LaGrange hosting wrestling tourney
By KEVIN ECKLEBERRY
The Clark Rich Cradle Classic, a wrestling tournament named in honor of the former LaGrange High coach who enjoyed so much success at the school, will be held on Saturday.
The dual-format tournament, which includes the host Grangers, will be held in the LaGrange High main gymnasium beginning at 9 a.m.
Rich, who died in December of 2016, was a standout wrestler at LaGrange High and Auburn, and he later returned to LaGrange to take over the school’s wrestling program.
With Rich at the helm, LaGrange won state championships in 1982, 1986 and 1987.
Later in his life, even as his health declined, Rich continued to help out as an assistant coach, working alongside his brother John Rich with head coach Scooter Weathers.
“He’d been retired for a while, but he was still involved,” said Michael Woodard, the current head coach of the Grangers. “He pushed himself, and he got here.”
In 2005, Rich came out of retirement to help coach the LaGrange High team along with Weathers, and the two helped lead the program to tremendous heights.
“I felt like with me, being the head coach of the program, I was the person sitting back and learning from him,” Weathers said shortly after Rich’s death. “He was a great teacher.”
Rich coached the sport for 40 years, and Weathers said “he inspired a lot of people. He motivated a lot of people.”
Rich’s impressive resume as a wrestler and coach earned him a spot in National Wrestling Hall of Fame in 2016.
The Grangers have been busy this season, but this will be the first time they’ve wrestled at home.
Despite wrestling short-handed, the Grangers have had a successful season so far, and they won Trail of Tears dual tournament in November.
“Right now we’re just short,” Woodard said. “We’ve got about 14 wrestlers, and we’re hurting in five weight categories, we can’t seem to fill them.
LaGrange will host the Gary Silva Invitational on Dec. 28, and it will stay close to home for the Callaway Cavalier Duals on Jan. 4.
The area duals will be held on Jan. 10 at Central-Carroll with the top-two finishers advancing to the state duals.
LaGrange will host the area traditional tournament on Feb. 7, with the top-four finishers in each weight class advancing to the state sectional.
The top performances at the state sectional advance to the state finals in Macon.
“We’re probably looking at five to 16 that can make state,” Woodard said.