The 18th edition of the event, being held for the first time in Georgia, will start at 2 p.m. and will feature some of the best seniors in the country. The wrestlers competing have won various state and national championships, with some earning all-American honors.
The list of nationally ranked Georgia wrestlers scheduled to participate include Collins Hill’s Sean Russell and Ryan Millhof, Jefferson’s Tyler Maranelli, Parkview’s Kamaal Shakur, Buford’s Chip Ness, Commerce’s Chance McClure, Apalachee’s Matt Moore and Archer’s M.J. Couzans.
Each U.S. team wrestler is ranked among the top 10 seniors nationally, including three No. 1s.
“This is probably the biggest event in Georgia wrestling history,” Lassiter coach Matt Brickley said. “A national dream team is picked every year, and then a dream team from a specific state is chosen, and the two teams go head-to-head in a dual.
“This is the first time Georgia’s been picked to participate in this, which shows just how much Georgia wrestling has grown on a national level. It will be like a chess match out there with all of the strategy. I think it will be the highest-quality dual the state of Georgia has ever seen.”
Brickley said Georgia was selected as host about a month-and-a-half ago, and the state’s all-star team was selected through collaboration among various entities, including the Life University wrestling program.
“Life and Team Georgia were looking for a host site, and they approached me, so I said yes,” Brickley said. “Lassiter is a well-known place in a reasonably located position, and I guess I’m pretty good at running tournaments, so they asked me.
“This is going to be great for the school and the community because this is a national event that will be covered by national magazines and media outlets, so it’s good publicity for the school.”
Also on Team Georgia’s roster is Pope’s Jake Henson. A three-time state champion and four-time state finalist, he had surgery the second week of March to repair a torn meniscus in his right knee, but he was given the OK by doctors last week to return to practice.
Wrestling for Team Georgia was something Henson didn’t want to miss.
“I debated about not competing,” he said. “I thought I wouldn’t be able to do it because of the surgery, but I’ve been on the mat the past couple of weeks, and this is a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity, so I had to go for it.”
Henson is scheduled to wrestle at 160 pounds, and his opponent will be Garrett Peppelman, a wrestler from Pennsylvania who will be a teammate of Henson’s next year at Virginia.
“It’s awesome to be in this,” Henson said. “It’s the first time it’s been in Georgia, and I couldn’t say no. It’s a blessing and it’s humbling to be around some of the best wrestlers in the country and in Georgia.
“I saw who was available to do it for Georgia and it’s the best seniors in each weight class. Looking at our team, our graduating class in Georgia is probably the best it’s ever been.”
Henson believes Team Georgia will compete to the best of its ability.
“This is all going to be fun,” he said. “There’s nothing on the line, and no pressure for any of us. We’re just going to wrestle our matches, compete and try to make a statement that Georgia means something. It’s a great state for wrestling, and we have some good guys here.”