Cherokees aiming for postseason

Greenback School’s Austin Hamilton wraps up Winston Ward during a practice.

The Greenback School Cherokees wrestling team is looking forward to hitting the mats this week following a weeklong break due to illness and school closings.

Head coach Ben Ward believes the break could prove a double-edged sword.

“I’m a little nervous about it because I’m afraid everybody’s got out of shape, lost some of their cardio, but we’ve got two weeks to get that built back up so that should be plenty of time before region tournament,” Ward said. “Wrestling season is a long, tough, grinding season, so a week may be just what the doctor ordered to let our bodies recover and rest, and we’ll be fresh for the region tournament, hopefully ... that’s what I’m looking for.”

The Cherokees will need a quick bounce back when they travel Thursday to take on Grace Christian Academy and West High School. Greenback defeated Grace Christian 42-34 earlier this season.

“That’ll be kind of a tune-up match to kind of see where we are conditioning-wise. I’ll know how hard I need to work them the next week by watching them perform Thursday,” Ward said. “I expect them to come out fired up since we beat them last time, so that’s going to be a challenge. No. 2, we’re going to be down a guy. Darren (Ward), my son, our 113-pounder, broke his arm in practice about three days after the Grace match, so that’s going to be a 12-point swing — six points that we would’ve won that we’re going to give them six points. It’s going to be challenging to beat them, but we’ll give it our best shot. Really what I’m looking for out of this match is where we are conditioning-wise and what we need to work on as far as that.”

Greenback sophomore and captain Winston Ward believes the team is starting to peak at the right time.

“We’re still going pretty good, and the season’s still ... we’re climaxing right now and riding on the high,” he said. “Everybody else has climaxed and they’re starting to just go downhill because everybody’s getting tired of wrestling.”

Winston, Austin Hamilton, Cory Manuel, Alec Perry, Jeremiah Cope and Sam Lawson are expected to make a run at the region tournament and advance to the state level.

The Cherokees will compete in the Region 2A-AA tournament Feb. 15 at Hixson High School.

“Next week, we’ll work on fine-tuning ... we’ve seen everybody now in the region that’s going to be at the region tournament, so we know what we need to work on,” Ben said. “I think we’ve got five or six that’s got a really good shot at making the state tournament. I’ve got two state returners from last year and I expect them to make it, that’s Austin Hamilton and Winston Ward — they’re 126 (pounds) and 138. Both of them went to state last year and got their eyes opened to what it takes to win at state, so I expect them to do really well this year at regions.

“I also expect Cory Manuel, my 106-pounder, to qualify,” he added. “Alec Perry’s a young man that’s got a lot experience wrestling, he wrestles 132, but if he gets to wrestle in the region tournament, he can make some waves in the state. We also have Jeremiah Cope at 220 that’s really done well this year, so I expect him to make it.”