Do not try to tell North Forsyth head coach Travis Jarrard that last week's victory over Cherokee to earn one of eight spots in the Class 7A team duals state championship was an upset.
Though North did not place in the top two at the Region 6-7A tournament, GHSA’s rule change this year allowed the top four teams to move on to the first round of the state tournament. North took full advantage and beat first-round host Cherokee to reach the state championship at Parkview High School on Saturday.
Playing into the new duals format helped Jarrard’s team in the long run, but he said that the team is still used to being the “top dog.” Though West has won area duals the last two seasons, Jarrard and the Raiders won the previous seven years.
“We’re not far enough removed to have any little brother syndrome,” Jarrard said.
Now the Raiders will start the state championship as the No. 4 seed and will battle Lowndes in the first round of the tournament. Lowndes head coach Spencer Graybeal was actually in Jarrard’s wedding. That being said, the two programs know a lot about each other and are excited to compete against one another.
North sends nine underclassmen — seven sophomores, two freshmen — to the state championship. Jarrard expects his young roster to gain invaluable experience at the tournament.
“Any time you get an extra week to compete, it’s always a good thing,” Jarrard said. “The biggest plus for our young guys is they’re going to get a real good taste of some high-stakes wrestling that could potentially be vital for our program’s success the next two years.”
If North wins its Lowndes match, the Raiders will likely face off against wrestling powerhouse Camden County, which won the state duals tournament last year.
“It’s gonna take some of our other guys gonna pick up multiple wins that they’re not going to be favored,” Jarrard said. “It’s no secret that we’re a pretty big longshot. We’re hoping to be competitive where we can be competitive and have a couple upsets.”
After finishing third at the state duals tournament a season ago, West Forsyth head coach Evan Goff said his team has a lot of confidence and is ready to compete against anybody.
That confidence is justified, too. West has yet to lose a duals match this season when its entire team is available.
“Our season goal is to win this thing,” Goff said. “We’re returning a lot of good seniors. We’ve been clawing since day one. We took third last year and now we’ve got a chance to do some great things.”
The Wolverines start Saturday’s tournament as the No. 2 seed and battle Tift County. Goff said he knows the Tift coach well, but that it’s been hard to scout any south Georgia team this season.
However, Goff added that he does not want to look forward to any potential match past Tift in the bracket just yet.
“I think our first-match warmup is critical for everything,” Goff said. “You can’t win a state title if you don’t win your first match. If you have a really good first dual that lights the spark to push you throughout the rest of the tournament. The recipe is simple: prep for one match at the time.”
If West beats Tift, the Wolverines would play the winner of Colquitt County and Mountain View in the semifinals.
Goff said he recognized last year that the two teams that finished in front of him, Camden County and Collins Hill, both had big senior classes that helped push them to the title match.
Goff said this season it is his seniors’ turn.
“We had a great season last year and we achieved what we could achieve last year,” Goff said. “We have a big senior class this year and now we have a taste and are better prepared for this season. We have senior leadership who knows we are ready.
“If somebody beats us, then they’ve just got a really good team."