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Collins Hill's Knapp beats state champ for Area 7-AAAAA title

SUWANEE - Collins Hill wrestler Taylor Knapp put in a few extra practices and some additional film study last week in preparation for his Area 7 finals match against Kendall Albert - and it paid off.

Albert, a two-time state champion, beat Knapp twice this season, but on Saturday Knapp held off a late takedown attempt by Albert to win the 135-pound area championship.

The sophomore was one of seven Eagles to win an area championship at North Gwinnett as Collins Hill won its third straight area title and qualified all 14 wrestlers for the fourth consecutive season.

"Yeah, that was great. They had a great match," Collins Hill coach Cliff Ramos said. "Tonight, it could have gone either way. I think it was the highlight of the tournament whether he won or lost. Both are really good kids. Both are respectful to each other before and after the match, which I like, so I think it was a neat match win or lose."

Albert beat Knapp for the county title 15-0 and then a week later 6-4, but on Saturday it was a last-second takedown attempt that was the difference.

Albert led 3-2 to start the third period, and after an escape by Knapp to tie it the sophomore got a takedown with 1:03 left to take a 5-3 advantage. Albert managed an escape with 46 seconds left and as time was expiring took Knapp down to the mat, but the takedown was too late as Knapp held on for a 5-4

victory.

"I thought I had it," Albert said of the takedown. "I'm extremely disappointed."

It probably won't be the last time the two meet this season as both could face each other in the later rounds of next week's state tournament.

"Yeah, he's beat me twice this year, so if felt good to get the win," said Knapp, who placed third at state last year. "This win really doesn't mean anything, next week is what really counts."

Of the 11 finalists Collins Hill had, Knapp was one of seven to win a championship. Also winning area titles for the Eagles were David Clayton (125 pounds), Joel Smith (130), Josh Hertica (145), Gary Tiller (160), Nick Smith (171) and David Coffey (285).

"We got 14 qualified and that's the fourth year we've done that," Ramos said. "If we can get points out of all 14 (at state), that's huge. There's a couple I didn't think wrestled their best today, but 14 qualifying is real good."

Knapp was awarded the most outstanding middleweight wrestler and Smith the most outstanding heavyweight wrestler.

North Gwinnet, which finished second in the team standings, was the only other school to qualify double digit wrestlers with 12.

"It was a wonderful performance by our whole team, our whole program stepped upped," North Gwinnett coach Steve Hassenger said. "The kids did what I challenged them to do, which was take the most wrestlers ever in North Gwinnett history. Every kid that came to the gym gave everything they had. I

couldn't be prouder of our kids."

Jarred Biggers (119) and Travis Sheehy (152) were North Gwinnett's two area champions.

Also winning area titles were Peachtree Ridge's Andrew Sartain (103), Mill Creek's Josh Harrison (112), who was also awarded most outstanding lightweight wrestler, Forsyth Central's Mike Vazquez (140) and Tanner Conrad (189) and South Forsyth's Zach Slattery (215).