Bud Hennebaul and Pete Fritts know their wrestling.
After all, they’ve been been involved with the sport since their childhoods. Hennebaul was a five-year-old beginner in Wilkes-Barre, Pa. where his father was running the local youth wrestling program at the YMCA.
Fritts has been around wrestling since his high school, days, when he grappled for legendary Blair Academy in New Jersey. Fritts then went on to wrestle at Bucknell University before joining the army. There, he coached wrestling for 20 years in Hawaii, Germany and Iran before returning to the states to coach at Woodward Academy for 10 years.
“I was one of the pioneers for Hawaiian wrestling,” he proudly stated.
DUALS DIFFER …
This weekend, in five locations around the state, the team dual wrestling state championships will take place. Dual-style wrestling meets differ greatly from the traditional style, as Hennebaul explained.
“There’s more strategy involved,” he said in a recent interview with Score Atlanta. “Coaches can shuffle lineups and more kids get to wrestle.”
Another life-long wresting fanatic, Pete Fritts, thinks the fans enjoy the dual more than the traditional-style.
“There’s more enthusiasm and support from the fans,” he said. “That arena (The Macon Centreplex) would rock.”
During an interview with Score, Fritts mentioned that dual-style wrestling focuses more on the team than traditional, which may be why the fans seem to enjoy it.
“It gives more wrestlers an opportunity to participate,” he said. “There is more focus on the team concept as it gives kids a chance who don’t qualify for the traditional.”
While in traditional, each weight class has just one wrestler per team with just his coaches watching, dual wrestling allows 28 total wrestlers and up to four per weight class. Also, coaches are allowed to move any wrestler up one weight class to compete, if they feel they have a better chance to win.
“For example,” Hennebaul explained, “if a coach has a strong wrestler in one weight class, but his opponent is state champion-caliber, the coach can move that kid up a weight class and bring in a JV kid to be a ‘sacrificial lamb’ of sorts. Then, his stronger wrestler can have a better chance in the next weight class.”
While 28 are dressed out for the meet, only 14 may wrestle. This gives coaches the chance to get their team in the better matchup.
HISTORY LESSON …
The first state dual tournament was held in Macon in 2002, when the Atlanta Takedown Association first held the event. McEachern, Ringgold, Lovett, Northgate and Jefferson each won state titles in that year. Ringgold and Jefferson each won titles in the traditional championships as well that year.
Since that first year, McEachern has stepped onto the top of the podium two more times while Collins Hill has grabbed the gold in four of the last six years, including the last three in Class 5A.
The Jefferson Dragons had won all seven dual titles in Class A before joining Class 2A in 2009, where they’ve won the past two.
While Jefferson and Collins Hill have been especially dominant in recent years, Hennebaul has seen some top programs fall over time.
“It’s like the NFL or Major League Baseball,” said Hennebaul about the competition in Georgia high school wrestling. “It is hard to get to the top, but it is even harder to stay there.”