The Class AAAA state tournament will begin Thursday morning at the Gwinnett Arena with four Winder-Barrow High School wrestlers competing along with two from Apalachee High School.
All six had previously qualified for the state sectionals but those rounds were cancelled due to weather conditions. Each wrestler who had advanced to sectionals automatically moves to the state tournament in a 32-wrestler bracket.
The state sectionals had already been pushed back two days but with the possibility of more wintery weather, the decision was made to cancel it all together.
“It was a nightmare situation,” said AHS coach Jim Stoudenmire. “It was especially bad for people down in Brunswick and South Georgia. They would have to wrestle Monday and Tuesday and then decide whether to go home or just stay the whole week. It wasn’t an issue for us with sectionals to be at Loganville and the state tournament in Gwinnett. I would not have wanted to have been the one to make that decision.”
WBHS will be repesented by Zach Guiterrez, Tristan Yaptengo, Will Whisenant and Jake Bergen while AHS will be represented by its top two wrestlers in Austin Sheppard and Aaron Segars.
Stoudenmire said the only thing that concerns him about moving directly into the state tournament is there could be the possibility of having two of the top wrestlers meeting before the finals on one side of the bracket.
“You could end up with a better semifinal than a final,” the Mat Wildcat coach said. “Most times it works out fine but there is always that chance.”
With all wrestlers moving from area to state without sectionals in between, Stoudenmire said there would likely be several wrestlers exiting on the first day of action which is set for Thursday.
WBHS wrestling coach Chad Honrne sees the change in format in both positive and negative aspects.
“We now have four state qualifiers but if you lose in the first round then you are out of the tournament,” the Mat Bulldogg coach said. “There will be a lot of kids who don’t get much of a chance at state this way. I am not a big advocate for sectionals, but the state tournament should at least have double elimination through the whole tournament. All they really did was add one round to the tournament.”
So what does Horne see as a positive to the elimination of sectionals this year?
“The one good thing is that it gave us a few more days of practice to fine tune our wrestling,” the coach said.
Wrestling begins Thursday at 8 a.m. with the opening round followed by the second round later that day at 5:30 p.m.
The tournament continues Friday at 8:30 a.m. following the 8 a.m. weigh-in. Saturday action begins at 10 a.m. The finals are scheduled to begin at 5 p.m. Saturday.