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Posted: Thursday, January 24th 2013 at 4:36pm

Coaches: Hall County wrestling better than ever

By Jeff Hart Staff
EMAIL STORY CONTACT EDITOR PRINT
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Members of the Chestatee High wrestling team compete during a practice session.
EDITOR'S NOTE: The Hall County Duals, scheduled to begin at 5 p.m. Friday at North Hall High School, has been postponed due to inclement weather. The tournament will be held on Saturday at the school in a condensed format, beginning at noon. The competition will now be a bracketed tournament instead of a round-robin.

GAINESVILLE – Regardless of who wins this weekend’s Hall County Championships, one thing has become apparent: wrestling is back in Hall County.

Two teams – Chestatee and Flowery Branch – are coming off recent State Duals appearances and North Hall narrowly missed out on a trip to the state tournament.

But Chestatee coach Carey Whitlow, who has been a mainstay in the area for more than twenty years as a wrestler at North Hall and as coach of the Trojans and now the War Eagles, said he has never felt better about where the sport is at this moment.

“In the old days, it used to be just a couple of teams, but now we have multiple teams going to the State Duals and we have two or three more that have really come on the last couple of years that this has become one of the tougher meets of the season,” Whitlow said. “This is the best -- top to bottom -- I have ever seen wrestling in Hall County. It’s great to see.”

Flowery Branch coach Shane Millwood, whose Falcons are the defending champ and have won four of the last five Hall County Championships, agreed with Whitlow and both pointed to key changes in the approach to wrestling.

“We have wrestling coaches running the programs instead of just P.E. coaches,” Millwood said. “Every program has a coach with a solid wrestling background and that makes a huge difference. I also think this may be the best ever period for wrestling in Hall County.

“There are some great wrestlers at every school and we’re getting kids interested at a younger age. And I think it can continue to get better. I’m excited about the future of the sport in Hall County.”

In the old days, wrestling was viewed as a means to work on agility or strength for football during non-football months. Now, coaches are finding wrestling talent in obvious places.

“The growth of the sport and the ability to field entire teams is due to several factors,” Whitlow said. “Youth programs, like in football, basketball, and baseball, have begun and the coaches in charge of those are doing a great job of teaching the sport and getting kids ready for high school. Second, the amount of kids interested now makes it easier to find talent. Third, recruiting in the hallways, and fourth, we have great coaches in the area.

“We still have to go find some of the talent. But once we get them in the programs and they have some success, they stay with it. Just a few years ago about half of the programs couldn’t field whole teams. Now, basically everyone has a complete roster. It makes for better competition, which prepares kids for the bigger state meets.”

This year’s meet could be one of the best ever. The round-robin tournament will begin Friday at 5 p.m. at North Hall with the first three rounds. The final four rounds will start at 9:30 a.m. Saturday at North Hall. The team with the best overall record will bring home the trophy.

Along with Flowery Branch and Chestatee, North Hall, East Hall, Johnson, Riverside Military Academy, West Hall, and Gainesville will participate in the two-day duals format tournament.

The Falcons are coming off a top eight finish at the Class AAAAA State Duals while Chestatee was just two matches from finishing in the top eight at Class AAAA. North Hall was one match from qualifying for the Class AAA meet while East Hall and Johnson have shown tremendous progress this year and have several wrestlers that have state champion potential in the upcoming Traditional State Tournament.

“I think it’s going to be a great tournament,” Millwood said. “Probably us and Chestatee are the favorites, but North Hall, East Hall, and Johnson certainly have a chance and will have a say in who wins it. I expect a tough match every round.”

Whitlow, whose War Eagles are looking for their first-ever Hall County Championship Duals title, said the key will be depth and staying healthy.

“At this time of year injuries play a factor and whichever team is able to field the best quality depth usually wins it,” said Whitlow, who has guided Chestatee to several second place finishes over the years but never to the top of the heap. “We would love to win it and this is probably our best shot in several years. But, we have a couple of guys who are questionable and that will play a factor.”

Here is the schedule for the tournament for both days at North Hall:

Friday

Round One at 5 p.m.
West Hall vs. Chestatee
North Hall vs. East Hall
Fl. Branch vs. Riverside
Johnson vs. Gainesville

Round Two at 6:30 p.m.
Fl. Branch vs. Chestatee
North Hall vs. Gainesville
West Hall vs. East Hall
Johnson vs. Riverside

Round Three at 8 p.m.
Fl. Branch vs. East Hall
North Hall vs. Riverside
Johnson vs. Chestatee
West Hall vs. Gainesville

Saturday

Round Four at 9:30 a.m.
Fl. Branch vs. Gainesville
North Hall vs. Chestatee
Johnson vs. East Hall
West Hall vs. Riverside

Round Five at 11 a.m.
East Hall vs. Chestatee
North Hall vs. West Hall
Riverside vs. Gainesville
Fl. Branch vs. Johnson

Round Six at 1 p.m.
Gainesville vs. Chestatee
Fl. Branch vs. North Hall
Riverside vs East Hall
Johnson vs West Hall

Round Seven at 2:30 p.m.
Riverside vs Chestatee
Fl. Branch vs. West Hall
Johnson vs North Hall
Gainesville vs. East Hall
Associated Categories: Sports News, High School Sports

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