Heading into tonight's Class AAAAA state duals in Macon, the script has most definitely been flipped.
Last year it was the Collins Hill Eagles, ranked No. 1 in the state and undefeated in dual meets heading into the tournament, who were the heavy favorites to take home the title. And rival Parkview was a decided underdog when the two powers met in the 2005 finals, where the Eagles squeaked out a 29-23 win over the Panthers.
This year the roles are reversed.
Parkview is No. 1 in the state and is considered one of the top teams in the Southeast. Other than a close loss to West Laurens earlier in the year, in which the Panthers were missing five starters, they have rolled over every opponent, winning county and region titles along the way.
And this year it is they who are the heavy favorites to win the state duals championship.
"I think there is a lot of pressure on us this year," Parkview co-head coach Tom Beuglas said. "Last year, we were the underdog and probably exceeded most people's expectations. It is always easier to deal with pressure when you are the underdog, than when you are the favorite and everyone is gunning for you."
Collins Hill found that out firsthand last year.
The Eagles were expected by many to cruise past the Panthers in the finals, but found themselves in a dogfight instead. Collins Hill's Clay Gray defeated Parkview's Matt Stewart 7-6 in the last match of the night to ensure a state championship for the Eagles.
If Collins Hill didn't win that match, or if Nick Flaherty hadn't stunned the entire crowd with a pin of defending state champ Josh Matlack at 152, Parkview could have very well taken home the title.
"Last year's tournament was a great experience for us," Beuglas said. "Our team was not as good as Collins Hill's, but we put together a great plan for them and almost won."
Almost won't be good enough for the Panthers this weekend. Beuglas said he expects the toughest challenges to come from Collins Hill (surprise, surprise), Walton, McEachern and Kell.
If both Collins Hill and Parkview win their first three matches, they will meet again in the state finals. Except this year, the favorite and underdog roles will be reversed.
Parkview wrestles Centennial at noon in the first round and then meets the Union Grove-Camden County winner in the second round. The semifinals are set for 7 p.m. and if the Panthers advance that far, they likely will take on McEachern.
The finals are set for Saturday at 6 p.m.
Collins Hill opens up the tournament against another Region 8-AAAAA squad, Grayson. The Rams nipped Brookwood by one point on Saturday in the semifinals of the region duals to advance to state for the first time. Whichever squad wins the opener will take on the Newton-Lowndes winner in the second round.
In Class AA, Wesleyan qualified and will take on Cook in the first round. If the Wolves win, they will most likely meet West Laurens in the second round.
When: Today and Saturday
Where: Macon Centreplex
Local teams participating: Collins Hill, Parkview, Grayson, Wesleyan (AA)
• First round, noon today
• Semifinals, 7 p.m. today
• Finals, 6 p.m. Saturday