After a late start on the season, the Commerce wrestling team at last has a full squad — and not a moment too soon.
The Tigers, with wrestlers at each weight class now, begin the dual wrestling postseason Friday (Jan. 15) with the Area 8-A Friday at Towns County.
“I feel good,” coach Kendall love said. “… This is the first time we’re actually covering all the weights. Our football guys are finally starting to get to where we need to be, both from a weight standpoint and a conditioning standpoint.”
Heading into this week’s area duals, Love said this is the strongest the team has been all year, provided “I don’t lose anybody between now and then,” he said.
“Not saying we’re peaking yet, but we’re definitely a lot better than we were a couple of weeks ago,” Love said. “So, that’s a plus.”
The Tigers, who begin the first leg of the quest to win a seventh state dual title in eight years, expect the main competition at area, based on teams with full lineups, to be Washington-Wilkes and Athens Christian, according to Love.
“They’ll probably be the two teams we’ll have to fight it out with for winning area,” Love said.
Other teams in the bracket are Towns County, Athens Academy and George Walton. The top four teams qualify for a newly-implemented state sectionals.
“We’ll go, wrestle hard, see what happens and hopefully advance to next weekend and do the same thing next weekend,” Love said.
The GHSA has moved from six wrestling areas to eight wrestling areas this year, making for smaller areas. Love believes the organization selected the area designations well. Social Circle, which fields one of the best wrestling programs in the state, competes in a region with Commerce in other sports, but is an a separate wrestling area.
“That’s one of the things the GHSA did well,” Love said. “When they went from eight (areas) to six, they tried to change the areas up a little bit because of, number one, competition. They didn’t want us and Social Circle in the same area.”
Love also said the GHSA assigned region designations “where it would not be so unequal.”
“With wrestling in Class A, you’ve got six to seven teams that are normally head-and-shoulders above the rest,” Love said. “So to have two or three of those in the same area wouldn’t make sense. They did it right.”
If Commerce wins the area duals, it will host state sectionals Jan. 23. The Tigers will have to win their sectional quad to qualify for the state tournament at Trion on Jan. 30.
Commerce dominated a pair of matches last Tuesday (Jan. 5), beating Dawson County 72-6 and Chestatee 78-3. Winners on the day, between both varsity and junior varsity competition, were J.P. Allen (106), Daniel Nash (113), Dawson Legg (120), Caleb Lovin (126), Kyle Hancock (126), Bryson Flint (132), Landon Worlely (138), Dawson Lee (145), Grant Hamilton (152), Brayden Phillips (160), Lambdin Hardy (170), Dawson Hamilton (182), Gatlin Black (195), Elijah Burns (220), Ethan Epps (285), Jake Frates (285) and Zander Mclane (285).
Perhaps the most satisfying aspect of the lopsided wins for the Tigers full lineups for both. Due to Commerce’s late start on the year, it hasn’t had enough wrestlers ready to fill all 14 slots prior to last week.
“That was the first time we were able to put a lineup out there where we had no forfeits … It was nice to be able to wrestle two duals with no forfeits and we weren’t given up 24, 30 points from the get-go,” Love said. “Things are starting to shape up at the right time, I believe.”