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Wrestling team ready to return to normalcy after COVID season
Riley Westbrooks holds his opponent in place while he waits for the ref to signal his victory during the January 2 match against Chestatee High School. - photo by Jacob Smith

At the 2021 Dawson County News winter sports media day, the Dawson County High School wrestling team made one thing clear; they were ready to get back on the mat. 

Tigers head coach Arron Haynes said the most difficult part of the 2020 season, where the Tigers sent eight individual wrestlers to the state tournament, was having to navigate through the COVID-19 protocols. 

“This year, they can actually be a team,” Haynes said at media day. “They can be around each other and they can have fun together. Last year, they weren’t even allowed to shake hands. The camaraderie has definitely been different from last year.” 

With him, Haynes brought seniors Holden Martin and Will Whalen and junior captain Isaiah Lail to media day. Whalen said that he never expected to have to rely on support from his family as much as he had to last season. 

“Last year, we just had to stay in our little section,” Whalen said. “We couldn’t go off too much, so seeing your parents and them telling you that you did a good job actually had a bigger impact than you would think.”

This season, Haynes said the team will be young once again, but “a good, solid core of upperclassmen” have been able to show the younger guys the ropes of being a part of the team. 

“With wrestling, each day is tough because you’ve got to fight each other every single day,” Haynes said. “It’s one of those things that underclassmen don’t understand, so we have to teach them that so they don’t run off.” 

Every season, Haynes said he preaches to his players to be more physical on the mat. This year is no different. 

“We want to get back to being physical,” Haynes said “We’re a short offense kinda team, so we got to open up a little bit so we can get some more use on the mat.” 

As the Tigers get ready for their season, Lail said there’s always one match circled on the schedule for the team: Lumpkin County. 

“It’s just Lumpkin,” Lail said when asked why. 

The Tigers will have to wait deeper into the season for a chance to face off against the Indians. Instead, the wrestling program will kick off their season Tuesday, Nov. 16 at Gainesville High School.