In his third year leading the team, Kyle Seeley has raised expectations and his team continues to meet them. This year is no different, as again the VR coach expects his group to make it to the second day of the meet on Saturday.
"It's going to be interesting. Last year, we set our goal to make it to Saturday, and we did. I think that's very realistic this year. Hopefully, we can take it a step further and make it further into the tournament," Seeley said.
With the wrestling season split into two state championships, starting with the Duals in January and Traditional in February, there is a slight difference in the way coaches approach the two. While there might be a tweak to the lineup here and there at the end of the day, it comes down to the grapplers on the mat.
Each wrestler also has to maximize the points he gets, or minimize the points he gives up in the match, as winning by a tech fall, major decision and pin gets more team points. So the coach has to keep all of that in mind when choosing his lineup.
"I would say yes and no. The reason why that is is because duals, you've got to be able to fill all 14 weight classes. And you can fill them with bodies, but you need them to be bodies that have experience at the varsity level to be able to give you a good chance. We've got some weight classes that we definitely need to get pins in. It's a team effort, and what the boys need to understand is that bonus points are big. If you're winning by seven points, you need to cut him and bring him back down to get a major decision," Seeley said. "Also, that you don't get pinned. It's those things I have the boys try to focus on."
Even though it is a team effort, there are a few individuals who will be expected to step up for VR. Both Josh Ivey at 113 pounds and Tristan Ware (132) are undefeated at 19-0 and 20-0, respectively. Chris Bailey (152) has also had a solid start to the season, with just a pair of losses.
When it comes to picking up the extra points, that's where the focus will be.
"Those three guys right there are definitely the guys that should get pins and need to for us. If not, they're expected to get some bonus points. There are a couple other guys I feel that can do very well for us. Our 220, Demetris Flemister, has done very well for us this year. He's third on the list for pins on our team. At 180, we've got Maurice McGuire, who's a pretty solid guy there," Seeley said.
This time of year does bring the injury bug, and the Wildcats aren't immune. Some injuries will hurt more than others, as there is a possibility of Bailey being unable to compete this weekend.
"We're banged up and have a couple of kids out right now that we're going to have to fill weight classes with some of our JV guys. I think they'll step in and do all right for us. We're trying to piece everything together with the week we've had," Seeley said. "Chris Bailey is banged up. I don't know if he's going to be able to go for us. That could hurt us in a way. It could also benefit us in another way."
Even though the area hasn't come out with their seedings for the tournament yet, Seeley expects his team to be about in the middle of the 11-team pack. Woodland, Cartersville comes in as the Class AAAA Dual runners-up from last year, as well as Allatoona being a traditionally strong team and the host school building up its program.
"My prediction is we will be seeded sixth out of 11 teams," Seeley said. "I think that those five teams ahead of us are very solid. Of course, there are some good squads behind us, too. North Paulding, we wrestled very well against them when we wrestled them in a dual. I think there is going to be some pretty good wrestling come Saturday ... I think we have the opportunity to be able to wrestle Saturday if we wrestle to the best of our ability Friday night."
And while many have been enjoying a break, the Wildcats have been working hard to prepare for the road that lies ahead.
"We're practicing all this week. You know how it is over the break at times, especially with young kids, make sure that they come to practice. You just can't be taking days off before a big tournament like this. It's a big opportunity," Seeley said.