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Friday May 27th, 2016 8:26AM

Wrestling: Area teams gearing up for Duals

By Jeff Hart Sports Reporter
GAINESVILLE -- With the the 2013-14 wrestling season now in full takedown mode, the first major event looms just two weeks away.

The Area Duals meets will get under way beginning Jan. 4 in various gyms around the state, including northeast Georgia.

The Duals are different from the traditional meet in that team advance based on head-to-head team matchups, not individual wrestlers advancing in weight-classes.

The top two teams in each area meet will advance to the state duals.

Last year saw four area teams finish in the top eight in their respective classifications, with two champions, and one taking third. Jefferson (Class AA) and Banks County (Class AAA) each won state titles last year with Commerce finishing third in Class A, losing to eventual champion Gordon Lee in the semifinals. Chestatee finished in the top eight in a brutal Class AAAA.

Flowery Branch qualified in Class AAAAA but was not able to win a match.

This season, however, there are plenty of unknowns.

Jefferson again is penciled in as the favorite in Class AA but Banks County graduated several top wrestlers from last year's group. Chestatee also lost some solid wrestlers to graduation.

Chestatee coach Carey Whitlow said his group, which is coming off a tough win over West Hall on Tuesday, is expecting to return to Macon out of Area 8-AAAA.

"We definitely feel we can get back to the state duals," Whitlow said. "We need to stay healthy and not get pinned in the matches where we don't match up. That's how we beat West Hall. We had two backups out there and they were able to go the distance. One pin can make the difference."

The War Eagles are led by Austin Donaldson (126), Christian Zapatera (132), Trevor Comeaux (160), and Joey Meruelo at 220.

"Those guys have won tournaments this year so we feel we have talent up front," Whitlow said. "But depth is the key because you never know what can happen. Injuries, illness, all those things can come into play. We like our depth."

In Area 8-AAAA, Lumpkin County may be the early favorite with Chestatee, Eastside, and a resurgent Johnson all expected to challenge for one of the top two spots.

"It should be a very competitive tournament. But I think we can grab of the two spots," Whitlow said.

No other information could be gathered on other area teams as of publishing of this story.
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