With the state wrestling duals finals to start Friday, leadership remains a question left for the Jefferson High School team to answer.
Coach Doug Thurmond said he is waiting for a key moment to produce a go-to source of strength beyond powerful displays exhibited on the mat.
“They could step up at any time,” Thurmond said, mentioning the Dragons’ five seniors in particular. “We’re kind of waiting…it could happen this week. Who knows? You can’t want it for them, they are going to have to step up and do it.”
As expected, the Dragons cruised to an Area 4-AA championship at home last weekend to advance to the Macon Centreplex Friday, where the state meet begins for Class AA.
The Dragons are a No. 1 seed and certainly are considered an overall favorite, having won the duals state title 11 straight times going into this weekend.
Joining Jefferson in representing Area 4 is Social Circle, which defeated Greater Atlanta Christian (33-30) Friday in a close contest for second place.
The Dragons, wrestling at home, handily outscored their opponents — Union County (72-6), Washington-Wilkes (64-6) and Social Circle (57-6) — during the one-day Area 4 meet.
The showing followed a grueling out-of-town trip to Rochester, Minn., where the Dragons took part in The Clash, a prestigious competition featuring some of the country’s best high school wrestling teams.
While Thurmond said, “we got what we wanted out of it,” he acknowledged the leadership vacuum is something that has not been resolved.
“Even in Tennessee and Minnesota, we were waiting for some of the older guys to remind the younger ones, ‘We’ve been here before, we’re still alive. It’s OK,’” Thurmond said. “There has not been that person to step up yet.”
There is a sense of urgency entering the weekend.
Not only is the streak on the line, but Bremen, a familiar opponent, moved up to Jefferson’s Class AA level this year and could face the Dragons during the meet.
The two schools have a history of high-level competition, Thurmond said. They have not faced each other this season.
“We have a tradition with them,” Thurmond said. “They were very close wrestling with us a lot of the years we won. A lot of those years we did not win by much and we ended up wrestling them.”
While the coaching judo of formulating lineup options entering the meet is one area of focus, so are the motivational tactics.
The pressure of the streak is ever present with the coach and the wrestlers who know at some point it will break.
However, the key is motivating the team into believing it won’t happen during their time.
“It is an interesting feeling because you know what the expectations are and the team does, too,” the coach said. “None of these guys want to be the group that the chain breaks on…What we talk about is we don’t want to be living off the success on the team before you. You want to make your own mark.”