Last year the Red Devils sent five to the sectional tournament with two coming out and advancing to state. This time around, Bowdon coach Craig McWhorter thinks that number should be larger.
"We wrestled real good last weekend and I was proud of the effort they gave last weekend, but when you get this far everybody's good," McWhorter said. "I like where we're sitting. I think some of them got some good draws."
The six wrestlers are led by Avery McWhorter competing at 126 pounds and Saeje Brown at 220. Both of them made it to state and placed last year. Those two are joined by Trevor McCray (106), Hunter Jones (113), Hunter Lewis (182) and Connor Wigginton (195).
With the top four making it out of sectionals to the state tournament, there is added importance on starting strong and staying in the championship bracket and not having to work out of the consolation bracket for a third or fourth-place finish.
"Everybody's good at this point and it's just one of those deals where you have to step in and be ready to wrestle that very first match. If you can get in the semis early and not lose that first one, that's a big step," McWhorter said. "Trevor McCray's had a good year all year and he drew a kid from Armuchee, and now's the time you try to work on what kind of scouting reports we can get on other kids. Hunter Jones drew a kid from Lovett, Avery drew a kid from Lovett. I did get to see those two and Lovett has a strong team, so we'll have to be on our toes.
"Hunter Lewis drew a kid from Murray County, but Hunter was hurt when we faced Murray County, so we didn't really get to see the matchup there. Connor Wigginton and Saeje both drew kids from Model. We did wrestle Model and Connor beat his kid and Saeje did, too. So they've actually beat their two kids before — I don't know if that's a good thing or a bad thing."
Competing in Class A last season, Avery McWhorter reached the championship match at 113 pounds, taking second place while Brown worked his way out of the consolation bracket to defeat the wrestler that put him there for third place. With that experience, they want to get back and have another shot at a state title.
"[Avery] had a great year last year and I think moving to AA this year has been a big jump, but he's kind of doing the same as he did last year. He's wrestling really good right now, and if he can keep his knee healthy he's where we want him right now," Craig McWhorter said. "Saeje, it goes a long way with Saeje, because I think he was maybe a little awestruck being on the big stage ... I think as he got used to the surroundings a little bit he settled down. I think he wants to get back. I think he's tasted it for the first time and wants to get back there."
Each wrestler has a little bit of personal motivation to make the state tournament this year. While it is a chance to return for Avery McWhorter and Brown, it is a chance for the others to make their mark.
"Trevor McCray was good enough to make it last year — that's what I've told him all year — he just didn't stay with me last year. I think he's looking for stuff he missed out on last year. I think he's going to give us his best effort. Connor Wigginton and Hunter Lewis, both being seniors, you want to end on the big stage … I think they're all capable of doing it. Hunter Jones is just a freshman, but he's wrestled a lot of USA matches in his time," Craig McWhorter said.
The team will try to gain a little bit of an advantage by driving down on Friday night to eliminate the drive to Barnesville the day of wrestling. Bowdon will be in town and ready to go for weigh-ins and wrestling, beginning at 9 a.m.
"I've got six that I'm really happy they're going. I think they're all excited about it and I think they want to be there and they deserve to be there. It's just the matchups," Craig McWhorter said. "I think they saw Saeje and Avery make it last year and they saw them do good and I'm excited for them. I hope they get off the bus and wrestle good Saturday morning."