The meet had to be moved to the middle school because of work being done at the Central High School gymnasium, but Lion coach Marcus Marenda thinks the new venue will only add to the atmosphere of the event.
"We're still hosting it, but by proxy over at the middle school. We would have loved to have it in our own facility, but I think the middle school gym is a nice atmosphere. There is one good side of stands that our county will probably pack it out and then the smaller bleachers on the other side to house the teams. I think it will be a rich, small-town atmosphere packing it full with the six schools. I think it could be very loud and a nice, intimate atmosphere in the middle school gym," Marenda said.
Carrollton will come into the meet as the No. 1 seed, with Mt. Zion taking the second spot and both teams earning first-round byes. Bowdon and Temple will meet in the opening round, with Villa Rica and Central matching up in the other bracket.
The Trojans are coming off a fourth-place finish at the Sham Slam, where 152-pound wrestler Taylor Lujan was named the Tournament's Most Outstanding Wrestler award in a first-place finish. Dan Harris also took first at 160 pounds, while Jake Adcock (126), Rhett Hembree (132) and Travis Joyce (182) placed second.
With the top seed, Carrollton will await the winner of Villa Rica and Central in the semifinals as it tries to defend last year's county title.
Michael Cleek's Eagles have enjoyed some recent success after finishing fourth in the Class A State Duals earlier this month and winning the Sixth Annual Titan Cup Invitational this past weekend. Now it is all about keeping the momentum going.
"My expectations are to go out and compete. I want our guys to go out and put forth their best effort. I think we're going to be right in the thick of things for a county championship. It's just going to be real tough to beat Carrollton. They are loaded, but we're going to give it our best shot," Cleek said. "[Bowdon] coach [Craig] McWhorter has his bunch wrestling real strong, coach [Kyle] Seeley over at Villa Rica, this has been a great year for Carroll County wrestling all the way around."
Even with the No. 2 seed and waiting in the semifinals, the MZ coach isn't taking anything for granted knowing it could very well be a tough Bowdon team waiting for them.
"Well, we had the bye last year and it didn't help us any. We got beat by a very good Central team. We were beat up that year during that dual and we aren't beat up now. I'm not looking past that semifinal match, because you've got a team in Bowdon that has some very good wrestlers and coach McWhorter has done a very good job with them. Avery McWhorter, Saeje Brown, those two guys were state-placers last year and he has a solid team, top to bottom," Cleek said.
The Lions took second place in last year's meet, but this is a different team — a younger team. Central has already faced its first-round opponent, Villa Rica, but both teams will have some different lineups in place. A varsity trip to the Sham Slam and the junior-varsity squad competing at the Heard County Duals over the weekend, sets up tonight's county dual.
"From a team standpoint, we've wrestled Villa Rica before, but I don't think it was the same personnel for either team. They blanked us when we sent a bunch of our younger squad to wrestle there at the beginning of the season. With our full lineup in place now and their full lineup, I expect a close matchup," Marenda said. "I think our kids are starting to buy into that and starting to understand what it takes to win."
This year Bowdon will be coming in a little more confident in the dual format. Craig McWhorter said his team isn't giving up as many weight classes as it did last year and is built better for this style of competition. The Red Devils will square off with Temple in the quarterfinal round, with the winner facing Mt. Zion in the semifinals.
"Just more mat time. We just came out of Smith's Station this past weekend and it is a tough tournament," Craig McWhorter said. "Connor Wigginton made it to the finals at 195 and got second. Saeje Brown got [his weight] back to 220 and placed third, so I was proud of my kids there. Coming off that tournament, we're just looking to have more mat time and stay healthy.
"This year, we've kind of moved more into a dual team than we were in the past. We've done pretty good with filling some weight classes with some quality kids. That's the thing that makes it more fun when we wrestle in a team competition, whereas last year we had to forfeit so many weight classes."
The Wildcats aren't entering the dual as the healthiest of teams, but Seeley still expects his team to show up and perform. Villa Rica took fourth at last year's Carroll County Duals — Seeley's first — and defeated Bowdon. Now the Wildcats will face off against Central in the opening round, with Carrollton waiting in the semifinals.
"I'm hoping to see intensity and fight. That seems to be the two biggest things that I need to see out of my team to be successful [tonight]," Seeley said. "Try to fill all the weight classes, we're pretty banged up. We placed sixth at the Titan Cup and took some JV guys because we had guys hurt ... last year was our first year since I've been the head coach at Villa Rica High School, and I came away very pleased with the effort. And this year, I'm looking to improve on that and go from there."