MACON — West Forsyth's and North Forsyth’s wrestling teams were well aware of just how young they were. It just didn’t seem to matter.
For the first two rounds of the GHSA state duals at the Macon Centreplex, the Wolverines and Raiders represented their region and their county well despite their collective age, steamrolling their way into the Class 7A state semifinals round.
That youth began to catch up to them against well-regarded programs from around the state on Friday, though, with West falling to Camden County 55-15 and North dropping its matchup with Collins Hill 42-23.
“You wrestle an established, very strong program — what they do well, they do it incredibly well,” West wrestling coach Evan Goff said. “I think we were maybe a little intimidated. We didn't come out very aggressive, but they did a very good job of going what they do. They make a lot of teams feel like what we feel like now.”
West and North aren’t quite done in Macon despite their losses. In Saturday’s consolation semifinal round, the Wolverines will face Brookwood, while the Raiders will square off with Archer.
West was only able to secure two wins against Camden. Junior Dylan Fairchild (285) pinned his opponent just 22 seconds into his bout to inch his team closer at 10-6 before the Wildcats secured the match with successive wins. Junior Ethan Rickert was the exception, earning a 15-7 major decision at 152 pounds.
“We turned over six guys last year and we replaced them with kids that started wrestling in ninth grade,” Goff said. “Some of these situations, some of the advanced leg stuff they're doing and the turk stuff, it's not like you've had a lot of time in a high school room to work on that stuff. We're still working on basic stuff. They throw a lot at you and they do it really well, and you don't really learn sometimes until you feel it.”
North saw a bit more success just a mat away. The Raiders actually started their matchup with Collins Hill with a slight 6-0 edge after wins from Ethan Butcher (195) and Dylan Lyerly (220). Bentley Wheeler (170) and Tristan Graham (182) each got pins and brothers Cale and Tate Bissell each earned decision wins at 145 and 152, but for North, those victories didn’t make up for the inexperience.
“Their youth showed a little bit tonight,” North wrestling coach Travis Jarrard said. “They wrestled good in spots, but they kind of were a little bit shell-shocked by the spectacle.
“(Collins Hill is) an experienced team. They're a veteran team with lots of guys that have wrestled in lots of matches, and they were able to take advantage of that. When our younger guys kind of shelled up a little bit, their guys were able to take advantage.”
Jarrard knew going in to the weekend that his team's experience in a loud arena with more spectators could make a difference. But as a learning experience, there's not a better environment to prepare the youngest team he's ever coached, and he hopes it can propel them forward on Saturday.
“A week ago, there were questions on whether or not this team was going to make it out of region, so for us to be wrestling on Friday night in the state semifinals against one of the top teams in the state, that's great for this group of kids,” Jarrard said. “They're going to learn from this and they're going to move forward from this.”