The two-day tournament will feature some of the top local and statewide talent while also serving as a final warm-up for respective area tournaments next weekend. For Bowdon, it is not only that, but a change to wrestle in front of a home crowd.
“It’s our big event and we’re excited. We have a nice gym we can show off a little bit, and for me it’s one of the better places to have a wrestling tournament because we’ve got so much room. I like that aspect. We’re not crowded. We feel like we’ve got some good teams coming in,” Bowdon coach Craig McWhorter said.
Locally, Mt. Zion, Villa Rica, Central and Heard County will join the Red Devils, along with Starr’s Mill, Model, Jackson County, Adairsville and Northgate. With Northgate comes one of the top wrestlers in the state and its top grappler, Tyler Askey, who went 53-0 en route to a Class AAAA 170-pound state title last year.
“We’ve got a lot of people in our area coming to be in our tournament. That’s a good thing. We like to see the people around us. Then there are some people coming from a little further away,” McWhorter said. “I think it’s a good, competitive, 16-man tournament.”
The tournament will begin at 5 p.m. tonight with two championship and one consolation round being wrestled and the rest will continue on Saturday at 9 a.m.
This meet is a chance for Villa Rica coach Kyle Seeley to test where his team is compared to last season. The Wildcat coach was pleased with how his team finished up at Tuesday night’s Carroll County Duals and wants to see that type of mat work tonight.
“Last year we placed eighth there and placed six guys. We definitely want to improve on that. We came out and finished strong on Tuesday night at the Carroll County Duals. Our lineup is going to change a little bit this week. We’ve got a couple guys returning back that were injured,” Seeley said. “We’ve got eight guys seeded in the top seven. I’m expecting the same team that finished up Tuesday night with that intensity and that Wildcat pride.”
Both Seeley and Mt. Zion coach Michael Cleek called this weekend’s event as a tune-up for next week — when it all really matters. For that, health and practice are the top two priorities.
“I’m looking for my guys to go out there and wrestle as hard as they can, wrestle clean, get through the tournament with no injuries and hope it’s a great tune-up for the area tournament at our place next weekend,” Cleek said. “We’ve got to focus on getting better every opportunity we get, because next week there is no tomorrow. If you don’t win next week, your season is over. We’ve got to get in the top four next weekend, and this is just another rung on that ladder of practicing and getting better.”
Coach McWhorter hopes to have Avery McWhorter back in the lineup after he had to sit out the consolation semifinals last weekend and Tuesday’s county dual and join Saeje Brown and Connor Wigginton as the top Red Devils. Neither Brown nor Wigginton, both seniors, wrestled in last year’s Bowdon Invitational, and this gives them a chance to end their home careers on a high note.
The Red Devil coach also has high expectations for Trevor McCray, Ben Vance, Hunter Jones, Tyler Smith — who will get to return to his regular 132-pound weight class — along with Travis and Trevor Strickland.
Coming into this weekend’s tournament, the Eagles have had a host of successes, winning their own Screamin’ Eagle Tournament, the Titan Cup, the Dragon Invitational and the Landmark Tournament to go with Tuesday’s second-place finish at the county duals and finishing fourth at the Class A State Duals.
With that success can come confidence, but Cleek doesn’t always see that as a good thing.
“Probably it does and that’s what I’m afraid of. I’ve found that confidence sometimes breeds complacency. We’ve had good days of practice this week, which makes me feel better. But I tell them every week that there’s always somebody out there that’s got your number and they’ll be waiting on you. There are some really good teams coming this weekend,” Cleek said.
The tough competition is exactly what Seeley believes his VR squad needs heading into a tough Area 5-AAAAA Tournament next weekend.
“The Bowdon Invitational is definitely no slouch. At the seeding meeting [Wednesday] night, there’s a lot of good kids that’s going to be at this tournament. This weekend is going to be a nice tune-up for us next weekend. Our region is tough with the Paudling County schools and Woodland of Cartersville that finished second this year at the AAAAA Duals. I think this weekend is definitely going to be an eye-opener or something that can help us set the tone for next week,” Seeley said.
No matter the result, the Bowdon wrestlers get to square off in front of the home fans in their own gym, which doesn’t happen often.
“We don’t wrestle in Bowdon but one time and I think it means something to them,” McWhorter said. “That’s why I like to have it towards the end of the year, it brings us back home. People can come see them that haven’t been able to travel and see us wrestle.”