DULUTH - Two Cobb County schools took control of the traditional state tournament on Friday, leaving Gwinnett powers Collins Hill and Parkview scrambling to catch up in today's final action of the Class AAAAA
After taking a Day One lead, Collins Hill fell to fourth place, 26 points behind leader McEachern (160 points). Walton is in second with 148.5 points, followed by Union Grove in third with 134.5. Parkview is in fifth with 128.5 points.
"To be honest with you, it looks like it's a two-team race between McEachern and Walton. It's probably going to be a two- or three-team race for third," Collins Hill coach Cliff Ramos said. "Coming into the season, we weren't expected to be in the hunt, but we are. We're not going to give up, but realistically it's a fight for third, but you never know."
The Eagles had four wrestlers advance to Friday night's semifinals, but only two - Taylor Knapp (135 pounds) and David Clayton (125) - were able to advance to tonight's finals, which begin at 7 p.m. at the Arena at Gwinnett Center.
Parkview is sending three of its four semifinalists to the finals. It was no surprise to see Ryan Galloway (130) and Jesse Miller (145) advance, both were state champions last year, but heavyweight Brian Farris slipped into the finals.
"Yeah, that's not bad for a guy that didn't even letter last year," said Parkview co-head coach Dennis Stromie.
Farris will face last year's state runner-up, Grayson's James Boatright, in the finals.
Another surprise in the upper weight classes was Brookwood's Jabril Hill. The senior was third at area, but is now one match away from a state title.
"It's definitely a surprise," Brookwood coach Chris Cicora said.
"But the kid has worked hard all season, he definitely deserves it."
In the Class AA tournament, Wesleyan and Buford each had two wrestlers advance to the finals.
Wesleyan's T.J. Mitchell (103) and Sam Ball (119) will each go for their first state titles, while Buford's Nick Harford (140) will go for his first state title. B.J. Johnson, a state finalist last year and a state champion two years ago, will battle for the 160-pound state title.
Wesleyan still has all 11 wrestlers in the tournament and Buford has six.
Dacula's Frankie Miller and Grayson's Nathan Swanson used overtime to advance to tonight's finals.
Miller trailed 2-1 with six seconds left in regulation before his opponent was called for locked hands and Miller was awarded a point to force overtime. In the extra period, Miller got a takedown for the win.
"I knew deep down Frankie was going to make it happen," Dacula coach Jason Holcombe said.
Miller's final's appearance is quite an accomplishment for the junior, considering he didn't even qualify for state last season.
Swanson's match was just as nerve-racking, going into triple overtime before the senior was able to pull off the 5-2 win.
"He's worked hard all season," Grayson coach Steve West said of Swanson, who is 53-0 this season.
"He's a battler. He bleeds every match, but that's his style."
Knapp vs. Albert, part four
Two-time defending state champion Kendall Albert gets a chance to avenge his only loss on the mat this season in tonight's final against Collins Hill's Knapp.
The Eagle sophomore defeated Albert for the Area 7-AAAAA title last week and both wrestlers won their semifinals on Friday.
"It's going to be tough," Ramos said. "They've had great battles since the first one. It's one of the marquee matches of Saturday."
Albert beat Knapp 15-0 to win the county title. The following week Albert won again 6-4. In the area final Knapp, a third-place finisher last year, beat Albert 5-4.
"He just needs to wrestle smart, tough and just get after it," Peachtree Ridge coach Danny Sinnott said.
Friends meet in finals
Peachtree Ridge's Andrew Sartain and McEachern's Brandon Westerman became friends over the summer wrestling at some of the same national tournaments.
Tonight the two will face each other for the 103-pound title.
"It's going to be kind of awkward since we are friends," Sartain said.
Reaching the state finals is very gratifying for Sartain, who has battled injuries and illness this season.
"After all I've gone through with my wrist, elbow and pneumonia, it feels good to be here."
Daunting task for Sheehy
North Gwinnett's Travis Sheehy is back in the state finals for the second straight year, but it's not going to be easy for the junior.
Sheehy, who won his semifinal match 10-9, will face three-time state champion Carrington Banks from Union Grove tonight.
"I wouldn't have it any other way," Sheehy said. "It will be a good way to redeem myself after last year. I'd rather be the underdog."
Last season, Sheehy was pinned in his state final match in 15 seconds to Parkview's Miller.
Carr to appear
at FCA function
Fellowship of Christian Athletes will hold a breakfast at 7 a.m. today at Cross Pointe Church off Satellite Blvd.
Nate Carr, a three-time NCAA champion at Iowa State and Olympic bronze medalist, will speak at the breakfast and will present awards at the tournament.