Another wrestling season is under way in Columbia County. Squads at Evans, Greenbrier and Lakeside have hit the mat already, with early matches indicating this could be the most competitive season in years.
"For years, Lakeside's been the dominant team in the area," first-year Greenbrier wrestling coach Brett Cooper said. "Up until last year, they beat us continually. Last year was the first year we beat Lakeside. It's nice to have that rivalry.
"I hope Evans continues to grow, too."
Those rivalries will spill onto the wrestling mat this season beginning with a match pitting Evans against Greenbrier on Tuesday. Richmond Academy and Burke County also will attend the match, to be held at Greenbrier High School.
"We've got a tougher schedule this year. We're going to Greenbrier and Effingham County next week," first-year Evans wrestling coach Rich Davis said at practice Wednesday. ''We'll see some of the top teams in the state later in the season. I want to get that experience against those teams, because it's a different level of wrestling in Atlanta."
The Knights will field a relatively new squad this season, but Region 3-AAAA heavyweight champion Trey Golston and at least two other state qualifiers are returning.
Greenbrier also will showcase several new faces on the wrestling team this season. The Wolfpack's Rick Stahman and Louie Shearer were the only two wrestlers in the county to reach the state podium last season, but neither is back in 2007.
Cooper said that won't prevent his squad from setting high goals.
"As a team we've never made it to state before, so we want to do that," he said. "Last year we had 11 individual wrestlers make it to state. Our goal this year is 12."
Lakeside likely will field the most experienced squad in 2007. The Panthers bring back a solid group of veteran wrestlers, including Jacob Smith, Kyle Tau and Jacob Thigpen.
Lakeside wrestling coach Randy Hill said there are also a good number of newcomers who will contribute this year.
"Our numbers are up, and they aren't just freshmen," he said. "The numbers are juniors and seniors. One thing about wrestling is you just have to progress throughout the year and make sure you peak at the right time."
The first time all three of Columbia County's wrestling teams will meet each other this season is Jan. 11-12 in the Region 3-AAAA duals at Effingham County.
Evans, Greenbrier and Lakeside will meet less than a week later, at Greenbrier on Jan. 15.
While beating rivals is a treat, Lakeside's Hill said that is not the main goal.
"I'm shooting for a top two finish in the team duals and top 20 in the state tournament," he said. "We'd like to send at least nine to 10 guys to the state individual tournament, too."
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