Sunday June 20th, 2021 12:23AM

ICYMI: Area wrestling teams set to host Area Duals to get playoffs started

By Jeff Hart Sports Reporter

The 2020-21 Georgia High School Association area wrestling Duals will get under on Friday at various locations around the state, and several northeast Georgia teams will be playing host in their respective area or regions.

With everything sports being in a fluid situation, the 2020-21 Duals Tournament will have a few changes. The area or regions in each of the eight classifications will hold tournaments to determine the top four teams, who will then move on the State Preliminaries next week (Jan. 22-23) at designated locations to be determined later. Then, each classification will hold a 32-team bracket to determine the eight finalists who will move on to the Duals Championships.

And with COVID-19 restrictions still in place, the eight classifications will be held in eight different locations around the state (click here to see the designated sites for each championship).

Habersham Central will play host to the Region 8-6A tournament, which includes the Raiders and Buford, who finished third in Class 5A in 2020. Jackson County, which finished third in Class 3A in 2020, plays host to the Region 8-5A tournament and will be joined by Johnson.

Jefferson, who took fourth in 3A last season, will play host to the Region 8-4A tournament. The Dragons will be joined by Chestatee, East Hall, and Flowery Branch. Cherokee Bluff will play host to the Area 7-3A tournament. The Bears will be joined by Lumpkin County, North Hall, last year's Class 3A state champion, West Hall, and White County.

Towns County will play host to the Area 8-A tournament and will be joined by last year's Class A state runner-up Commerce and a slew of private schools. Fannin County will play host to Area 8-2A, which has Banks County, Rabun County, and Union County as well.

Dawson County will be in the Area 5-3A tournament at North Murray; Gainesville will head to West Forsyth in the Region 6-7A tournament; and East Jackson will head to Oconee County in the Area 8-3A tournament.

North Hall is looking to defend its Class 3A title after capturing its second championship in three seasons in 2020. Jackson County finished third and Jefferson was fourth in Class 3A last year. Jackson County is now in Class 5A and the Dragons moved up to Class 4A this season.

Commerce finished as state runners-up in Class A after Trion ended the Tigers' six-year reign in the classification. And Buford took third in Class 5A in 2020 but the Wolves moved up to Class 6A this season.

The Tigers have been fortunate to not miss any scheduled meets so far this season. Coach Kendall Love says they are expecting a tough meet but also expecting to move on to get a crack at reclaiming the title.

"We're familiar with most everyone in our area and we've been able to get our football guys in wrestling shape," Love said. "It will be a tough (area) meet and I think Class A overall may be the toughest classification. There's us, Trion, and Social Circle [which won five straight Class 2A crowns from 2015-2019] all in the classification. It should be a great tournament the next three weeks."

That's not the case for Jefferson, which missed nearly a month because of match cancellations due to COVID. But coach Kyle Baird says they will be ready, no matter what.

"It's tough when you don't get to go against live opponents but we've been able to stay sharp in practice and we feel good about our group," Baird said. "Our region is tough with North Oconee, Chestatee, Flowery Branch and the rest. I think it's going to be a really good, competitive tournament if everyone is able to show up at full strength."

For North Hall, which won its second state title in three seasons last year, things have been more like Jefferson than Commerce. Coach David Nichols is expecting a highly-competitive meet, if everyone is able to go full strength.

"This year has been very spotty in having full lineups for everyone so that brings a lot of uncertainty to the meet," Nichols said. "But I'm expecting all of the area teams to show up full strength and ready to go. If that happens, it will be a great meet. We're looking forward to it."

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