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Wrestling: Region 5-7A duals up in the air this weekend
Cale Bissell
North Forsyth sophomore Cale Bissell, left, wrestles his opponent last month during the Coal Mountain Classic. - photo by David Almeda

Region 5-7A Duals Seeding

1. Forsyth Central

2. Lambert

3. West Forsyth

4. North Forsyth

5. South Forsyth

6. Milton

Region 7-4A Duals Seeding

1. Blessed Trinity 

2. Flowery Branch

3. Marist

4. Chestatee

5. West Hall

6. Denmark

7. White County

In his two decades as the wrestling coach at North Forsyth, Travis Jarrard has never seen a weekend quite like this one.

He has no idea how Saturday’s Region 5-7A duals tournament at Forsyth Central is going to go, and he’s not the only coach who feels that way.

The general consensus in the region is that there are four teams — North, Lambert, West Forsyth and Forsyth Central — that have a legitimate chance at the title, and that the result of every match will be magnified.

“We've had region dual tournaments where two teams are really, really close,” Jarrard said. “I've never seen it where four teams were so close. There's just so many different dynamics to the four of five (team) matches that we're going to see on Saturday that it's just going to be insane.”

And Jarrard will be going into one of the most unpredictable tournaments of his career with what he says is the youngest team he’s ever coached. Still, he’ll have some seniors to lean on in Tate Bissell, Mason Butcher and Andrew Sexton. The difference for North will be the younger wrestlers who have experience in postseason play.

In the first round, No. 4-seeded North will face No. 5 South, which has gone through a tumultuous season in terms of injuries. That will make head coach Josh Stephen’s task of putting together a lineup tricky.

He’ll have some stalwarts to work with, however, in Juan Cruz, AJ Riner and Adrian Gutierrez.

“We're not going to be 100 percent and I don't mind saying it,” Stephen said. “Honestly, it's been one of the worst years I've ever had as a coach with injuries. But with that said, with the guys that we have right now, I'm still really high on them.”

South isn’t the only team dealing with absences lately, though. No. 3-seeded West has had a sickness go through the team, so the Wolverines are hoping to get those wrestlers back in time for Saturday.

Still, West is encouraged by how they’ve competed as a duals team this year.

“We've only had two losses in the state in duals this year, and I think our lineup's improved over the last couple of months,” West head coach Evan Goff said.

Heavyweight Dylan Fairchild has been perhaps the Wolverines’ brightest spot. The junior is still undefeated this season, and hasn’t had a match get out of the first period. Ethan Rickert, back from an early season injury, lost in the 160-pound finals at last week’s Lambert Hook ‘Em Holiday Clash, and will no doubt be a factor on Saturday as well. Daba Fofana will also look to make an impact at 182.

No. 2-seeded Lambert is regarded as this season’s most improved team from last year. Chase Disney, a move-in from California, has been a welcomed addition for the Longhorns, and over the last few weeks, they’ve had considerable success in the duals format.

Forsyth Central will be in an enviable position as the tournament’s No. 1 seed. The Bulldogs were in that same position last year, though, and fell to West in the finals.

“It's always nice to be in that position, but they were there last year and it didn't play out well,” Central head coach Russell Transue said. “It doesn't mean a whole lot. We've got 14 weight classes we've got to fill and we need everybody to contribute.”

And Central will certainly have some guys to do just that in Avery Krippner, Mikel Stowers and RJ Colon, among others. The Bulldogs finished seventh overall in team score in last week’s traditional Lambert tournament.

Region 5-7A won’t account for the county’s only wrestling action this weekend, though.

In Region 7-4A, Denmark will be No. 6 seed. The Danes finished seventh last year, and are hoping that a year under their belt can help lead to a stronger finish. Ethan Culbreth will be Denmark’s biggest name, having won fourth place in his weight class at Lambert’s tournament.

“We're definitely hoping to do better than (seventh),” Denmark coach Ty Brown said. “It's hard -- We're going to have a few weight classes that are empty and it's just one of those things that you've got to overcome with big wins, pins, and any losses we have have to be small.”

In the private school ranks, Pinecrest Academy will wrestle at its 1A area dual tournament, but since they don’t have a full roster, the Paladins will mostly be there to get some more experience under their belts.

They should still compete individually: Joe Metz earned a four-overtime win for the 160 title at the Prep Slam tournament last week, and defending state champion Mark Metz made it to the consolation finals.