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Collins Hill wrestling primed for title run

Collins Hill has won eight tournaments this season, including the dual state championship, but none of that will matter if the perennial wrestling powerhouse doesn't win the last one.

The traditional state tournament is the one the Eagles have been eying all season.

An already great season for the program can get a giant exclamation point with a traditional title on Saturday at the Arena at Gwinnett Center.

"This is the big one," Collins Hill coach Cliff Ramos said. "This one and the state duals, you want to win both of those."

But it won't be easy for Collins Hill.

When Ramos went to pick up the brackets for the state tournament on Sunday, he didn't like what he saw.

"When I got there the guys from ATA told me I wasn't going to like our seeds," Ramos said.

They were right.

Ramos' Collins Hill team got several tough draws in the early rounds of the state tournament. It will be a challenge for the Eagles to win their first traditional state title since 2005. They will have to fight off Union Grove, Harrison and Walton for the championship.

"We could have done better on the draws," Ramos said. "It's the one tournament that's the most important and we don't seed it. I don't understand. It's unfair not only to the teams, but to the kids. There's going to be college coaches there and they won't stay for the finals because those will already have happened in the quarterfinals and semifinals in my opinion."

If any team can overcome tough draws it's Collins Hill. The Eagles have been the top team in Georgia all season.

They placed third at the National Wrestling Classic in Kansas City and third at the Battlefield Duals, two of the most difficult tournaments in the nation this season.

The Eagles had 13 of their 14 wrestlers qualify for state. Collins Hill could have at least four state champions. T.J. Mitchell and Taylor Knapp are defending champs and Nick Smith and David Coffey could win their weight classes.

Gwinnett County could have as many as four more teams in the top 10. After losing several talented seniors last year, not much was expected of the Parkview wrestling team.

"Our team has really stepped up," Parkview wrestler Carson Fields said. "We weren't very good at the beginning of the year and no one expected us to qualify 10 for state, but we got 12."

Fields and Brian Farris are the Panthers' best shots at winning state titles, but Parkview could have at least three other wrestlers place. What once looked like a down year for the Panthers has turned into a promising one.

"I don't think we can pull top three. We're realistic and don't have that many top guys to go with Collins Hill, Union Grove, Harrison and Walton," Parkview coach Tom Beuglas said. "I told our kids if we can pull fifth that would something to be proud of.

"We're just a couple of studs short of making a run for it."

North Gwinnett, Peachtree Ridge and Brookwood also will battle to be in the top 10 in Class AAAAA.

Dacula qualified seven in Class AAAA and the Falcons should make a top-10 run led by Frankie Miller and Noah Hunt.

In Class AA, Wesleyan will have a tough time competing with Lovett and LaFayette for the team title.

"It's going to be a battle," Wesleyan coach Jeff Plunk said. "Lovett and LaFayette each qualified 12, so they are going to be the favorites. I think we have nine guys we can place and if we have them on the podium I think we got a good shot."

Kelby Smith, Colin Genthert and David Kaszycki have good enough draws to be wrestling in the finals, while six other Wolves could place.

"I expect those guys to place pretty high," Plunk said. "They've all had great years and should do well this week."

SideBar: Wrestling

What: Traditional state

tournament

Where: Today-Saturday

Where: Arena at Gwinnett Center