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Wrestling: Coaches expect Area 5-7A duals to be more competitive
North Forsyth wrestler Cole Tenety celebrates after pinning his opponent at the GHSA Team Dual Wrestling Championships on Saturday, Jan. 14, 2017. - photo by Lily McGregor Photography

In Travis Jarrard’s 18 seasons coaching North Forsyth wrestling, he’s never had back-to-back years where injuries have so regularly impacted his team like this one.

All six of the Raiders’ returning state qualifiers have missed time this season. Four other starters have been out for stretches too.

It has Jarrard more concerned than ever going into an area duals tournament.

“Everything that could go wrong has so far,” Jarrard said.

North enters Saturday’s Area 5-7A duals at Lambert having won six consecutive titles and seemed like a favorite to win a seventh straight with numerous state qualifiers returning from the team that cruised through last season’s area duals with relative ease.

Jarrard doesn’t foresee the same comfortable outcome this weekend. Between the injuries and improvement from other teams, especially South Forsyth, West Forsyth and Forsyth Central, Jarrard is less sure of things. Jarrard says he can see the Raiders winning a seventh straight area duals title or finishing fourth. The top two teams advance to the GHSA Team Dual Wrestling Championship in Macon next week.

“Nothing’s given this weekend at all,” Jarrard said.

Coaches expect Saturday to be extremely close based on earlier meetings this season. West has won close duals against Central and South, while North trailed Central in their dual earlier this season by 20 points only to close the match with five out of six wins for a 10-point victory.

Plus, the stakes involved in the tournament often raise the competitiveness. That was no more evident last season when Central and South met in the consolation round to decide which would be the second and last team to qualify for the state duals. Neither had qualified in over a decade, so the War Eagles savored the celebration after edging Central, 39-35, to end their drought.

“You always get the best out of everybody,” South head coach Josh Stephen said, “particularly teams that feel they can qualify (for State Duals). We have four of them.”

Qualifying for State Duals was a milestone moment for South last season, Stephen’s first at the school. The former coach at Collins Hill, where he led the program to multiple state titles, was just beginning to see changes in his team’s mental approach.

Last season, the War Eagles hoped to qualify for State Duals. This time, Stephen sees more confidence in his group.

“There’s a lot of excitement,” Stephen said. “Really feeling like we’re supposed to qualify. … They go out and expect to win.”