Georgia 3A Area 8 Season Preview
Team Race: 3A Area 8 features some of the best teams in the entire 3A classification. Elbert County finished 5th in the 2015 Traditional State Tournament, Jackson County took 6th, and Morgan County finished 11th and they represent three of the teams from Area 8 that didn’t qualify for the Dual State Tournament a season ago. Each returns nine or more with 2015 post-season experience and each is led by two or more State Placers, but they will need to bring their “A” game if they are going to knock off defending 3A Champions, both Duals and Traditional, Jefferson or Oconee County, which qualified for the Dual State Tournament and finished 7th in the Traditional State Tournament.
Jefferson continues to roll and it would be a surprise if they didn’t roll through the competition in 2015-2016. The Dragons return four State Champions and four other State Placers. With that kind of line-up they pose a challenge for anyone in Georgia, regardless of the classification. Oconee County returns eight with 2015 post-season experience, including 170 lb. State Champion Rexx Hallyburton. The Warriors will look to Hallyburton and 160 lb. State Placer Chris Couch to help them return to Macon for the Dual State Tournament again in 2016. Don’t sleep on Elbert County, Jackson County, or Morgan County. Each has a very legitimate shot to knock off the Warriors and claim that other spot in Macon. Given their list of returnees, each should be back in the mix for a top 5 finish at the Traditional State Tournament in February.
Contenders: Not surprisingly, 3A Area 8 not only features some of the best teams in 3A, but also some of the best individuals. Eighteen medalists from 2015 return each looking to claim an individual title in 2016. Five will be looking to grab another title. Jefferson leads the way with four returning State Champions. Dawson Bates, Caleb Little, Mitchell McGhee, and Tanner Thurmond were absolutely dominant in grabbing their titles in 2015. The other returning State Champ from Area 8 is Rexx Hallyburton of Oconee County. All five should be considered the favorites heading into the 2015-2016 season. In addition to those five, Area 8 all returns two State Runners-up in Jackson County’s Connor Crump at 132 and Elbert County’s Kevin Almond at 152. Don’t be surprised if Area 8 crowns seven or more individual State Champions in 2016. Don’t be surprised if Area 8 has five other representatives in the finals Saturday evening, each with a legitimate opportunity to claim an individual title. Elbert County’s AJ Edmond (195), Jackson County’s Chuckie Allen (182), and Jefferson’s Will Ballard (152) each took 3rd in 2015 and Luke Mitchell of Morgan County and Chris Couch of Oconee County each took 4th. Six other Area 8 wrestlers were medalists in 2015 and each should be considered a threat in 2016. Keep an eye on Jamarcus Allen of Elbert County, Luke Gonzalez of Jackson County, Nick Holman, Zach Boobas, and Deshon Lester of Jefferson, and Jody McAlister of Morgan County.
Hunting the Podium: With so many medalists from Area 8, the number of Qualifiers that return in 2015-2016 and failed to medal last season is fairly small. Seven Area 8 wrestlers return 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 Hunter Allen of Jackson County, Garner Drummond and Antonio Robinson of Morgan County, and Dalton Sikes of Oconee County are the most likely to be on the podium. Each posted wins at the 2015 State Tournament and will be looking to breakthrough in 2016. Zach Smith of Morgan County, Jacob Lindenmeyer of East Jackson, and Jacob Love of Jackson County failed to win a match at the 2015 State Tournament, but be certain each will look to change that in 2016.
Under the Radar: Keep an eye on the following wrestlers: Brandon Blanford of Elbert County, Jake Weatherly and Jordan Williams of Jackson County, Kevin Berisko, Thomas Bailey, and Michael Rhodes of Morgan County, and Tay Brown, Blake Smith, and Jacob Webb of Oconee County.
NOTE: Fred Jones (2nd, 113, Sr.) - meaning 2nd last season at the Traditional State Tournament at 113 lbs. Is a Senior in 2015-2016.