Parkview unseats Collins Hill for state wrestling championship

DULUTH - When Parkview won its last traditional state wrestling tournament in 2004 it wasn't a very memorable one for Ron Lofton. As a member of the junior varsity that year, Lofton sat in the stands as he watched his team raise the championship trophy.

Saturday at the Arena at Gwinnett Center, Lofton's experience at the state tournament was more memorable. The 130-pound grappler defeated McEachern's Raleigh Abbott 4-2 to win his first individual state championship and help guide the Panthers to their second title in three years.

"I'm just amazed. I'm still trying to let it sink in that I'm a state champion," Lofton said. "Winning state is amazing and it's a much better experience this time than it was when I was a sophomore."

Parkview finished with 215.5 points to take first, while county rival Collins Hill was second with 175 points. McEachern was third (171), Walton was fourth (110.5) and Starr's Mill finished in fifth (108).

It's the fifth year in a row that Collins Hill has finished in the top two.

The Eagles had the most state placers of any team in Gwinnett with 10, but Parkview had the most state champions with four.

In addition to Lofton, John Puerta (112), Ryan Galloway (119) and Jesse Miller (135) all won titles for Parkview to give the Panthers their most state champions in one season.

Sophomore Kendall Albert (125) from Peachtree Ridge was the only other state champion from Gwinnett, winning 7-4 to take his second state title in as many years.

"It wasn't easy," Parkview co-head coach Tom Beuglas said. "We had some kids step up and wrestle their butts off. It was a crazy weekend."

"This is a pretty confident team. We worried about the brackets and the seeding, but they weren't," Parkview co-head coach Dennis Stromie said.

Gwinnett County had 35 wrestlers place in the state tournament.

After losing in the quarterfinals to Miller, Collins Hill's Thomas Knapp battled back to take third place. Knapp was just one of nine Eagle wrestlers to battle back in the consolations to guide Collins Hill to second place.

"With 10 state placers, this is the most overachieving team I've ever had," Collins head coach Cliff Ramos said. "That's really what I'm proud of."

The 10 state placers is the most ever for Collins Hill.

The Eagles' only wrestler in the finals was Leon Delain. The 215-pound wrestler nearly pulled off the upset, taking defending state champion Emeka Abanifi to overtime before losing 6-4.

Parkview's Puerta had to use several minutes of blood time in his 112-pound finals before getting his nose taped and later winning 8-4 over McEachern's Tyler Floyd.

Galloway claimed his first state title with a 7-4 win over Mill Creek's Bobby Lewis at 119.

Jesse Miller wasted little time on the mat, pinning North Gwinnett's Travis Sheehy in 15 seconds.

Parkview's only losses in the finals came at 103 pounds and at 171.

Carson Fields had to forfeit the state championship to McEachern's Brandon Westerman after not making weight on Friday night. Connor Dalton lost to Walton's Andy Olsen 9-6.

James Boatright from Grayson lost to Bradley Conner from Starr's Mill 6-3 in the heavyweight finals.

In the Class AA championship at 152 pounds, Buford's Brandon Johnson lost to David Stanley from Dublin 15-8.

Parkview's state championship is the second for the team this year. Last month, the team won the state duals in Macon against Collins Hill.

Saturday's championship was the 10th tournament championship for the Panthers this year.