After three years of the "Elite 8" the GHSA has decided to go back to the way things used to be with 2 teams from each Region qualifying for a 16-team bracket for the State Duals. For those new to this format, there are a couple of "quirks" to the bracket that can sometimes impact the seeding of the tournament. First, teams from the same Region, must be on opposite sides of the bracket, and secondly, the first round must be between a Region Champ and a Region Runner-up.
Columbus vs Hart Co
Harlem vs Calvary Day
Gilmer vs Upson Lee
LaFayette vs Bremen
Franklin Co vs Adairsville
Long Co vs Coahulla Creek
Morgan Co vs Pike Co
Dougherty vs Lumpkin Co
Columbus is an absolute monster of a traditional team, however, they have enough secondary pieces in their lineup to also be a pretty formidable dual meet team. Last season they won the State Duals title with a thrilling 34-33 victory over Gilmer, and they may be even better this season. Columbus won't have too big of a test until they reach the semis. Bremen vs LaFayette will be the best 1st round matchup in this bracket, as the Ramblers have several tough State Placement contenders scattered throughout their lineup. It doesn't get any easier in the quarters for the Blue Devils with a matchup against the defending State Duals runner-up from last season, the Gilmer Bobcats. Bremen vs Gilmer will be a great back and forth dual, but I think Gilmer pulls out a close one to advance to the semis for a rematch with Columbus.
All 4 of the Region Champs on this side of the bracket are tough, and we should see them all advance to the quarters. Franklin Co vs Coahulla Creek will have several great matchups, but Franklin Co will pull away in the upper weights. Lumpkin should also be able to get by Morgan Co, as the Indians are a very complete team from top to bottom, and they have enough depth to give them some flexibility in their lineup. Morgan is tough in spots, but Lumpkin should be able to exploits some of their weaknesses to move on comfortably to the semifinals.
Columbus vs Gilmer- While Columbus appears to be an even stronger team this year than last season, Gilmer looks to have taken a couple of steps back. Columbus is still led by their top tier talent but their 2nd and 3rd level wrestlers are much more improved than in years past. Gilmer usually is a team that fits the mantra "We don't rebuild, we reload", but they didn't reload with the same level of talent that we have come accustomed to seeing from the Bobcats. Look for Columbus to dominate with their potential State Champs and win this match comfortably.
Prediction- Columbus over Gilmer by 14
Franklin Co vs Lumpkin Co- This may be one of the best duals in the entire State this weekend, as we could see up to 10 matches between wrestlers ranked in the top 10 in their classification. If everyone's lineup stays how they've been the last month or so (they won't), the middle weight matches will be fire. At 126 we could get #3 Page (FC) vs #7 Matthews (LC), at 132 we could see #3 Martinez (LC) vs #5 Baughcum (FC), at 138 #1 Marshall (LC) vs #2 Ballenger (FC), at 144 #2 Nielsen (LC) vs #3 Burger (FC), at 150 #3 Baughcum (FC) vs #7 Holmes (LC), and at 157 #7 Osborne (FC) vs #8 Pricer (LC). That's a whole lot of fire power over a span of 6 weight classes. On paper, Franklin looks to have a bit of an edge because of their upperweights, but I'm going with my gut here and taking the Indians is an absolute war.
Prediction- Lumpkin Co over Franklin Co by 4
Hart Co over Harlem
LaFayette over Upson Lee
Adairsville over Long Co
Pike Co over Dougherty
Morgan Co over Hart Co
Coahulla Creek over LaFayette
Bremen over Adairsville
Calvary Day over Pike Co
Coahulla Creek over Morgan Co
Bremen over Calvary Day
Gilmer over Coahulla Creek
Franklin Co over Bremen (Should be a great Dual!!)
3rd Place Match
Gilmer vs Franklin Co- There really isn't a whole lot separating 2nd-5th in this classification, so this match up should be a great one for 3rd Place. Franklin Co has a very solid and young team that will be very tough for years to come. Gilmer on the other hand is down a bit from where they usually are, is this the start of a trend, or just a small blip in their dominant run? The top to bottom balance of Franklin Co will be enough to hold off the Bobcats in this match up.
Prediction- Franklin Co over Gilmer by 7
Columbus vs Lumpkin Co- With 6 potential State Champions in the lineup for Columbus, the margin of error for Lumpkin Co is extremely slim. The path to victory for the Indians is a combination of limiting bonus against the top tier guys from Columbus, and winning nearly every other match in the dual along the way. Not an easy thing to do against a lineup with this many proven veterans coupled with some nicely talented newcomers.
Prediction- Columbus over Lumpkin by 13