Having qualified for the state duals in each of the last five seasons, including winning it all in 2010 and 2013, the Alexander wrestling team has its sights set on another top-two finish at this weekend’s Area 5-AAAAA Dual Championships.
“We’ve always been in the mixed,” Alexander coach Sean Moistner said.
The tournament gets started today and concludes on Saturday at South Paulding High with the top two finishers advancing to the state meet next week in Macon.
The Cougars finished runner-up at area to Allatoona last season. Alexander graduated 16 seniors from that team, but has impressed early this season with an 18-1 record in duals with notable wins over Ola, Cambridge, Kell, and Hillgrove.
“We’ve done that with sometimes up to eight sophomores in our starting lineup,” Moistner said. “It says a lot about the amount of work the kids are doing and it says a lot about the program itself that we can reload every year.”
Among the sophomores are Vinnie Ferrara and Nate Nelson. Wrestling at 120 pounds, Ferrara has quality experience against wrestlers as heavy as the 126 division, even when he’s weighed only 116 pounds, and has provided the Cougars a boost after being a dominant JV wrestler last season.
“You have to have the right mentality to step up from being a JV wrestler to wrestling varsity because the competition level is way different,” Ferrara said. “It’s just practice. We practice and we drill hard.”
Nelson can relate to Ferrara because this season he is wrestling at 145 pounds when 138 might be more natural to him.
“He’s doing a tremendous job of just finding ways to win, finding ways to stay competitive with guys that may be a little better,” Moistner said.
The reason Nelson is at 145 pounds is because Alexander senior Trevor Rose is at 138. One of the returning senior contributors, along with Austin Starnes, Rose likes this year’s Cougars.
“This year we have the drive because we lost a lot of [seniors], so now our mentality has changed to we need to win instead of we should win,” Rose said.
Junior Conner Perry is also doing well at 195 pounds in his first year on varsity, senior Leo Aylsworth is succeeding at 220 pounds after two years away from the sport, and senior 160-pounder Sam Allbritton leads the team in wins.
Moistner likes his team chances of overtaking Allatoona.
“I guess you got to call them the team to beat,” Moistner said. “I think we’re the team to beat […].”