Now, wrestlers must survive two weekends of intense wrestling to obtain a state-tournament berth and, unlike last season, this year's sectionals do not figure to be disturbed much by inclement weather.
Sectional tournaments are scheduled to begin at 5 p.m. today at Central Gwinnett and Kennesaw Mountain (Class AAAAA); Cass and Loganville (Class AAAA); Woodward Academy and Locust Grove (Class AAA); Sonoraville and Dublin (Class AA); and Bremen and Social Circle (Class A).
"Sectionals is interesting," said Adairsville coach Patrick Konen. "Half of the kids [eight] that show up are going to make it to the next round ... [but] the competition's greater, so it does make it a little more difficult [to qualify for state].
"It's a good thing when it's all said and done because you get the 16 best wrestlers in the state tournament."
Konen, however, noted that the area tournaments prior to sectionals might warrant some adjustment to make it more "equitable." Area 7-AA, where the Tigers wrestle, has 14 teams, he said, while some areas have half that total.
Adairsville had four wrestlers -- Kevin Grimaldo (112 pounds), Virgil Gentry (125), Cody Tincher (135) and Dalton Johnson (215) -- move on automatically, by virtue of top-four finishes, while two other wrestlers -- alternates Hayden Randolph (119) and Bo Depasquale (130) -- learned this week that they will head to Sonoraville for today's tournament.
"I would really hope that we could get four across [to state]. I could see us getting six," Konen said. "Of the six we're bringing, only one of them is a senior. I would really like to see Cody Tincher qualify."
Cass' wrestlers -- Alec Rivera (103), Nick Sims (112), Sammy Rosario (119), Austin Buffaloe (130), Alex Kanocz (152), Ronnie Lafollette (160), Hunter Purvine (189), Albert Catron (215) and Max Smith (285) -- will have the luxury of trying to qualify in their own gymnasium, a far cry from past years when Cass had to go such distances as Upson-Lee High in Thomaston.
"Everything stays normal for them," Colonels coach D.L. Koontz said. "Anything can happen on [those road] trips. I remember one year we didn't have hot water [at our hotel]."
This year, Cass wrestlers can sleep in their own beds and take the mat in front of their fans.
"One of the major benefits is the friends and families of the wrestlers. ... They get to be here and see it," Koontz said. "Now, some other relatives and friends can come out and watch these kids."
In addition, he said, "We get to show off our brand new school and try to get people to come up here for other events."
Koontz also anticipates this weekend's sectionals for what effect it may have on the state tournament, which had to change its format to a single elimination in the first round last year.
"You had a lot of good kids that could have placed ... paired up with kids that were state champs," Koontz said. "Going through [sectionals] this year is going to help some of those kids [who lost in the first round last year]. ... Some of those kids will wrestle back up to third place."
A couple of third-placers from last season will be the lone wrestlers for Cartersville: Tate Murray, who went from 160 last year to 189 this season, and Jake Johnson, who went from 152 to 160.
"They've done a real good job this week," Purple Hurricanes coach Garvin Edwards said. "When you only have a couple [wrestlers that qualify for sectionals] ... it's kind of hard to keep the focus and the integrity of the practice [intact] ... and they've done a good job this week of working hard.
"Those two guys are very motivated individuals, and they're two of our team leaders."
As good as Murray and Johnson making it to sectionals has been, there is some disappointment for Cartersville.
"We've had six [wrestlers make it out of area] traditionally, at least half a team," Edwards said. "It's been very difficult for me. ... We don't like being in this situation, but we're trying to focus on what's coming up. ... We gotta get back to working a little harder. ... But being in this situation where you only qualify two, it gave me and coach [Jeff] Cave a chance to look at some things."
With their teammates effectively done for the season, Murray and Johnson continue chasing individual titles as the competition kicks up a notch.
"We talked about this before. It's a very tough area [7-AAA] and then when you come into this weekend at sectionals, you add Henry County and Columbus," Edwards said.
The Canes, however, have wrestled those two teams already this season -- Henry County three times and Columbus twice.
"We get out early in the year and go where they are," Edwards said. "You're not going to get the same opponent the second weekend of February as you did in the second week of the season or three weeks ago at [the] Whitewater [tournament] ... but Jake and Tate have gotten better, too."
Cartersville heads to Woodward Academy today while Woodland will be at Cass.
The Wildcats tied with the rival Colonels for most qualifiers in the county with nine; among them, Chad Hawkins (103), Zack Culver (119), Ryan Cecil (130), Jordy Henson (135), Matt Martel (140), Trent Gresham (145), Zach Frye (152), Ricky Ranel (189) and Clint Lemon (215).