The phrase “team effort” will be at the core of wrestling coaches’ messages today and Saturday as area duals get underway across the state, signaling the start of a nearly month-long period when each win could lead to a state title.
Darlington and Trion will be part of the Area 3-A Duals on Saturday at Trion High School, a year after snow and scheduling conflicts pushed the tournament back a week, leaving Darlington unable to compete.
“We’re excited,” Darlington head coach Kelly McDurmon said. “I think our guys have done a great job getting in shape, and our technique is beginning to be fine tuned. Put that together with our strength training, and I think we’ve got a lot of state champions on our squad.”
The Tigers are built around two-time traditional state champions Dalton Blankenship and Colton Wood, who wrestle at 132 and 138 pounds respectively.
Both McDurmon’s son Rhett McDurmon (160) and Davis Peek (145) have finished state runners-up the last two seasons as well.
Darlington has an 8-4 record in duals matches this season, losing to Trion by a small margin last month. Coach McDurmon said he is looking forward to seeing some of the area teams Saturday that they have yet to match up against, like Gordon Lee and Mt. Zion-Carroll.
The team is coming off a 10th place finish out of 46 teams at the Prep Slam tournament in Atlanta last weekend. Darlington was the highest placing team from Georgia.
“We go to traditional tournaments and wrestle well,” McDurmon said. “I was thrilled at our guys’ performance. But when we go to duals we can run into guys in the lineup that give us some trouble.”
Pepperell got a taste of duals competition last week when they placed fourth in a tournament at Creekview High School. The Dragons won the Area 3-AA Duals title last year, but coach Joe Knight knows they’ll have their work cut out for them this weekend.
“I’m always nervous,” Knight said. “I think we were more just polishing things up over the holidays. My kids always seem to step up and wrestle well when it matters.”
Pepperell is seeded fourth in this year’s tournament, which takes place today and Saturday at Heard County High School.
Chattooga is the top seed, while Armuchee is second and Rockmart is third.
Knight said a four-point loss to Chattooga earlier this season shows they can match up with the Indians.
The graduation of state champions Jake Ross and Hinton Bolinger, as well as state runner-up Jaxon Croy, has left big shoes for the current crop to fill, but Knight knows anything is possible.
“Why not us? Why can’t we do it again,” Knight said. “Attitude is everything. I tell them they are the best wrestlers in the area. It’s their job to be aggressive and live up to it.”