The Georgia High School Association wrestling Area Duals get underway Friday around the state.
Two northeast Georgia area teams -- Commerce in Class A and Jefferson in Class 3A -- will be looking to open defense of their state titles while two others -- North Hall in Class 3A and Buford in Class 5A -- will try to improve on their state runners-up positions from 2019.
Five area teams -- Gainesville in Region 8-6A, Johnson in Region 8-5A, Dawson County in Area 5-3A, Jackson County in Area 6-3A, and Commerce in Area 6-A -- will be playing host in their respective areas or regions.
The Area Duals will take place over two days with the top two teams in each area (Class A through Class 3A) and region (Class 4A to Class 7A) moving on to next week's State Duals in Macon.
Buford in 8-5A, North Hall in 5-3A, Jefferson in 6-3A, and Commerce in 6-A all will try to repeat as Area champions.
North Hall coach David Nichols, who has guided the Trojans to back-to-back Area 5-A Duals titles, along with capturing the 2018 Class 3A Duals state title, said he expects another tough fight.
"We come into this year's (Area) Duals as the No. 1 seed; however, we don't see ourselves as favored," Nichols said. "We realize the best team doesn't win...the team that scores the most points wins. Lovett, Fannin County, Lumpkin County are seeded (right behind us). It will take our absolute best effort to win every match and every dual."
Commerce coach Kendall Love, whose Tigers have won six consecutive Class A State Duals titles, said, as in recent years, they are coming into the tournament blind after spending most of the early season taking part in out-of-state tournaments.
"We are the No. 1 seed in our Area (6-A) but it's hard to say how it will all shake out because we have not seen anyone in our Area up to this point," Love said. "Our guys are ready I think."
Buford's Tom Beuglas, whose Wolves took second in Class 5A in 2019, said they are in a similar boat as Commerce. Although, they are still looking for a set lineup as they head into the Region 8-5A Duals.
"We have not seen any teams in our region this year other than Loganville, and Johnson," Beuglas said. "I expect Clarke Central and and Walnut Grove to be competitive, along with Loganville, and Johnson is an improved team. We have some very good kids returning -- Charlie Darracott, Blaine Bergey, Nick Stonecheck have all won state titles -- but we also have some holes in our lineup. We have had a few injuries and are just now working our football players into shape and into the lineup."
New Gainesville coach Roberto Rivera is hoping his young and inexperienced Red Elephants can make a breakthrough in Region 8-6A against the likes of Duals' stalwarts Lanier and Habersham Central.
"It looks like it will be a competitive tournament. But strictly looking on paper, the nod might go to Lanier and Habersham Central, who have dominated this region in the last few years," Rivera said. "Most of our team are first year wrestlers and the others are in their second year. But we've been working hard and I think you'll see a Red Elephants team that will wrestle hard and give their best effort."
(Below are the Areas and Regions and where they are being held and which teams are in each tournament. Area teams in bold.)
Region 8 (at Gainesville HS)
Region 8 (at Johnson HS)
Region 7 (at Denmark HS)
Area 5 (at Dawson County HS)
Greater Atlanta Christian
Area 6 (at Jackson County HS)
Area 6 (at Monticello HS)
Area 6 (at Commerce HS)
George Walton Academy
Riverside Military Academy