The state championship opportunities are there for the taking this week at the Georgia and Alabama state wrestling meets, and any of the wrestlers that made it this far is a contender.
Yet being a top seed still is a bonus, according to the six Bi-City wrestlers who finished first in their respective weight classes at the sectional level to earn a No. 1 next to their names at the state meet.
Columbus’ 285-pound sectional champion, Jamie Starke, knows how important that seeding can be. He went into the state tournament as a No. 8 seed his sophomore season and had to open up against a top-seeded sectional winner.
“When I saw I was going against a first seed, it was already in my head I was going to lose,” Starke said. “It makes a big difference.”
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As the Georgia High School Association and Alabama High School Athletic Association state championship meets begin today, Starke is joined by fellow top seeds David Sobasky (112, Jordan), Derick Crosby (125, Spencer), DeKlane Hill (135, Spencer), Quint Miles (112, Smiths Station) and Luke Wilson (215, Central-Phenix City).
They are among 43 Bi-City wrestlers competing at the events, which run today through Saturday. The GHSA wrestling is at the Gwinnett (Ga.) Center, and the AHSAA is at the Von Braun Center in Huntsville, Ala.
While nothing is a given, the top seeds are set up with, at least in theory, the easiest paths to the finals. Each of them said he hopes to take advantage of opening the tournament against their bracket’s lowest-seeded wrestler and build on that.
“We definitely shouldn’t lose the first match, that’s for sure,” Sobasky said. “It’s a big confidence booster.”
Most of the area’s top seeds are familiar with what it takes to make a run at state. Starke reached the second round at 215 pounds last year, Crosby finished fifth at 125, and Wilson reached the second day of wrestling at 215.
But the state meet is new for Hill and Miles. Both fought through tough sectional brackets to nab a championship, and both said they anticipate a jump in the level of competition.
“I’m not really sure exactly what to expect,” Miles said. “It’ll be tough, though.”