Georgia 5A Area 3 Season Preview
Team Race: It is no surprise that Camden County is at the top of its game year after year. Camden County has a lineup that can battle with anyone in the state and demonstrated that a season ago with a convincing win at both the Dual and Traditional State Tournaments. For the first time in quite some time, Camden County does not return any state champions. They do, however, return five finalists and three additional placers. It’s hard to imagine any other team legitimately contending for the title in this Area. Keep an eye on Ware County, Brunswick, Coffee County, Richmond Hill, and Effingham County. The five should battle it out for the #2 spot in Area 3 behind Camden in 2016.
Contenders: First and foremost, Effingham County’s Isiah Royal (1st at 113) looks to claim yet another state title in 2016. In addition to Royal, the other five state finalists come from the aforementioned Camden County in: Bryce Crew (120), Domonique Hargrave (182), Adrian Hughes (126), Lucas Nelson (106), and Denton Spencer (132). Camden County also has several other legitimate threats to capture an idnvidual title in: Bunmi Smith (3rd at 160), Zion Graham (5th at 113), and Gabe Smith (6th at 285). The other returning state placers who have a legitimate shot at a state championship this season include Brunswick’s Devin Calhoun (4th at 145), and Richmond Hill’s Trent Higginbotham (5th at 106) and Alex Hill (6th at 195).
Hunting the Podium: What Area 3 has in top of the podium experience and contenders, they add even more in depth via State Qualifiers. With 16 state qualifiers who did not place last year, it would be ignorant not to expect a good number of these wrestlers to find themselves at the awards ceremony at the end of the season. Pay particular attention to Brunswick’s Michael Laneve, Camden County’s Brian Stanford, Coffee’s Brandon Bautista and Drew Jowers, Effingham County’s Xavier Wallace, Richmond Hill’s Akira Bechtel and Colin Crawford, South Effingham’s Bryan Winkles and Ware County’s Brandon Foster. Don’t be surprised to see freshman Raydan Wilder from Camden County on the podium, perhaps the top step. Seven wrestlers qualified for the big dance, but failed to win a match in 2015. Look for that to change in 2016. Don’t be surprised if one of the following also finds the podium in 2016. Brunswick’s Zane Nagorski, Coffee’s Derrick Newton and Vaquece Turner, Glynn Academy’s Vance Rowe, South Effingham’s Thomas Granat and Ethan McDonald, and Ware County’s Cole White.
Under the Radar: Keep an eye on the following wrestlers in 2015-2016: Kole Metts of Coffee, Kasey Baynon and Matthew Reaves of Statesboro, and David Soper and Kaleb Aldridge of Ware County. Be certain there will be others, particularly from Camden County, but getting that information is never easy.
NOTE: Fred Jones (2nd, 113, Sr.) - meaning 2nd last season at the Traditional State Tournament at 113 lbs. Is a Senior in 2015-2016.