Fresh off a tournament victory at Northgate, the Upson-Lee Knights wrestling teams faced much stiffer competition last week as they traveled to East Coweta High School and Douglas County High School for Thanksgiving tournaments.
The junior varsity and girls’ wrestling teams traveled to the Tomahawk Tussle in East Coweta on Monday. Coach Logan Winkles commented, “We did pretty well. It was good exposure. All of our team members got five matches each. We had a lot of placers from both teams.”
For Winkles, however, he knew the daunting task that lay ahead of the varsity team rolling into Tuesday as they made the trip to Douglas County for the Tiger Scramble. The creme-de-la-creme of the state's wrestling talent was there, with teams like Mt. Pisgah, which has a multitude of state champions and state runners-up, South Paulding, East Paulding, Carrollton, and New Manchester.
Winkles explained, “I scheduled this knowing the teams that were going to be there. [I wanted] to see where we were going into Thanksgiving break. Our next gauge will be regionals, it’s good to know where you are going into Thanksgiving, and you better have a good gauge of where you are, or it’s not going to be a good time for you.”
The Knights wrestling team was in for a rude awakening early. Winkles commented that the team got “smacked,” but also stated there were some highlights and high points that the team could take away from the event.
“Trever Young, our 150, he’s on a path down to a lighter weight class, and he went against one guy from South Paulding who was a [state] runner-up. He got pinned in the third round, but he put up probably the best fight of anybody there. [In the] next round, he went up against a kid from Carrollton who was near his weight class. Last year he was a state qualifier, and it came down to triple overtime with him. [It was a] good showing for Trevor though the losses won’t reflect it.
“Russell Kaczmarek only lost one match to a top-level guy from Mt. Pisgah. It gauges well for the rest of his season. John Adams went against last year's state runner-up who was a freshman last year.”
For Coach Winkles, the tournament gave him a chance to evaluate where his team is mentally, as well.
“It was really something that I wanted to see, how we would react as a team, from top to bottom, how we entered the building, acted in the bleachers, and mat-side. Was everyone attuned and attentive to what we were doing? It wasn’t to the level that these top teams were. I scheduled these top teams to show them how these guys act, how they warm up, and how they behave.”
Winkles stated that he did not feel like the team held their composure well when faced with stiff competition.
“We’re still not to that point yet. At the end of the day, myself and Coach McElligott had a 20-minute conversation about how things should look going forward. They were attentive. I hate to say I was happy about that, but on the way back there wasn’t much chatter.
“I don’t think it’s fear. I'm hoping it’s the understanding of, ‘Okay, I got to go back to the drawing board.’ I’m hoping it’s the understanding of, ‘Okay, we’re not as good as we thought we were. Yeah, we came out of last week undefeated, but there’s always a bigger bear.’
“The regular season may be good, but in the region, if we stink it up and go to state and score only four points, that’s unacceptable. Our plan is not to get only four points at the state tournament. Our plan is to go in there and make an impact and have guys who place.”
Although the Knights had a rough go at Douglas County, Winkles praised his team for how they responded.
“We came back on Wednesday and had a rough and tough practice before Thanksgiving break. After that dragging we had on Tuesday, we had all but two wrestlers at practice. That’s a good turnaround for not such a great day. Both of those days we had to be up and leaving at 6 a.m. It was a good gauge of seeing where we are, and I’m glad we did it.”
Upson-Lee returns to the Castle Nov. 30 to face the first region opponent of the year in Peach County, and Spalding County will be in attendance as well. First matches begin at 5:30 p.m. The Knights will then travel to Harris County on Friday and Saturday for the King of the County tournament.