Sequoyah and Etowah have long made their presence known in wrestling, while other programs such as Creekview have recently started taking over. River Ridge, the youngest program in the county, will compete this season in Class AAAA before joining Sequoyah and Creekview next year in a higher classification.
Woodstock and Cherokee have struggled in recent years, but even that seems to be changing.
Graduation left Sequoyah’s roster riddled with holes.
The Chiefs have just five returners across the 14 weight classes, led by seniors Keeghan Grodi (160 pounds) and Brad LaSelva (170). Coach James Sanchez still has holes in his lineup at 106, 113, 126, 145 and 195, but he remains optimistic.
“Despite the holes in the varsity lineup, the JV lineup is filled and the program is growing from 17 last year to 30 this year,” he said. “We expect to compete and push at every tournament and match. We are building on last year’s base and are growing experience-wise and technique-wise.”
Newcomers making an impact for the Chiefs include juniors Redken Delahunty (182) and Jordan Riddle (285).
Sanchez expects as many as five of his wrestlers to make a run for the traditional state championships, even though Sequoyah has not had anyone qualify for the state tournament in the past four seasons.
Last spring, Creekview led the county by sending nine wrestlers to the state tournament. Just two of those wrestlers graduated, leaving the Grizzlies with seven proven veterans.
Sophomores Ryan Camp (113) and Grant Slater (120) and junior Justin Goss (126) will anchor the lower weight classes. Seniors Hunter Smith (170), Joseph Sorrentino (182) and Logan Ridings (195) will provide plenty of leadership, while junior Brock Tupman returns to anchor the team in the heavyweight division.
Other members of the Grizzlies’ squad include Bryce Davis (106), Hunter Graham (132), Kyle Merenda (145), Coda Steward (152), Blake Tupman (160), Jacob Hewgley (195) and Christian Saragusa (220).
Sorrentino, the 2012-13 Cherokee Tribune Wrestler of the Year, will also be looked to as a team leader.
The Grizzlies are 4-0 as a team going into this weekend’s Walton Duals.
“The guys have spent many hours training and lifting this summer,” Creekview coach Wyatt Wilkie said. “We are looking forward to their hard work paying off on the mat. The team has set some high goals this year and are working hard to achieve them.”
River Ridge hasn’t found as much success in the opening weeks of the season, but coach Joseph Mullinax is encourage by the improvements that his young team has shown.
The Knights (2-5) placed 10th of 16 teams at a tournament hosted by Lassiter before finishing sixth of 12 teams at their own event.
“We are a very young team as far as experience goes,” Mullinax said. “We had more guys come out this year, so our numbers are larger. We are just inexperienced and looking to get better as the year goes on.”
Noah Smith, who became River Ridge’s first state qualifier last season, is working back from a torn medial collateral ligament in his knee that he suffered while competing over the summer. He is expected to return during the first week of January.
Aside from that, River Ridge added Ian Schumacher, a junior transfer from Henry County who will wrestler in the heavyweight division. Schumacher is currently 10-1 on the year, with his only loss coming against Pope during the Lassiter tournament.
Other returning wrestlers for River Ridge include seniors Lenhard Jones (120) and Seth Name (160) and junior Luke MacKenzie. Drac Cameron is in the process of cutting his weight to compete at 220, and Mullinax is expecting big things from him.
“As far as our schedule, I scheduled close and tougher tournaments to prepare us for our tough region opponents,” Mullinax said. “I expect, once we get our younger athletic guys more experience, for us to sneak up and surprise some teams at region.”
Of the three programs competing in Class AAAAAA, Etowah has been busy this season. The Eagles won a tight match against Woodstock, competed in the Blackbeard Duals at Allatoona and are competing in the Woodstock Invitational this weekend.
The Eagles are led by returning standouts such as Bronson Rechsteiner.
Woodstock will be led by its returning state-qualifiers Tristian Watson (120) and Zach Shareef (145), but they certainly aren’t the only veterans. Other returners include Austin Biggers (195), Daniel Benitez (285), Will Stumpf (220) and Duncan Morris (170).
Cherokee, which in many ways had a breakthrough season last year with a seventh-place finish in the state tournament and a pair of state runners-up, will have to find a way to win without graduated wrestlers Brady Sandercock, Blake Walker and Andrew Torrence.
The Warriors’ roster will be young this season with just a few upperclassmen.