The Lions are a young team to begin with and the roster may be a little thinner than Marcus Marenda would like, but the second-year Central coach isn't giving up hope. He knows what his team will have to overcome and he believes the wrestlers available will be capable of doing just that.
"We had anticipated coming in having only one forfeit at heavyweight. Now our 220 is sick, so we'll be forfeiting 220. One of our other kids might not be able to make it for personal reasons, and that puts us at another forfeit in the middleweights. Then two kids went down with an injury [Thursday] while we were doing live wrestling, and that might hurt us in another weight class or two. We were going in expecting to have to forfeit one weight class to we could be forfeiting four weight classes, and that's going to be awfully difficult," Marenda said.
What that means is each wrestler that will compete has to know what his job on the mat is today. Points have to be maximized, with people needing to get pins who are expected to and not giving up pins on the other side.
"Under the scenario of only having to forfeit one weight class, we need every one of our kids to step up and fight real well. The spaces where we expect a losing matchup, we have to give up as few points as possible. We walked through with our kids and did a match board of how the dual meet would run. We started at 106 and went all the way up to 285 and showed how if each kid does their best — instead of giving up a pin, giving up a tech [fall]. Instead of getting a regular decision, we work hard and get that major. Instead of that major, we actually get that pin. We walked through and we pretty much have no room for error," Marenda said.
The core of the Lions will be turned to for pins, including 120-pound wrestler Avery Ward, Timothy Duffey (126), Jacob Terry (138), Jarrett Thomas (160) and Kirey Thompson (195).
Aside from the unknowns regarding the lineup for today, there is a lot unknown when it comes to the opponents for Central. Area 2-AAA combined Region 4-AAA and Region 5-AAA — and added Carver, Columbus to cut the eight-region classification into four areas with the top two teams from each area advancing to state.
Marenda has some idea of what his team will face, but with an area extending as far across the state as this one, there aren't many tournaments they share on the schedule.
"We're a rather strange area of 13 teams that covers about a 200-mile area from north to south. In our area, we have some really tough teams in Rockmart, Ringgold, Cartersville, Sonoraville and Adairsville who have had success at the state traditional and, I believe, the state duals in the past. But they're largely an unknown area for us. We normally don't travel north straight up 75," Marenda said. "There's going to be a lot of getting to know each other [Friday] and Saturday on the mats."
Without being able to focus on an opponent, the focused turned to themselves. Each wrestler will have to put in their best performance of the year when they step on the mat today and Saturday.
"From our guys, we're looking for consistency in our preparation to go out on the mat, hustle and constant movement when we do get out on the mat. If we're in a dominating position, we want to continue to extend what we're doing well and if we're not doing something well or if we're in a match that is hard for us, we want to continue to fight to give up as little points as possible," Marenda said. "I will be very happy with our kids as long as they put in every effort to [give up the fewest points]."
Even with everything that happened to the lineup, the goal is still to win. Then, if the wins don't come, to regroup for the traditional season and continue to prepare the young team for next year.
"It is possible to lose two matches [today] and be out. We don't want to be in that position. Even with the adverse situation we might have [today] with the injury bug we picked up, we certainly want to make it to Saturday," Marenda said. "We're going to use this as a springboard and get the most we can out of it."