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.
Jefferson vs Chattahoochee
Jones Co vs Tucker
Coffee vs Chapel Hill
Cass vs Harris Co
Ola vs Eastside
Arabia Mountain vs Cambridge
Villa Rica vs Greenbrier
McIntosh vs Woodland, Cartersville
Jefferson is the defending 5A State Duals Champion, and they have been the clear front runner all season. The Dragons are strong in spots throughout their lineup, but they do have a few more weaknesses than what they had last season. Jefferson should roll through the first two rounds and advance to the semifinals.
Coffee has been a very solid program for the last 8-10 years, and they will have no problem knocking off Chapel Hill in the 1st round. Cass vs Harris Co is a juicy 1st round matchup, that may be closer than some people think, however in the end, Cass will pull away on the backs of their stars down low. Cass isn't as well rounded this year as they have been the last few years, and this will allow Coffee to pick up some wins and keep it close, but the Colonels should be able to fend off a scrappy Coffee team.
This side of the bracket is pretty clear cut, Ola and Woodland are on a collision course in the semifinals. Neither of these teams will be pushed on their way to seeing each other with a chance at the State Finals on the line. Ola will more than likely see Cambridge in the quarters, but Woodland's opponent isn't quite as clear. Villa Rica is very tough in the upper weights and they have spots in the lower half of the lineup that will give them a chance, while Greenbrier is strong in the middle of their lineup.
Jefferson vs Cass- This is a rematch of last years thrilling State Finals won by Jefferson 37-34. While neither team is quite as strong from top to bottom as they were last season, both teams have multiple State Champion contenders sprinkled throughout their lineup. The biggest question coming into this weekend is the health status of Jefferson, there are lots of rumors swirling around that they are missing a few of their top tier wrestlers. If they are at full strength they should win this dual by a significant margin.
Prediction- Jefferson over Cass by 14
Ola vs Woodland, Cartersville- Both of these teams have wrestled tough schedules and it will pay off in the meatgrinder that is the State Duals. While lineup manipulation is a key component to success in tight duals such as this one so nothing is guaranteed, we could very well see as many as 8 matches between top 10 ranked wrestlers in this Dual. With that many "toss up" matches in one dual the only thing certain is chaos. In the end I see the Mustangs pulling out a close one on the strength of bonus point wins from their two top ranked guys in the middle of their lineup.
Prediction- Ola over Woodland by 4
Chattahoochee over Tucker
Harris Co over Chapel Hill
Eastside over Arabia Mountain
Villa Rica over McIntosh
Greenbrier over Chattahooche
Harris Co over Cambridge
Coffee Co over Eastside
Jones Co over Villa Rica
Harris Co over Greenbrier
Jones Co over Coffe Co
Cass over Harris Co
Woodland, Cartersville over Jones Co
3rd Place Match
In a rematch of the Region 7 finals won by Woodland, look for the team that is healthiest to pull it out for 3rd Place. These two programs have been among the best in the state for the last decade, and their is no love lost between the two. Look for plenty of line up shifts by both squads to try and put themselves over the top.
Prediction- Woodland over Cass by 2
Jefferson vs Ola- Astonishingly enough, Ola enters just about every season flying under the radar, and this year was no exception. However, they have continued to improve individually and they have adjust their lineup to the point that they are hitting on all cylinders when it matters. As stated in the opening, Jefferson entered the season as heavy favorites, but that margin has gotten much smaller as the year has progressed. With both teams at full strength, Jefferson has the edge, but it is only a slight edge. If Jefferson is down 1 or 2 starters, it could be enough for Ola to squeak out a win. Two key matches to keep an eye on in this dual will be at 126 and 132 where we could see consecutive matches between top 5 guys. At 126 we could see top ranked Belardo for Jefferson against 3rd ranked Durden and then at 132 we could get 2nd ranked Kazienko of Jefferson vs 3rd ranked Moss, Jefferson is favored in both of those matches, but an upset for Ola could be huge.
Prediction- Jefferson over Ola by 7