THE JACKSON County wrestling team won’t have to go far to find its biggest challenge of the early season.
The squad will welcome 20 teams to the Panther Invitational Friday and Saturday in an event that will certainly test the hosts.
“It’s going to be an extremely rough field,” coach Jason Powers said. “About every team coming is going to have at least a couple of kids to add into the mix, which will make it very difficult.”
The field of teams includes Locust Grove, Chattahoochie, North Gwinnett, Jefferson and Gilmer County. Jefferson, which has won the tournament several years running, has claimed 11 consecutive traditional titles (and 10-straight dual titles), while Gilmer County is the reigning Class AAA champion. Powers notes that North Gwinnett is a very tough team out of Class AAAAA, and “should give both of those a good run.”
“As in years’ past, again, it’s another tournament where basically, if you can place in the top four in this thing, you’re looking pretty good,” Powers said.
Action starts Friday at 5 p.m. and will resume Saturday at 9 a.m. Powers hopes to have the finals underway at around 4 p.m. Saturday.
“The finals will be a lot of fun again,” Powers said. “The finals will more than likely have a couple of state champions or at least state placers in the finals.”
For a team that’s competed in only dual matches thus far, Jackson County will get to see how it fares in a traditional format for the first time this year.
“As far as the team is concerned, I’m looking for us to be a pretty good traditional team,” Powers said. “We’ll really see how good we match up this weekend. As far as the team competition is concerned, getting into the top four would be a huge accomplishment for us. As individuals, if we can get some people into the finals, and hopefully have a couple of champions and some placers, that would be huge for individuals as well and kind of give us some grounds of looking at where they are right now and where they need to get.”
For Jackson County, the Panther Invitational has become almost a two-decade tradition. This is the 18th year the school has hosted the tournament.
“It’s a huge task,” Powers said. “We start planning well back before the season starts,” Powers said. “This week will be very busy as far as getting last minute preparations and every thing ready to go.”
For a team that doesn’t actually wrestle at the Panther gym (the team wrestles at the Gordon Street Center), setting up this four-mat event is the biggest undertaking.
“Running a tournament this size is difficult, but when you have to take your entire facility and move it five miles down the road and then move it back, that‘s the big chore,” Powers said.
JCCHS PICKS UP TWO MORE DUAL WINS: The Panthers moved to 6-1 just before Thanksgiving break with a pair of victories over Washington Wilkes (51-30) and Apalachee (64-12) Nov. 22.
Wrestlers going 2-0 were Michael Shekey, J.T. Wood, Zach Moore, Nathan Riley, Conner Andreasen, Anthony Ledford, Bryan Burnette and Daivon Ledford.
“We struggled to get started in our match against Washington-Wilkes but then wrestled well in our night cap with Apalachee,” Powers said. “I was proud of how the team performed in the match against Apalachee. We wrestled well and then fought to not get pinned in the matches that we lost which will be the key to us winning more dual matches down the road this year.”
Jackson County was slated to wrestle Greater Atlanta Christian, Meadow Creek and Flowery Branch this past Tuesday (Nov. 29).