Following a two-week layoff for the holiday break, the Villa Rica High School wrestling team is gearing up for the second half of the season.
Under the direction of first-year head coach Sumner Ellis, the Wildcats are working to turn the corner in 2017-18 and continue to develop as a program after a difficult transition period amid the coaching shuffle since the resignation of former point man Kyle Seeley.
But now that there's stability in the practice room with Ellis on board, VR is eager to become a force on the local scene and beyond again.
"It's been a great transition. The kids have really responded with this being my first year running the program. I feel really good about where we're at," Ellis said. "If we just continue to get better, we'll be where we need to. It's like I told them, it's not where you start, it's where you finish."
Villa Rica took some momentum into the holiday break following a runner-up finish at the Carroll County Duals on Dec. 12 at Mount Zion before an injury-shortened performance at the Rebel Rumble in Haralson County on Dec. 16.
Since that time, VR has focused on itself and hits the mats again for the first time today and Saturday at the Gary Silva Invitational in LaGrange.
"We're making sure we're taking every single day and understanding what are the things that we need to get better on and let's just get better on one thing every day," Ellis said. "If we just do that, we'll be where we need to be. We've got to continue to be patient and continue to learn what those things are, continue to do a better job of practicing and continue to do things the right way."
Villa Rica is led by a returning ensemble that includes Tripp Sauls at 106 pounds, Dawson Brooks at 126 and Tyler Cohran at 220, while a handful of other contributors are also working into the fold this winter.
"Those three guys have done well for us consistently. We've been banged up a little bit. We've kind of been bit by the injury bug, but at the same time we've kind of fought through those things," Ellis said.
Following this weekend's action, Villa Rica heads to Temple on Jan. 3 for a quad match with the host Tigers, Bowdon and Heard County before facing a tough slate at the Area 7-AAAAA Duals at Hiram on Jan. 6.
From there, the campaign winds down toward the traditional state tournament in Macon on Feb. 8-10, where Ellis is hopeful of having some grapplers in Purple and Gold representing Villa Rica on the final weekend of the season.
"The kids have really responded to the things that we've got going on. We've got two good assistant coaches. Of course, there are some things that we've got to continue to do better, but the transition has been great," Ellis said.