When the Blue Devils travel to Lamar County on Saturday for the 9 a.m. competition, they will take 11 grapplers trying to finish in the top four again for a trip to the GHSA Traditional Wrestling State Tournament in Macon the following weekend. Out of the 11 qualifiers, six won the area title with the other five taking runner-up finishes. While that might give them some confidence and the possibility of a better bracket position, they still have to win come Saturday.
“I guess it gives them some confidence, but you’ve got to take care of the first match. You’ve got to have two wins to advance out of those first three matches. You’d much rather win the first one and get off on the right step. Then however it works out, it works out — get in the semis if you win or you’ve got a better chance of winning in the consos [if you lose]. We’ll just see what we can get done,” Bremen coach Tony Armas said.
The group is led by four Class A state champions from last year in heavyweight Joe Bexley, Cory Morgan (126), Brock Cooper (132) and Kannon Madden (152), who all won area titles last weekend, along with Luke Campbell (113) and Tristan Williams (138). While that success on the biggest stage last season and at area last weekend will give a boost to the team, the Blue Devils have faced stiff competition in top tournaments all year long.
“We look for them to help us, but we’ve been in some pretty big tournaments. I think we’ll be OK, in terms of the competition level. I just don’t know whether we’ve been successful at those levels. I don’t think we’ll be in awe of anybody, I hope,” Armas said.
Joining the six area champions are Austin Capes (106), Jacob Bumgardner (120), Joseph Stroud (145), Jesse Eriquezzo (160) and Darron Boxley (170). With 11 participants, Bremen isn’t worried about any particular team, just certain wrestlers in each weight class.
“There’s no team score, so we’re not really worried about that. There’s different kids at different weights that we’re worried about each week. I think Lovett has a big group of kids coming and Calhoun and, obviously, Monticello will be there and bring all the guys they qualified. We’ve been looking at some video before each practice trying to work on some things, reviewing matches and seeing where we can improve a little bit,” Armas said.
And while the focus might already be put on the Blue Devils going for their fifth straight traditional state title against powerhouse Jefferson, the two teams will not meet this week. In order to be able to compete with the four-time defending Class AA state champions as they go for their 12th overall traditional title, Bremen has to get as many guys through as it can.
“They can’t score if they don’t qualify, obviously. I don’t know what we can do with Jefferson. We don’t see them this week and can’t really do a whole lot about them until we do see them. If we don’t have a very good weekend, it’s not going to matter. It’s just like it is with any qualifier — you can’t win it, but you sure as heck can lose it. We just try to get all the guys through,” Armas said.