Kennesaw Mountain, McEachern and Marietta appear to be the favorites in Area 4AAAAAA, while Roswell and Walton each grabbed co-No. 1 spots from Area 5AAAAAA.
All of the squads are vying for a bid into next week’s state championship, which will begin Thursday at the Macon Centreplex.
The Area 4AAAAAA championship starts with first-round action at 9 a.m. at Marietta, with the finals set to begin around 2 p.m.
“It’s always our goal to be area dual champs,” Kennesaw Mountain coach Roberto Rivera said. “There’s something about the team aspect of it where the guys come together as one. At traditional, it’s about how many guys can you get to the finals, but with area, it’s about your best 14 guys in that match. I just think it’s fun to put that kind of team together.”
Marietta and McEachern will flip a coin today to determine the No. 1 seed in the bracket. The winner of the coin flip will face North Cobb or Pebblebrook in the quarterfinals, while the loser will take on No. 7 seed South Cobb. Other quarterfinal matches include No. 4 Harrison against No. 5 Hillgrove and No. 3 Kennesaw Mountain versus No. 6 Campbell.
“All of the other teams are in the mix, but if things plan out the way they’re supposed to, then it’s McEachern, Kennesaw Mountain and us who will be vying for the title (today),” said Marietta coach Tommy Carthers, who led his team to a runner-up finish a year ago.
Marietta will be without senior returning state champion Lawton Ward, who recently suffered a torn labrum and is out for the season. Carthers expects other wrestlers to step up in Ward’s absence.
“You can’t replace a guy like (Ward) on any team,” Carthers said. “We’ll miss his leadership. He could get the kids’ attention every time he spoke. We have some kids who are trying to take over his role, but that will take some time.
“As long as we’re healthy going through this tournament, I feel like we have as much as shot as anybody at getting back to state. But, it’s a tough region, so we’ll see what happens.”
Kennesaw Mountain is the returning area champion. The Mustangs have made five straight state duals appearances and also won the area title in 2009. Harrison won the crown in 2012.
“We didn’t play any of the teams head-to-head, so we fell to the third seed,” Rivera said. “Even if we had the eighth seed, I feel confident with the team we have that we’d challenge for title.”
Lassiter’s streak of consecutive area duals titles ended at three last year after Roswell beat Wheeler for the crown.
The Hornets, a subregion No. 1 seed, are favored to repeat with Walton, the other subregion's No. 1, as the nearest challenger. Roswell will face host Milton in the quarterfinals. Other early-round matches include Lassiter-Etowah, Woodstock-Wheeler and Walton-Cherokee.
“We’re excited about the duals coming up,” Walton coach Pete Murphy said. “It’s been a while since we’ve had a team good enough to contend, so we’re looking to make the most of it. Roswell is the favorite, but I like where we are. Etowah is a team that everyone expects to do well, and Wheeler looks strong too. It should be fun.”
Competition begins with quarterfinal action at 9 a.m. at Milton and the championship is slated to begin at 2 p.m.
“I talked to my boys (Tuesday) and they’re well aware of our seeding and our expectations,” Lassiter coach Matt Brickley said. “If we get everybody ready before (today), then there’s no reason we can’t do well enough to get to state. It will be a battle.”