THE JCCHS Mat Panthers are closing in on the start of a new season.
Their first event of the year will be at Allatoona, when they take part in the Blackbeard Duals on Nov. 24.
Last year, the Panthers placed 13th at state, with one champion, Ryan Howe in the 189 lb. class, and a fifth place effort by Izzy Carillo-Garcia in the 135 lb. class.
The year also saw a second place finish in the 2009 Area Duals, a top five finish in the 2009 sectional tournament and 11 team members qualify for state competition.
The Mat Panthers begin the year having lost only two wrestlers from last year’s starting lineup.
“We did rather well last year, so expectations are high for the team this year,” said coach Jason Powers.
Two key returners from last year’s line-up are seniors Carrillo-Garcia and Howe.
“I am expecting a lot of great things out of these two young men this year,” Powers said. “Ryan will be returning at 189 lbs. and will be looking to defend his state title. Izzy will be coming back this year around the 140 or 145 lb. weight class and should be in the hunt for a state title.”
However, Powers said, both young men know they can take nothing for granted.
“Last year means nothing,” he said. “They must start their fight back to the top over again this year and must work as hard if not harder than they did last year.”
The other state qualifiers returning from last year’s team are sophomore Tre’ Horton and senior Charles Smothers.
“Both of these wrestlers will be returning close to the same weight class from last year and should have excellent seasons this year,” Powers said. “I look for us to have a lot of talent and experience in the starting line-up this year, especially in our upper weight classes. This will be my first year as head coach when we will have some very competitive wrestle-offs which means our program is beginning to get to the level it needs to be at.”
However, Powers pointed out, no matter the outcome of the wrestle-offs, each quality wrestler will play an important role in the varsity dual line-up.
“I highly expect that we will come out with two completelyseparate line-ups this year - a dual team line-up and an individual team line-up. The dual line-up will reflect the strongest dual team that we can possibly put together and will reflect our depth in a couple of weight classes. However, our individual line-up will simply be the wrestler that wins the starting position at that weight class.”
And while team goals haven’t been set due to the recent ending of football season, Powers said he has several expectations.
“I do expect our goals to include another trip to the state duals tournament and possibly a finish in the top six this year, which has never been done in the school’s history at the state dual tournament.”