Tuesday March 5th, 2024 2:25AM

Wrestling: NEGa is epicenter for State Duals

By Jeff Hart Sports Reporter

Northeast Georgia will be the epicenter for the Georgia High School Association State Duals finals beginning on Friday.

Five of the seven GHSA tournaments will be conducted by area programs. Buford will entertain Class 7A at The Buford Arena while North Forsyth plays host to Class 6A. Jefferson will hold the Class 5A Duals at The Arena, and Chestatee has the Class 4A Duals. The Class 3A Duals will be held at Lumpkin County.

(CLICK HERE TO SEE THE GHSA BRACKETS FOR EVERY GHSA CLASSIFICATION.)

The format has changed as now every classification has the top two teams from the eight different areas or regions. The changes to the Area Duals and the elimination of the Sectionals make up a 16-team bracket instead of an 8-team field. A loss at any point in the main bracket drops the teams into the consolation bracket, where teams will wrestle for third place.

All eight tournaments will begin on Friday with opening round action. The consolation semifinals, semifinals, and finals will be on Saturday.

In Class 7A, Buford is the No. 2 seed and will take on Kennesaw Mountain in the opening round. Nine-time defending state champion Camden County is the top seed. The Wolves lost to Camden County, 39-22, in last year’s finals.

Buford coach Tom Beuglas said they are hoping for another crack at the powerful Wildcats.

"Both teams have a lot of guys back this year and I think both teams will be the ones to beat," he said of last year's finals. ""It was a very close match last year but we had a couple of toss-up matches not go our way and that was the difference. We lost all four lower-weights last year and feel like we have a chance to do better in those areas this year.

"We would love to get back to the finals but Camden is very, very good. We're hoping we can get another shoot at them but it will take our best effort for sure."

In Class 6A, North Forsyth, last year’s state runner-up, is back and will take on Thomas County Central in the first round. The Raiders lost 36-28 to South Effingham in last year's championship match. Jackson County is in the finals field for the first time since 2022 (Class 5A). The Panthers will wrestle against Tift County in the opening round. Last year’s state champion, South Effingham, is once again the top seed.

In Class 5A, defending champion Jefferson goes in as the top seed again. The Dragons are one of seven teams from last year’s finals field to make a return trip in 2024, including state runner-up Cass.

In Class 4A, North Hall and Chestatee advanced out of the Area 8-4A Duals last week, also held at Chestatee. The War Eagles, despite being at home, have a tough road to the finals. Chestatee opens against Southwest DeKalb and is likely to face defending champion Central-Carroll in the second round. 

The Trojans, the No. 2 overall seed, have a favorable draw. They will take on Cairo in the opening round with only one team, Troup, on their half of the bracket that made the finals tournament last season.

In Class 3A at Lumpkin County, the host Indians are the No. 2 seed and will square off with Dougherty out of Albany in the first round. They also have a favorable bottom-half draw with last year’s champion, Columbus, and runner-up, Gilmer, both on the top part of the draw.

In Class 2A, which will be staged at Jeff Davis High School (southeast of Macon), Union County and Banks County both advanced, with the Panthers receiving the No. 2 seed. The Leopards are the fourth seed, and neither team made the tournament last season.

Union County opens against Berrien, while Banks County takes on Fellowship Christian. The Leopards do have defending champion Rockmart on their half of the draw, but last year’s runner-up, Fannin County, failed to make the field in 2024.

Class A will be held at Heard County, which is southwest of Atlanta. Commerce, the No. 3 seed, wrestles St. Francis in the first round. The Tigers finished in the top six in 2023, and are looking to get back to the title match for the first time since losing to Mount Pisgah in the 2021 finals. The Tigers won six straight titles from 2014 to 2019.

The girls' State Duals will be held at the University of West Georgia in Carrollton. Last year’s state champion, Carrollton, will be the No. 2 seed as the top eight finishers from 2023 are back in the field.

Chestatee, a top-six finisher in 2023, will be joined by area teams Lumpkin County and Gainesville. The Lady War Eagles have a very difficult road. They take on Shiloh in the opening round and could face 2023 state runner-up Jordan in the second round and possibly No. 1 seed Greenbrier in the semifinals.

Lumpkin County opens against Houston County but could get Greenbrier in the second round. Gainesville gets Richmond Hill in the first round with a possible matchup with defending champion Carrollton in the second round.

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