Banks County’s Mat Leopards are poised for another exciting wrestling season. Last season, the Leopard grapplers finished tied for 12th with East Jackson at the state tournament.
This year, Banks County is setting high goals as fifth year coach Kasey Hanley expects each grappler to aim for being a state champion.
“Our goals are the same every year. We tell the students who come out that if their goal is not to be a state champion, then they need to find another sport,” Hanley said. “If they don't reach that goal and just barely fall short, then maybe they still end up as a state medalist.”
Hanley added that while the freshman may not win state, when they set their goals high it carries over as they continue in the sport.
“Aim high,” Hanley said. “If the individuals do what they are supposed to do, then the team will be fine.”
Contributing to a strong Mat Leopard team for the 2009-10 season is several returning grapplers.
“We have a strong senior group this year,” said Hanley.
Seniors for the Mat Leopards are Jacob Bolton, Nathan Holloway, Paul Newell, Clint Caudell, Jared Gregory, Travis Betts, Marcus Adams and newcomer Cole Albers.
“We also have a strong junior class anchored by last year's 4th in the state, Matthew Patton, and Area Champion, Jeremy Greenway.”
While the grapplers continue to work to make weight and prepare to begin the season, the coaching staff is looking ahead at a very tough schedule.
“This year's group of wrestlers are the most experienced we have ever had,” Hanley said. “They are working harder as a team than teams in the past. We just aren't proven yet.”
Banks County’s chance to prove themselves on the mat will come soon enough as the Leopards start the season at Jackson County on Dec. 1. Banks will also face Flowery Branch during the match.
The matches that will really test the Mat Leopards are those against area competitors. Hanley said that it will be a tough year for the wrestlers.
“After state last year I looked at the numbers,” Hanley said. “There are two sectionals in wrestling; the east sectional and west sectional. Each sectional has close to 40 teams in them. At traditional state, there are 84 medals given out over 14 weight classes (six medal in each class) … Our ten team area alone won 23 medals at state; only one medal shy of tying the whole 40 team sectional from the west.”
Out of a tough area where every school has a strong wrestling tradition, the de facto powerhouse that Banks will look to halt is Jefferson.
Jefferson is the defending state champion in Class AA.
The Leopards will have their first shot at Jefferson during the two-day Panther Invitational at Jackson County Dec. 4 and Dec. 5.