Georgia 3A Area 7 Season Preview
Team Race: 3A Area 7 features five teams that have a legitimate shot at capturing the Area title and wrestling in the Dual State Tournament in 2016. Banks County, which qualified for last year’s Dual State Tournament and finished 9th in the Traditional Tournament, has to be considered one of the early favorites. The Leopards return twelve, including 126 lb. State Champion Chris McCrackin, 170 lb. State Placer Dylan Gouine and four State Qualifiers. Lumpkin County was quite a force in 2015, taking 3rd in the 2015 Dual State Tournament and 2nd in the Traditional State Tournament. The Indians return seven, including 113 lb. State Runner-up Logan Brown, three State Placers and two State Qualifiers; unfortunately, they lose some significant firepower with the graduation of State Placers Greg Hilliard, Victor Ramos, and Eddie Daniel. If the Indians are going to down Banks County and challenge Jefferson they will need some new faces to compliment their six State Qualifiers.
Three teams are all within striking distance of Banks County and Lumpkin County. With twelve returnees, including State Placer Will Davidson and three State Qualifiers, East Hal will be tough to beat in 2016. Franklin County returns thirteen from a team that finished 34th in the 2015 Traditional State Tournament. With State Placer Christian Hardin leading the way, the Lions should be a top 10-15 team in 2015-2016. Lastly, keep an eye on Dawson County. The Tigers lost some significant firepower with the graduation of State Placer Gavin Brown and three State Qualifiers, but return two that made the trip to Macon last season and could be a team that will make some noise in 2015-2016.
Contenders: 3A Area 7 features several individuals that have an excellent shot at being on the top step in 2016. Nine medalists from 2015 return looking for that elusive individual title. Banks County’s Chris McCrackin is well acquainted with being on the top step and will be looking to grab another state title in 2016. Two others, Logan Brown and Tristan Duckworth of Lumpkin County, appear ready to ascend to the top step in 2016. Brown had a terrific state tournament end on a down note, losing to Jefferson’s Mitchell McGhee in the finals at 113. Duckworth fell in the quarterfinals and fought his way back to take 3rd at 126. Banks County’s Dylan Gouine, East Hall’s Will Davidson, Franklin County’s Christian Hardin, Lumpkin County’s Zach Matthews and Conner Heriot, and West Hall’s Jesse Bridgewater all placed either 5th or 6th a season ago. Each has a shot at grabbing the individual title in 2016, but each must find a way to breakthrough in the close matches.
Hunting the Podium: Area 7 features seventeen 2015 State Qualifiers who return in 2015-2016 and each will be looking to land a spot on the podium in 2016. Each has a great shot of earning a medal, having been to Macon in 2015, but given their 2015 performance, it appears Chris Guthrie and Devin Mullinax of Banks County, Harrison Adams of Dawson County, and Cole White of Lumpkin County are the most likely to be on the podium. Each finished the 2015 State Tournament with at least two wins and was close to being on the podium a season ago. Keep an eye on Corey Turner of Banks County, Jeremy Whalen of Dawson County, and James Stoudenmire of East Hall. Each won one match at the 2015 State Tournament and will be looking to build on that in 2016. Parker Brown and Justin Wheat of Fannin County, Chris Duck, Abe Hafez, and Brandon McGarity of Franklin County, Justin Cantrell of Lumpkin County, Christian Erwin of West Hall, Clayton Dykhouse of Banks County, and Kevin Thompson and Angel Vargas of East Hall each failed to win a match at the 2015 State Tournament, but be certain each will looking to change that in 2016.
Under the Radar: Keep an eye on the following wrestlers: Ryan Buffington and Joseph Smith of East Hall, Bradley Flowers of Fannin County, Brycs Esco of Franklin County, Noah Denard of Lumpkin County, and Robbie Campbell of West Hall.
NOTE: Fred Jones (2nd, 113, Sr.) - meaning 2nd last season at the Traditional State Tournament at 113 lbs. Is a Senior in 2015-2016.