The true tests of the Madison County wrestling season will come after Christmas when the Raiders search for post-season glory in the area and state duals.
Of course, there will be plenty of pop quizzes between now and then, plenty of question marks needing answers.
Just how does the Madison County squad, which returns three state qualifiers, match up against the region’s elite, such as Loganville and Rockdale? And how will younger wrestlers measure up as they help fill out the lineup?
The Raiders, who started after-school practice two weeks ago, will find out a lot when they open up the season Friday at Cedar Shoals. But the best measure of the team’s early-season grit will come Dec. 4-5 at the Panther Invitational, a tournament that will include 28 teams and some of top competition in the state.
“There will be some of the toughest teams in north Georgia,” said Raider coach Richie Houston. “We’ll find out a lot about where we stand there.”
Houston said he has 49 guys out for wrestling this year. The team conducted mandatory body-fat hydration tests Saturday, which are now required to make sure wrestlers are placed in appropriate weight divisions — the goal being to keep wrestlers from rapidly losing pounds to make weight before meets.
Houston said he was waiting for those test results before setting his lineup.
But three wrestlers who will surely find their way back into the starting spots are 2008 state qualifiers Cody Phillips, Isaac Ruiz and Tyler Adams, last year’s region champion in the 215-lb. division.
Other returning wrestlers include Colton Phillips, Caleb McCain, Kyle Bates, Tanner Johnson and Kyle Gordon.
While the team includes only one senior, the squad is heavy on junior talent and Houston says the team has some experienced wrestlers despite its relative youth.
The Raiders have been practicing from 4 to 6:45 p.m. after school. Houston said the team has been working primarily on techniques in early practices, with about 20 to 30 minutes devoted to conditioning each session. Practices will eventually include more conditioning as younger wrestlers become more familiar with techniques.