Daily Post staff writer Brandon Brigman takes a look at some questions concerning the upcoming high school wrestling season
1. Who will win the county tournament?
Since 1997, Parkview and Collins Hill have battled for the county title each year. The Eagles won the title last season but will compete in the prestigious national tournament The Clash the same weekend and will not attend. Collins Hill will send its No. 2 varsity team, which is capable of making a top 5 showing. Is this the year Parkview retains the title, or will another team bring home the county crown? Since the tournament started in 1977, only five programs have won county titles - Berkmar (8), Parkview (11), Collins Hill (5), Meadowcreek (1) and Shiloh (2). There was no tournament from 1984-88.
In addition to Parkview and Collins Hill's No. 2 varsity, Peachtree Ridge, Dacula, Wesleyan and Grayson appear to have the most firepower to try to claim the championship.
2. Will Collins Hill take wrestling in Georgia to another level?
Collins Hill had one of the top teams in Gwinnett County and state history last season, finishing in the top 25 in the nation. The Eagles placed third at the National Wrestling Classic in Kansas City and were third at the Battlefield Duals in Virginia.
The Eagles' success brought a lot of credibility to Georgia, which is not nationally known for its wrestling.
Collins Hill has the chance to raise the bar again as it goes back to the National Wrestling Classic and Battlefield Duals and will compete in The Clash, which is billed as the toughest tournament in the nation.
3. What first-year head coach in Gwinnett will have the most success?
There are four new coaches in Gwinnett County this season. Mike Stephen (Grayson), Phil Daniel (North Gwinnett), Teri Choates (South Gwinnett) and David Mahfouz (Duluth) take over local wrestling programs this season.
Stephen should have the most success out of the group. He was an assistant for the Rams last season and returns a strong core of wrestlers. Daniel built Ringgold into a state power, winning five state championships. However, Daniel inherits a very young program and it could take some time to build a championship caliber team. Choates led Mundy's Mill to a county championship in 2007 and will take some time to build the program.
4. Who will be the breakout team this season?
Dacula and Peachtree Ridge raised the level of its programs last year. The Falcons qualified for the state duals and finished in the top 10 at AAAA. The Lions took eighth at the AAAAA traditional tournament, the best finish in school history.
What program will take it the next level this season? Can a young Mill Creek team with some talented wrestlers make some noise at the county and state tournaments?
5. Can Dacula challenge Parkview in Area 8?
Parkview has owned Area 8 in the dual and traditional tournaments for most of the decade. The Panthers have won five dual and six traditional crowns since 2000. Only Collins Hill, when the Eagles were in Area 8, have beaten Parkview.
Can Dacula be the team to knock Parkview off the pedestal of Area 8? The Falcons took second in the very tough Area 8-AAAA duals last year and were third at the traditional tournament. Dacula returns a strong lineup that may pose some problems for the Panthers. We'll find out Jan. 10 at the area duals and Feb. 7 at the area tournament.
6. Can Wesleyan win it all in Class A?
Wesleyan has become one of the top programs in the state over the last few years. The Wolves won the Class AA dual state championship two years ago and took second last season. They've finished runner-up at the traditional tournament the last two years.
Wesleyan drops to Class A, where it should continue to be among the best. With Jefferson, which has dominated Class A since 2001, moving to AA, it sets Wesleyan up as the state favorite.
7. What kind of impact will the sectional have this season?
For years the state tournament has been set up with the top four wrestlers from each weight class in their area qualifying for the state meet. That still will happen this season, except after the area tournament, wrestlers in Class AA-AAAAA will compete in one of two sectional tournaments. Unfortunately, Region 7-AAAAA and 8-AAAAA will have to travel six hours to Camden County for a chance to qualify for the state finals the next week at the Arena at Gwinnett Center.
The top eight wrestlers from each sectional advance. The sectional is designed to bring the state's best together for the finals.
8. Will the traditional state meet be better than ever this season?
This will be the fourth year the traditional state meet will be held at the Arena at Gwinnett Center. The tournament has had some minor changes over the years, and with the sectional, it could be the best its ever been.
In the past the state tournament has not been seeded like other tournaments, so a lot of times the top two wrestlers in the state would meet in the quarterfinals and not the finals. With the sectional, it's essentially seeding the tournament, which should make it better.
Also, the tournament will start with 16 wrestlers in each bracket and not 32, so it will only be three days long instead of four. That means less school time student will have to miss.
One change to the tournament that is still trying to be ironed out is moving the quarterfinals to later in the day. That round of the tournament usually features some of the best matchups, but many fans typically miss it with it starting in the morning. Look for the quarters to be Friday afternoon and the semifinals that night.
9. Can Knapp, Hunt, Forrester and Genthert repeat?
Gwinnett County has four state champions from last season back. Can all four of them repeat?
Collins Hill's Taylor Knapp is a heavy favorite at 152 pounds in Class AAAAA. It would be a shocker if he didn't win it all.
Dacula's Noah Hunt likely won't be a favorite to repeat with Camden County's Stephen Spradlin and Collins Hill's T.J. Mitchell possibly in his 119-pound weight class, which could end up being the toughest in the state this year.
But that doesn't matter. Not many people gave Hunt a chance last year and he beat a defending state champ to win his first state title.
Wesleyan's Colin Genthert was not challenged at the state tournament last year and the senior has improved a lot over the summer.
Genthert should roll through the state tourney again.
With Class A state power Jefferson moving up to AA and Henry County dropping from AAA, Forrester may face some tough wrestlers in the 145 or 152-pound weight classes where Jefferson and Henry County feature defending state champs
10. Will Gwinnett wrestlers have another record year at state?
Gwinnett had a county record eight state champions last season and 36 state placers, which is the second most ever. With nearly half of those state placers returning, Gwinnett should have another strong showing at the state meet.