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.
Central, Carroll vs Whitewater
SWD vs Chestatee
Bainbridge vs Lovett
West Laurens vs Benedictine
Northwest Whitfield vs Luella
Wayne Co vs Troup
Perry vs Holy Innocents
Cairo vs North Hall
Central, Carroll took home the State Duals Title a year ago with a 34-33 victory over Lovett in the Finals. That Lions team was very young and hungry to win the title, and this years version is made up of most of the same kids with a few very good freshman added to an already potent lineup. Outside of the Lions, there is a lot of parity in this bracket, and there will be a lot of close dual meets in all rounds leading up to the finals. Chestatee should be Central, Carroll's opponent in the quarters as the host school has enough firepower down low to overcome SW Dekalb's talented upperweights.
Lovett has been hit by injury and graduation since their finals appearance last January, but they are still a very tough team and will be a tough out for anyone, they should get past Bainbridge in round 1, but their quarters match will be a tough one. The West Laurens vs Benedictine match is probably the best 1st round match in this classification. Benedictine has put up some impressive results all over the state and West Laurens comes in with decades of tradition and they are only 2 years removed from winning a State Duals title themselves. I'm going to give the nod to the Raiders in this match, setting up a quarters match between Lovett and West Laurens. In that match up i once again see a close bout, but i think the balance of West Laurens will be able to overcome the star power of Lovett.
North Hall has it's lineup in good shape, and they have a good draw that should see them push through to the semis without too much of a scare. The Trojans will more than likely see Perry in the quarters, and while Perry will win some matches at all 3 levels of the lineup, North Hall should push through to the semis. Northwest Whitfield has wrestled close to 50 Duals this season with some big wins against tough teams in both lower and higher classifications. The Bruins will be tested in round 1, but they should be able to get by Luella, who surprised a lot of people with their victory over Lovett in the Region Finals. Troup vs NWW in the quarters should be a great dual, and could be one of the better duals in the entire bracket. Troup's lineup is a little tough to figure out as they have a lot of talent spread throughout, but sometimes they have two talented kids at the same weight, giving them a lot of flexibility. I look for Troup to use this flexibility to their advantage to sneak past the Bruins to make the semis.
Central, Carroll vs West Laurens- West Laurens has a lot of really tough kids throughout their lineup, and some younger up and comers that will be really tough. However, Central's bottom of the lineup is just so tough, and they will pick up a lot of bonus point wins, they have just enough up top to keep people from sweeping the upper weights. Look for Central to rack up big wins and put the Raiders away without too much discomfort.
Prediction- Central, Carroll over West Laurens by 18
Troup Co vs North Hall- These two teams met in the first round of the State Duals sectional last year, with Troup coming out on top 37-34, in a dual that was a lot closer than most people expected. Both of these teams return a lot of their lineups from a year ago, Troup has the edge in the middle of the lineup and North Hall has the edge in the upper weights, so this dual could come down to who can pick up 3 wins between 106-132. In a dual as tight as this one looks to be, bonus points and lineup flexibility will also play a tremendous role in the outcome.
Prediction- Troup over North Hall by 1
Whitewater over SW Dekalb
Benedictine over Bainbridge
Luella over Wayne Co
Cairo over Holy Innocents
Perry over Whitewater
Northwest Whitfield over Benedictine
Luella over Lovett
Chestatee over Cairo
Northwest Whitfield over Perry
Chestatee over Luella
Northwest Whitfield over West Laurens
North Hall over Chestatee
3rd Place Match
Classic match up of a team that has a lineup with several guaranteed wins, but several weak spots that can be exploited against a team that has no guarantees but is solid from top to bottom. Most of the time in a match like this everything comes down to bonus points, can North Hall's lower tier guys keep from giving up big bonus, and can NWW keep bonus at a minimum when they match up against the top tier talent of North Hall.
Prediction- Northwest Whitfield by 5
Central, Carroll vs Troup Co- Which team is able to steal a win, that could be the deciding factor in this dual. Central is loaded down low and features State Title contenders at each weight from 106- 144, Troup on the other hand is much stronger in the middle and upper middle with several State Title contenders from 150-190. Can one of Troup's tougher lower weights like Elijah Ward steal a weight in the heart of Central's lineup? Can Someone like Matt Phillips pick up a win for Central up top? Lineup manipulation could play a big role in this dual and both of these teams have plenty of flexibility to play the bump game.
Prediction- Central, Carroll over Troup Co by 13