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Collins Hill to face tough competition at national tourney

The Collins Hill wrestling team began the season by beating some of the top schools in the state.

Last weekend, the Eagles defeated several good teams from Tennessee.

This weekend Collins Hill will find out where it stacks up against the rest of the country. The Eagles will compete in the Cliff Keen KC Wrestling Classic, which will feature 24 of the best teams in the country.

"Yeah, it will be a lot different," Collins Hill coach Cliff Ramos said. "It's a whole different story at these national tournaments. Now we'll see how well we fare against some of the better teams in the country."

The two-day tournament will be held in Kansas City, Mo., at the KCI Expo Center and will feature 14 mats of wrestling. The competition is fierce with 18 schools that were either state champions or state runner-ups last season.

The Eagles are 14-0 in duals this season and are ranked No. 1 in Class AAAAA. Collins Hill is also ranked third in the Southeast by Wrestling USA magazine.

Collins Hill placed eighth last year, but did not have a wrestler make the finals. That could be different this year with T.J. Mitchell and Taylor Knapp looking to prove themselves as two of the top wrestlers in the country.

"They're going into it and they think they can beat anybody," Ramos said. "I don't know if they can, but that's their mentality."

Knapp placed fifth last year and Nick Smith was the Eagles' top placer at third.

"Every weight will have some really tough kids," Ramos said.

Collins Hill is one of four local teams headed out of state this weekend to wrestle. Parkview and Peachtree Ridge will compete in the McCallie (Tenn.) Invitational and North Gwinnett travels to Birmingham for the Hewitt/Trussville Invitational.

"We try to set up tournaments with different teams, from different regions and different styles," North coach Steve Hassenger said. "I think this is always a good tournament for us."

North has won the tournament the last two years, but could have problems repeating with some wrestlers out.

The Bulldogs have four wrestlers still playing football as North plays Lowndes in the Class AAAAA state championship on Saturday.

But the Bulldogs seem to be doing pretty well without them. North won the Flowery Branch Duals and placed second at the Sequoyah Invitational last week.

The Bulldogs took nine wrestlers to Sequoyah and had six place in the top three. North was led by Travis Sheehy and Alex Reffett, who won individual titles.

"I think we're surprising some people with the quality of wrestlers we have," Hassenger said. "We have nine quality wrestlers and we'll get four back. Only one is inexperienced, but the other weights have experience."

The McCallie Invitational always features several good teams and wrestlers. Parkview will be led by Carson Fields and Brian Farris, while Peachtree Ridge has two undefeated wrestlers in Kendall Albert and Andrew Sartain.

Brookwood will hold its annual tournament this weekend as well. The Broncos will host 17 Georgia schools, which include last year's Brookwood Invitational champion Cherokee. The Warriors are ranked fifth in Class AAAA and will be challenged by third-ranked Tucker.

Berkmar, Mill Creek, South Gwinnett, Meadowcreek, Wheeler, Lakeside-DeKalb, Loganville, Heritage, Dunwoody, Rockdale, Alcovy, Habersham Central, Stone Mountain, McNair and Pebblebrook are also scheduled to attend.

The tournament begins today at 5 p.m. with the round robin pools and will continue Saturday at 9 a.m.