By Anthony Rhoads
For many years, Clay Woerner was Jonesboro through and through.
Woerner wrestled at Jonesboro, winning 101 matches in his career, which was then a school record. In 1989, he was the Class AAAA state runner-up in the 140-pound division, a three-time area champion and four-time Clayton County champion.
Woerner eventually returned to his alma mater to coach wrestling.
Woerner coached Jonesboro to six Clayton County championships and one appearance in the Class AAAAA state duals (2003). He also coached two state champions including Marc Maginn in 2000 and Josh Montesinos in 2001.
But after last season at Jonesboro, Woerner decided to make a change.
Woerner is now at Luella High School, which is hosting the South Metro Invitational this Friday and Saturday.
The tournament features three state-ranked teams including Henry County (No. 6 in Class AAAAA), Starr's Mill (No. 8 in Class AAAAA) and Union Grove (No. 5 in Class AA).
"It's always tough and gets better every year. We're proud to be hosting it." Woerner said. "Henry County and Starr's Mill will be tough and they probably be the top two."
The host team should be competitive but the squad is young as Luella is in its first year and has no seniors.
"We're going pretty good," Woerner said. "We're 4-2 (in dual matches) so far. We're making progress. I know we're going to have a good program here and we'll do pretty well this year."
He said one key to success is a middle school program, something that was lacking in Clayton County.
"I tried to get middle school wrestling in Clayton County for eight years but nobody listened and nobody cared," Woerner said. "It was just one thing after another and enough was enough. I knew I had to leave if I was going to stay in this sport. It's tough but it's a move that I should have made earlier."
Even though he's glad to be at Luella, he does have mixed feelings about leaving Jonesboro.
"I still have some ties to Jonesboro," he said. "All the wrestlers I coached will be competing against me now. I had the chance to coach some good wrestlers there and I do have some good memories."
A glance at the teams competing: Henry County teams that are competing in the South Metro include Henry County, Eagle's Landing, Luella, Stockbridge and Union Grove. Clayton teams include Forest Park, Jonesboro, Lovejoy, Morrow, Mundy's Mill, Mt. Zion, North Clayton and Riverdale.
The tournament also features teams from Coweta County, Fayette County, Spalding County, Newton County, Rockdale County and Fulton County.
The South Metro has been held annually since 1971.
A flashback to last year: Starr's Mill won last year's South Metro with Fayette County coming in second. Henry County, Woodward Academy, Northgate, Eagle's Landing, Union Grove and Rockdale County rounded out the top eight from last year.