Georgia 5A Area 8 Season Preview
Team Race: In one of the larger regions of the state, Area 8 has fifteen state qualifiers, but lacks some of the top talent that might be found in other Areas (only three state placers return). Clarke Central definitely is the team to beat as they return both of the region’s state placers, and three additional state qualifiers. Lanier and Heritage both return four state qualifiers, and Gainesville returns three. Gainesville, Heritage, and Lanier should be in contention for the #2 spot, but on paper it looks as if they lack the firepower to overtake Clarke Central in 2016. It will be interesting to see what type of team Discovery puts together in their first season.
Contenders: Clarke Central teammates Patrick Isip (4th at 126) and Owen Graham (5th at 182) and Flowery Branch’s Ronny Link (4th at 120), are the areas best shot at crowning an individual state titlist in 2016. Link fell to Camden’s State Runner-up Bryce Crew 6-4 in the quarters and fought his way back into the consolation finals, where he dropped a tough 8-3 decision to Woodland’s Logan Sims. Isip and Graham each lost very close semifinal matches to the eventual champ in 2015, as a result both have to be considered one of the favorites this season.
Hunting the Podium: With fifteen State Qualifiers returning, it would be surprising if just a few found the podium in 2016. Three (Barnett, Ellison, and Touray) of Clarke Central’s four state qualifiers went 1-2 in the 2015 State Tournament and each should be considered a threat to find the podium in 2016. Gainesville’s Jerson Garcia, Heritage’s Lifahn Adams, David Harris, and Richard Walker, and Lanier’s Joe Kuria won matches at the 2015 State Tournament and will be looking to take the next step and add a medal in 2016. Melvin Nimely of Clarke Central, Tyrek Fleming and Anthony Constantini of Gainesville, Trey Turner of Heritage, Makenzie Rannals, Brett Sivadon, and Ethan Wilson of Lanier and Garrett Chucci of Loganville each went 0-2 at last year’s State Tournament. Expect that to change in 2016. It wouldn’t be surprising if several of these wrestlers had outstanding 2015-2016 campaigns and found themselves high on the podium on Saturday evening.
Under the Radar: Keep an eye on the following: Tomas Jimenez, Cleveland Belton, Me’Shai Coleman, and Jamorris Hart of Clarke Central, Anthony Woodall of Flowery Branch, Ken Flenoy and Terrell Knight of Gainesville, George Dorsey of Heritage, Jacob Ogi of Lanier, Douglas Peppers of Loganville, Brandon Joseph and Eric Williamson of Salem, and Cameron Best of Winder Barrow.
NOTE: Fred Jones (2nd, 113, Sr.) - meaning 2nd last season at the Traditional State Tournament at 113 lbs. Is a Senior in 2015-2016.