The Grizzlies, who finished second in their region to defending state champion Pope, will be in action tonight at 6:30 p.m., when they take on Jones County in the first round of the 16-team tournament.
If Creekview manages to win its opening dual, it would take on the winner of tonight’s match between Stephenson and Woodland-Bartow in Friday morning’s Class AAAAA quarterfinal.
While thrilled to see his team competing in the state meet, Creekview coach Wyatt Wilkie isn’t content with simply showing up.
“We’re very excited to be going, but were not just satisfied with that,” he said. “Our guys want more. It’s not just about making it to state. It’s about making some noise while we’re there.”
While all of the Grizzlies’ wrestlers will need to be at their best if the team hopes to place, Wilkie emphasized the importance of the team’s senior leaders — Michael Edwards (138 pounds), Austin Collett (145), Justin Pettyjohn (152) and Hunter Udall (170).
“Those guys are our veterans,” Wilkie said. “Those four guys will have the bulk of our wins. We have some good young wrestlers as well, but the seniors are the ones that we count on to lead the team and set a good example. We feel confident every time they step onto the mat.”
Edwards and Udall, in particular, have had impressive years.
A finalist at the Tiger Classic and Creekview Invitational Tournament, and a winner at the Hardaway Invitational, Edwards has been one of the most consistent wrestlers on the Grizzlies’ roster so far this year.
“Michael’s biggest strength is that, day in and day out, he gives you what you expect,” Wilkie said of Edwards, who has been on the varsity squad since his sophomore season.
Like Edwards, Udall has placed inside the top three of every tournament that he has competed in this season, which included placing first in the Creekview Invitational.
“Hunter is very consistent, but his biggest attribute is his work ethic,” Wilkie said. “He works hard an always puts himself in a position to win the match.”
Having already wrestled Pope, which is likely considered the tournament favorite, Wilkie believes the Grizzlies will know exactly what kind of competition to expect.
“We are going to see some quality teams there, not just Pope,” Wilkie said. “There will be a mix of solid teams that can beat anyone on any given day.”
Though Wilkie ultimately has his sights set on a match with Pope for the state championship, he stressed the importance of taking the tournament one match at a time.
“While we are looking to be in the finals, we aren’t looking past our first match,” Wilkie said. “You never want to be overconfident or look past anyone.”
Wilkie and the Grizzlies will enter every match at a disadvantage, as they will be forced to forfeit the 132-pound weight class, which they have no one fit enough to wrestle in.
Rather than be disheartened by the immediate disadvantage, Wilkie said he actually felt confident entering the meet with only one weight class empty.
In almost every dual so far this year, the Grizzlies have been forced to forfeit two weight classes. But with the return from injury of Dakota Short at 126, Creekview is now closer to full strength than it has been all season.
Though Wilkie admitted that reaching the final would be difficult, he does believe that the Grizzlies have a good chance to finish as one of the top four teams and place at the state duals for the first time in the team’s history.
“Placing is definitely our goal,” Wilkie said. “I won’t say that if we don’t it would be a disappointment, but if we wrestle the way that we have all year, then it is definitely reachable. We have the talent, so, hopefully, we can do it.”