolute savage,” Jarrard said. “I hope someone steps up and challenges him this season. We need some heavy competition and not just him wrestling the assistant coach for good competition.”

The Raiders face Central in their first match on Saturday with one gameplan: Do not get pinned.

“You can’t give up big bonus points,” Jarrard said. “If you could go through the whole weekend and not have anyone pinned, you’d probably win the entire tournament. The only chance anyone has of knocking West off is giving up the fewest amount of pins.”

South Forsyth has caught fire at the perfect time this season.

In their last duals tournament, the War Eagles beat Grayson as well as Collins Hill, last season’s Class 7A runner-up.

The War Eagles did struggle early on the season, but are looking to cause some serious chaos on Saturday.

As the four seed, South battles Gainesville first. If the War Eagles advance past the Red Elephants, they will face host West Forsyth.