Georgia 4A Area 8 Season Preview
Team Race: Another fantastic area in 4A, this one with some evenly matched teams and with some upcoming programs with a lot returning. 2015-2016 should be a fun season to watch. Buford, Chestatee, and North Hall each had superb 2014-2015 seasons and each could be better in 2015-2016. Buford finished 4th in both the Dual State Tournament and the Traditional State Tournament. They do lose 126 lb. State Champ Darius Bunch and State Placer Grant Simonds, but return Ferguson, Barber, Ness and others, as well as freshman Logan Ashton. As a result, the Wolves are still the team to beat in 2015-2016. North Hall claimed the other dual spot in Macon and finished 2-2, losing to eventual Runner-up Northwest Whitfield 33-32 in the quarters. The Trojans return six wrestlers that qualified for the Traditional State Tournament in 2015, including 145 lb. State Champ Michael Carew. They will be tough to beat in 2016. Chestatee was right on the heels of Buford and North Hall a season ago and expect the same in 2016. The War Eagles return much of their firepower including three State Placers that could be on the top step themselves in 2016. There isn’t much room for any other teams, but you would be remiss if you didn’t pay attention to Madison County. With a returning State Champ in Cody Bond and three State Qualifiers, the Red Raiders are a force to be reckoned with.
Contenders: Area 8 is littered with talented individuals that have an opportunity to claim the top step in 2016. Buford’s Trent Ferguson, Madison County’s Cody Bond, and North Hall’s Michael Carew are all back to defend their 2015 State Titles. Each looked great en route to the title a season ago and each enters the 2015-2016 season as a favorite. Four Area 8 wrestlers, Jack Barber at 138 of Buford, Jaime Arroyo at 182, Marvin Cunningham at 138, and Matthew McClellan at 145 of Chestatee and Isaiah Hale at 170 of North Hall all finished 3rd at the 2015 State Tournament. All but Arroyo fell in the semifinals, Barber and Cunningham by sudden victory. Expect those four to push through in 2016 and be wrestling for the title Saturday evening. Buford’s Jack Ness (4th at 182) and North Hall’s Darien Ingram (6th at 195) each found the podium a season ago and each could be on the top step in 2016.
Hunting the Podium: Eighteen 2015 State Qualifiers return in 2015-2016 and each will be looking to land a spot on the podium in 2016. Chase Hartman of Buford, Randy Galvan and Nick Whitmire of North Hall and David Sprague of North Oconee went 2-2 in the 2015 State Tournament and are certainly threats to be on the podium in 2016. Isaac Alarcon and Gavin Cunningham of Chestatee, Gabriel Laguna of Johnson (Gainesville), Evan Drake of Madison County, Stephen Kreyenbuhl of North Oconee, Jake Muray of Stephens County and Austin Durham and Cory Garrison of White County finished the 2015 State Tournament 1-2 and will look to add a couple wins to get on the podium in 2016. Keep an eye on Garrett Brader and Jairo Cuevas of Chestatee, Jake Holman of Johnson (Gainesville), Justin Bishop and Ryan Miller of Madison County, and Michael Rietrib of North Hall. Each struggled at the 2015 State Tournament, but expect that to change in 2016. We do not like to hype incoming freshmen (as we have stated in other previews), but feel it is important to recognize when one comes along that has the potential to do some big things. Be sure to keep an eye on Buford’s Logan Ashton. He had a terrific summer and should be considered one of the favorites to find the podium at 106 lbs. in 2016.
Under the Radar: In an Area as tough as Area 8, these wrestlers could emerge and do quite well on the bigger stage. Keep an eye on: Kyle McCullough of Buford, Anthony Aguilar and Jonathon Castillo of Chestatee, Cody Drake and Amir Cooper of Monroe Area, John Pedraza and Caleb Williamson of North Hall, Will Richardson of North Oconee, and Javon Jones, Corey Kindel, and Jay Stowe of Stephens 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.