Travis Jarrard won’t get a good night’s rest before Saturday.
That’s when a series of stressful days comes to a peak for the North Forsyth head wrestling coach, as the Raiders try to secure their ninth Forsyth County championship in the past 13 years.
North won the county title again last season before going on to place fourth at state duals and sixth at state traditionals. To achieve similar success this season, the Raiders (9-3) must do it despite graduating seven starters from the 2011-12 squad.
"We’re rebuilding," Jarrard said. "We’re young and inexperienced, so you’re going to hit bumps in the road. You just throw them in the fire and see how they battle."
Jarrard, who has coached wrestling at North for 13 years, said he is impressed with the leadership from seniors Matt Carroll, Patrick Englishby and Preston Ernst and has stressed to them and the rest of the team the importance of the upcoming tournament.
"This isn’t just another tournament," Jarrard said. "This is the first rung on the ladder to the ultimate goal — a state championship. This is an absolute war.
"I don’t sleep this week."
Lambert may be the most obvious threat to the Raiders’ attempt to repeat as county champions.
After struggling in the program’s first two years, the Longhorns broke through and took third at traditionals in Class 4A last season. Lambert lost to North in the final dual of last year’s county championship, but earned revenge by edging the Raiders a few weeks later for the South Forsyth Santa Slam championship.
Though the Longhorns are already accustomed to competing against their county rivals, this year poses a new challenge for the program after moving up two classifications to Class 6A.
"We’re already familiar with much of the region, but when we get to state it’ll be a different story." Lambert head coach Kevin Contardi said. "We have a different team than last year. The kids are maturing and wrestling better as a group."
The Longhorns (5-2) will count on senior Gantt Bauer (220 pounds) and junior Andrew Morin (113) for leadership season.
However, Contardi said some of his wrestlers won’t be ready for the tournament due to injuries.
"The lineup’s not where we want it because of injuries in the offseason, but [most schools] are in the same boat … We’re looking forward [to the tournament] and seeing the kids get after each other."
West Forsyth head coach Steven Stromie hopes his team is hitting its stride at the right time. The Wolverines won their first tournament championship of the season on Nov. 20 at Jonesboro High School.
"[The win] gives us some momentum," Stromie said. "[The schools we played] weren’t the same kind of competition we’ll see in the region. There’s no slouch in this region."
Stromie enters his second year as head coach after serving as a co-coach with his father, Dennis Stromie. The elder Stromie retired from a career in public school following the 2010 season and is now head coach at Class A Wesleyan.
While Dennis Stromie was at West, he coached West wrestlers to three individual state championship wins and a state-runner-up finish in Class 3A duals.
Last year was a rebuilding year for the Wolverines after losing several key seniors from the 2010 squad, including two-time state champion Tyler Everton, but Steven Stromie hopes the team can return to the state duals tournament behind seniors Tanner Horak (132) and Nick Vogel (152).
Stromie also said he has high expectations from freshmen Jacob Miller (106), Austin Rothenberger (145) and Denver Stonecheck (113).
"We’ve got a great group coming back," Stromie said. "We’re going to build off of last year and give it our best."
First-year head coach Danny Sinnott already has high expectations for South Forsyth.
"Our main focus is to start a winning tradition and have consistency," Sinnott said. "I had four different coaches in four years [in high school], so I know how it is when coaches move."
Sinnott left Peachtree Ridge after eight years to have the opportunity to teach health and physical education along with wrestling. Sinnott previously only taught special education.
Under Sinnott, the Lions placed in the top 10 in traditionals during each of his last five seasons.
Seniors Khalil Rice (182), Dustin Muse (138) and Michael Scullin (285) will look to start the tradition for the War Eagles (9-5).
Forsyth Central head coach Marlo Miranda is confident his wrestlers will surprise teams this season.
"We’re a very young team, but we have a lot of potential," Miranda said. "We’re going to sneak up on people and surprise them. ... The morale is high and expectations are high."
The Bulldogs (3-2) have two seniors and two juniors, but much of the leadership is from the sophomore class, Miranda said. Sophomores Carson Pillow (160), Knight Banskston (170), Nathan Kistler (106) and Josh Trowell (182) already have much expected from them.
"They are a great group," Miranda said. "We can win [the tournament] if some things go our way. We’re really close."