Dual State teams set
Bentonville coach James Rappe acknowledged his team will come into Saturday’s Arkansas High School Wrestling Coaches/Officials Association Dual State Tournament with a target on its back.
The Tigers (35-6) are the No. 1 seed form the West and undefeated against Arkansas opponents. They will take on Little Rock Catholic, the No. 4 seed from the Central in the opening round. Other first-round matchups include Searcy (No. 1-Centra) vs. Rogers Heritage, Rogers High vs. Conway and defending champion Springdale Har-ber facing Bryant.
“We’ve been successful against the people we’ve wrestled in Arkansas so far,” Rappe said. “So everybody’s coming for us.
“We’re gonna get the best everybody’s got every time we get on the mat. The kids have to know that. I have to know that. We can’t look by anyone.”
The tournament serves as an unofficial dual state tournament for Class 6A-7A but is not yet sanctioned by the Arkansas Activities Association. For the third consecutive year, wrestling coaches from the two largest classifications used teams’ dual records throughout the regular season to determine the top four teams from the West and Central divisions to earn spots in the tournament.
Only one team from the Central has advanced past the first round in the first two years of the event combined.
Searcy (33-2) and Springdale Har-Ber (30-9) look to be the top challengers to the Tigers. Searcy’s only losses this season have come to Har-Ber and Bartlett, Tenn. in the Diamond State Duals after Christmas in Springdale. Bentonville has notched wins over Har-Ber in both meetings this season — one coming in December in the
The difference between the dual format and the bracket state tournament coming up in two weeks is that it matches a team’s entire 14-man lineup head-to-head against another team.
“You’ve got to be solid one through 14, really you have to have more than that,” Rappe said. “You’ve got to have guys you can bump up and down. That’s where you begin to see that thinking part of wrestling with the strategizing to get the best matchups for your team.”
Rappe likes the way his Tigers are coming together as a group.
“We’ve worked really hard keeping our guys healthy and I think we’re right there and going to peak at the right time,” Rappe said. There are other quality teams out there and we’re gonna have to battle them.”
Har-Ber coach Eric Nolan, who is in his first year, said his team likely won’t be at full strength as Jackson Nichols, a state runner-up last year, has been declared out for the season with an ankle injury. Nolen also held a couple others out of last week’s tournament in Seneca, Mo. Matt Seiter, another state runner-up, is questionable for Saturday.
Sophomore Max Salinas has been a bright spot for the Wildcats. He won the 138-pound weight class in Seneca, but he’s no surprise, Nolan said.
“He caught my eye early on as one of those who was eager to learn,” Nolan said. “He, along with a couple others are dedicated in doing the extra things in preparation.”
Despite the injury issues, Nolan likes his team’s chances headed into the postseason.
“I think we’ve still got a shot,” Nolan said. “The kids seem excited. I’ve been on them at times, but they are starting to wrestle with more confidence.
Heritage coach Doug Freeman is hoping his War Eagles can pull an upset against Searcy. The Lions defeated the War Eagles, who are the No. 4 seed out of the West, twice at the NWA Duals back in December.