After Jackson County defeated Jefferson at the state wrestling duals, Dragon coach Kyle Baird sent an email of congratulations to Panther coach Jason Powers. During their correspondence, they took note that more competition between their two programs was quickly approaching with this Saturday’s (Feb. 1, 9 a.m.) 6-AAA traditional area tournament at Jefferson.
“We both pretty much said that we’re looking forward to more close battles and good competition, and that’s kind of what I expect here this weekend,” Baird said.
Powers, whose team lost to Jefferson in the area duals finals before beating them at state, expects no less.
“It will come down to us and Jefferson for the traditional (area) title, and it should be a heck of a race again,” he said.
Powers anticipates multiple finals matches between his team and Jefferson that “will determine the tournament champion.” Both teams will be vying for the area title and hope to advance a large number of wrestlers to the state sectional tournament on Feb. 7-8.
“The race could go down to the final few weight classes,” Powers said. “It will be a lot of fun, and I look forward to a great team race.”
Powers said his team needs to advance all 14 wrestlers to the semifinals.
“On top of that, we have to put a lot of our team into the finals and get the others to third,” he said.
The Panthers enter the tradtional area tournament after earning a victory at the Elbert County Inferno tournament last Saturday (Jan. 25). Jackson County totaled 198 points, winning the tournament by 73 points over the host Blue Devils.
Four Panthers won their respective weight classes — Nathan McArter (132), Kaden Andreasen (160), Aiden Girous (182) and Tyler Wester (195). Cooper Hoffman (106), Ramon Castillo (113) and Devonte Stephens (220) finished second. Jett Gonzales (126) and Mario Bolivar (145) placed third. Tyler Vaughn (285) placed fourth.
“It was a good tournament to get us back in the swing of a traditional tournament,” Powers said. “It has been a month since we wrestled in a traditional tournament, so it was good to see what we could do again and make that adjustment. I thought that we looked good. We always have improvements to be made and that will be the focus of this week — make adjustments and continue to gain confidence in what we do.”
As for Jefferson, the Dragons finished fourth at the state duals back on Jan. 18, snapping a record streak of 18 consecutive state titles. The team is eager to end the year with a strong showing in the traditional portion of the season.
“I think they’re still pretty motivated,” Baird said, “especially the athletes that we expect to do well.”
That group includes Chaz McDonald (106), Davis Dollar (113), Tyson Thurmond (120), Mason Mingus (126) and Luke Cochran (160).
“I think they’re ready,” Baird said of his wrestlers. “I expect everybody else to be ready from the area, the other teams.”
Baird’s objectives coming into the tournament are clear.
“My goal is to win the tournament,” Baird said. “Ultimately, I’m hoping I can get all of my guys through (to sectionals) … If I can get them all through to the sectional tournament, that would be great for us.”
Jefferson will also have the luxury of hosting the event. Baird said that offers some advantages.
“I think it does,” he said. “We don’t have to warm up out in front of people. We still have our wrestling room. We can go in there and warm up and get our muscles warmer quicker … We don’t have to travel or anything. And it’s probably the same thing for Jackson County. We’re five minutes down the road from their high school.”