Coach: Jeremiah Walker, second season
Key returners: Nathan Kistler, sr., 132; Caleb Troutt, sr., 160; Carson Pillow, sr., 170; Knight Bankston, sr., 182.
Key newcomers: Kyle Marzullo, fr., 145; Jagger Hartshorn, so., 170.
Outlook: Central has a senior-laden starting lineup, and yet, Jeremiah Walker’s Bulldogs are undergoing a youth movement. Only two Central wrestlers qualified for the state tournament—Nathan Kistler and Carson Pillow—and the Bulldogs have no state placers on the roster. That’s led to more competition for varsity spots between returning wrestlers and underclassmen, many of whom could earn a starting role. Walker listed freshman Kyle Marzullo and sophomore Jagger Hartshorn (also a quarterback for Central’s football team) as newcomers who could make an impact.
“That’s incredibly exciting,” Walker said. “With our youth and middle school programs growing steadily from last year’s revamp…we’re finally seeing some depth where no one’s place in the varsity lineup is safe.”
Walker said his wrestlers are hungry to improve, but that coaches are setting realistic goals for the Bulldogs.
“The guys finally understand that everything they do, every rep, every drill, every match, affects more than them,” Walker said. “They’re coming together as a family.”
Coach: Kevin Contardi, sixth season
Key returners: Eric Diemert, jr., 113; Matthew Sheetz, jr., 120; Daniel Morin, so., 132; Wyatt Veal, sr., 152.
Key newcomers: Peyton Mitchell, fr., 106; Robbie Powell, jr., 138; Cole Burke, fr., 145; Will Kohlins, fr., 160.
Outlook: Lambert has a nice balance, with experienced juniors in Eric Diemert, a state qualifier at 113 pounds last year, Matthew Sheetz, the state runner-up at 106 pounds, and state qualifier Robbie Powell, who transferred in from Lowndes, to go along with freshmen Peyton Mitchell (106 pounds), Cole Burke (145) and Will Kohlins (160).
“We have so many guys that could have a break out year,” Lambert coach Kevin Contardi said. “The team needs to have a break out year … it’s time to put it all together.”
Sheetz is an athletic and supremely confident wrestler who will move up to 120 pounds for his junior season after losing the state championship match by one point—on a controversial takedown—last year. Diemert was under-weight in the 113-pound class during the state tournament last season; Contardi said he would’ve been on the podium at 106 pounds. Powell is fitting in well with his new teammates.
Contardi said he’s most concerned with the higher weights (170 pounds and above). He’s hoping the light comes on for senior Jack Carmichael.
Coach: Travis Jarrard, 15th season
Key returners: Chase Tenety, sr., 120; Jake Nash, sr., 126; Tanner Buggs, sr., 170; Keigan Radake, sr., 182; Stevie Anthony, sr., 220; Zach Smith, sr., 285; Justin Lioiti, so., 132.
Key newcomers: Freshmen (weights to be determined) Nathan Grimes, Connor Carroll, Connor Cross, Andy Leggett, Josh Nash, Riley Wheeler, Brantley Little, Cedric Touchstone, and Cole Tenety; Bradley Thomas, so.; juniors Noah Calhoun, Hunter Loyd, Jackson Bardall.
Outlook: North lost a ton of talent from last year’s team that won the Region 6-AAAAAA traditional and dual titles, but the cupboard’s not completely bare.
Austin Thornton, Shane Cross and Luke Slaton and a host of seniors in the 126-152 pound range are all gone. First-team all-county selections Tanner Buggs, Jake Nash (fourth place at state at 120 pounds), and Keigan Radake (sixth at state at 182 pounds) and second-team all-county wrestler Chase Tenety (state qualifier at 106 pounds) all return.
Outside of that group, Raiders coach Travis Jarrard is still waiting to see who steps up. He listed nine freshman (see above) who could (or could have to) contribute immediately.
“We have a lot of young faces coming into the program from the youth circuit,” Jarrard said. “Our season will depend on how quickly they can adjust to high school wrestling.”
Noah Calhoun, Hunter Loyd, Jackson Bardall and Bradley Thomas will step up from the junior varsity.
“[Our new guys] will need to make a big impact if we hope to be in contention for another region title,” Jarrard said.
Coach: Mike Beckley, first season
Key returners: Creighton Shirley, jr., Ben Lemay, jr., Jackson Baraff, so., Christian Jimenez, sr., Felipe Hayes, jr., Brennan McCrum, jr., Harrison Young, sr., Eric Purks, sr., Logan Troye, jr., River Faulkner, sr.
Key newcomers: Sam Ranta, so.
Outlook: Mike Beckley coached the War Eagles from 1999-2004 before returning as an assistant two years ago. With Danny Sinnott’s departure this summer, Beckley again is in charge at South.
“We have accomplished some individual goals over the past few years and now it is time to deliver on some team goals we put in place a few years ago,” Beckley said.
Senior Harrison Young (195 pounds) leads the way for South.
“[He] trained like a hairy dog all summer,” Beckley said. “He … should be booking some reservations in Macon [and] should have plenty of company down there, but that remains to be seen.”
The War Eagles will be counting on Creighton Shirley, Ben Lemay and Jackson Baraff in the lower weights; Christian Jimenez, Felipe Hayes and Brennan McCrum in the middle weights, and Young, Eric Purks, Logan Troye and River Faulkner to wrestle well in the upper weights. Beckley listed sophomore Sam Ranta as South’s best new face.
“If some of our younger wrestlers come through, we should make a good run at Area and Sectionals,” Beckley said.
Coach: Steven Stromie, fourth season
Key returners: Denver Stonecheck, jr. (Region Champ and 5th in state at 120 last year); Austin Sanders, sr., (Sectional Runner-Up at 170 last year); Jacob Miller, jr., (Region 3rd Place and Sectional 7th Place at 126 last year); Thomas Cooper, sr., 132.
Key newcomers: Jack Woodall, fr., 113/120.
Outlook: The Wolverines return every starter but one from last year, including Denver Stonecheck (fifth place in state at 120 pounds); if West can get contributions from a few uncertain weight classes, it should be a formidable duals team.
West coach Steven Stromie isn’t sure where those gaps will be, but he said there are only five or six wrestlers to fill in seven weight classes.
Stonecheck and Austin Sanders, the sectional runner-up at 170 pounds last year, have a shot at a state title, Stromie said, while Jacob Miller (third place in region at 126 pounds) and Thomas Cooper could reach the state podium. Troy Crawford and freshman Jack Woodall could be strong in the lower weights for West, Stromie said.
“Those could all be very realistic goals if they continue to put in the hard work throughout the season,” Stromie said.