Many Bartow County wrestlers completed the first phase of the state-qualifying process Saturday as they performed well in making it out of their respective area traditional tournaments.
Among those 24 qualifiers headed to sectionals, more than one-third won their weight class, including Woodland's Chad Hawkins (103 pounds), Ryan Cecil (130), Jordy Henson (135) and Trent Gresham (145), Cass's Sammy Rosario (119), Alex Kanocz (152) and Hunter Purvine (189), Adairsville's Dalton Johnson (215) and Cartersville's Tate Murray.
Despite tying for the most wrestlers to qualify amongst local schools -- Zack Culver (119, third), Matt Martel (140, third), Zach Frye (152, fourth), Ricky Ranel (189, second) and Clint Lemon (215, fourth) also qualified for Woodland -- coach Adrian Tramutola felt his team, which won the Area 7-AAAA duals last month, could have done better.
"We got nine guys out [but], to be honest with you, [I'm] a little disappointed. [I] was kind of banking on a couple more guys [qualifying]," Tramutola said. "Overall, [it was] not a good performance by our guys. ... [It was] not the total team effort we needed it to be."
The Wildcats finished 1 1/2 points behind host Creekview, which won the Area 7-AAAA traditional tournament.
"We had 30, probably 40, chances to score that point and a half," the first-year Woodland coach lamented.
Tramutola acknowledged that the team's goals go beyond winning area. It would have been nice to do, however.
"It's not the ultimate goal, but it's something we wanted to do along the way," he said. "Losing is never fun."
While Tramutola felt Woodland may have underperformed, Cass coach D.L. Koontz thought his team wrestled well.
"We brought 12 and qualified nine [wrestlers]," said Koontz, who also had qualifiers in Alec Rivera (103, second), Nick Sims (112, third), Austin Buffaloe (130, second), Ronnie Lafollette (160, fourth), Albert Catron (215, third) and Max Smith (285, second). "I was really pleased with them. There was only one wrestler that I thought could have qualified higher than he did."
The Colonels finished fourth and stood ahead of the pack during the weekend.
"At one point and time, we were leading, but, when you bring less people than the [teams] in front of you, those wrestleback points really add up," Koontz said.
Adairsville coach Patrick Konen's team finished where he felt they would from the start of the season -- in the fifth spot of Area 7-AA, behind champion Sonoraville, Calhoun, Model and Pepperell.
"We had a couple of kids that I thought could have wrestled better ... [but] we're kind of right where we predicted," Konen said. "It was just a good building block for us."
In addition to Johnson, who improved his season record to 38-2, the Tigers -- who took 11 wrestlers to Dade County -- also had Kevin Grimaldo (112, fourth), Virgil Gentry (125, third) and Cody Tincher (135, third) qualify for sectionals.
Konen reiterated his belief that Adairsville wrestles in the toughest Class AA area and thought Friday and Saturday's matches would well prepare his wrestlers for the upcoming sectionals.
"Once again, we wrestle in a very, very competitive region as far as AA is concerned," he said. "It was just [about] trying to get through this week."
The Purple Hurricanes advanced just Murray and 160-pounder Jake Johnson, but Cartersville coach Garvin Edwards expected the Area 7-AAA tournament to be a "meat grinder" he said leading up to last weekend.
"We knew it was going to be an extremely tough tournament going in. ... I wish we'd have [had] more [wrestlers] that placed," said Edwards, whose team finished eighth.
Of the Canes' two qualifiers, he said, "Those two guys have had a good career; Jake's just a junior, but Tate's a senior."
With area tournaments in the rearview, wrestlers and teams now turn their attention to sectionals, where one need only be in the top eight to qualify for state.
Konen said wrestlers do not need to wrestle a great tournament in order to advance, but he said they do need to focus each time out on the mat.
"At this point of the season, we just kind of talk match strategy and how we want to wrestle. ... You gotta have a little strategy going into each tournament," he said. "If we just concentrate on each individual match and understand where we are, we should be able to qualify all four [of our] wrestlers for state."
Edwards expects his wrestlers to face many of the same opponents from the area tournament.
"It'll be the same people [from the area tournament] all over again. ... We're going to have to do it again next weekend," he said.
"They've worked hard all year and have put themselves in the right position to be able to move on," Edwards continued.
Taking on the best from your own area is tough enough, but the sectionals add the best from other areas as well.
"Now you bring in Pope and Alexander and teams like that," Koontz said. "They're [Cass wrestlers] really gonna have to focus on what their move is going to be ... keep their focus on because one little slip in this could cost you a whole lot."
Even with a slight dip from its usual standard, Woodland does not plan to change its approach much.
"We're gonna stay the course. We've had one goal all season-long; we're gonna try to accomplish that goal," Tramutola said. "With a good sectional tournament, we can get nine through. ... [The] bottom line is we gotta get guys to Gwinnett and we've gotta win matches.
"The heart and soul of our team got through. Our major point scorers are there."
The "A" sectionals in Class AA, AAA and AAAA are scheduled for Friday and Saturday at Sonoraville High, Woodward Academy and Cass High, respectively.