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Panthers, Eagles dual favorites again

Since the state dual wrestling tournament began, the championship has been held by only three teams: Collins Hill, Parkview and McEachern.

This year is the first time McEachern hasn't qualified for the meet held in Macon, but Collins Hill and Parkview are back.

The No. 1-ranked Eagles are the front-runners to win the championship, while last year's state runner-up Parkview should also go deep in the bracket. Those two schools are the only two Class AAAAA teams to qualify for the state duals every year since it began in 2002. Grayson will make its second appearance this weekend as well.

It won't be easy for the Eagles to win their first dual title since 2005. Collins Hill gets Murray County in the first round today and then could face three of the top teams in the state.

"We have to beat the No. 2-ranked team (Union Grove), the No. 4-ranked team (Pope) and then if Harrison makes the finals the No. 3 team," Collins Hill coach Cliff Ramos said. "How many sports do you have the No. 1-ranked team has to beat two, three and four?"

If any team is capable of running through that juggernaut, it's Collins Hill. The Eagles have wrestled a very tough schedule this season and have fared well against the top teams in Georgia and the country with a 28-2 record.

Their only losses are to nationally ranked teams Colonial Forge (Va.) and Christianburg (Va.) at the Battlefield Duals in Virginia. Against Georgia teams, Collins Hill has had its way. The Eagles are 12-0 this season against in-state competition and have won by an average of 51 points. Harrison has been the only team to keep the score close, losing 34-22 back in December.

The Eagles beat Pope at the beginning of the season 44-13, but several matches were decided by one or two points. Collins Hill has not wrestled Union Grove this season, but with the addition of Ryan Devita, a state qualifier that moved in from Northview last week, the Wolverines could give the Eagles their first challenge.

"It could make a big difference," Ramos said.

Collins Hill's lineup is loaded with state qualifiers and placers. Taylor Knapp and T.J. Mitchell are the Eagles' top two wrestlers. David Coffey, Gary Tiller, and Joel and Nick Smith have also had standout seasons with 35-plus wins each.

While everyone will be gunning for Collins Hill, Parkview hopes it can slip into the mix. The Panthers are not as dominant as they have been in recent years, but still field a tough team.

"I don't know if we're a good enough team to be up there, but yeah we're definitely flying under the radar," Parkview coach Tom Beuglas said. "It's a little different situation than what we're used to. But it's kind of nice not having that target on your back."

Said Ramos: "Parkview is a lot better. They're a lot more of a factor now than they were a month ago. They're not under my radar, but they're under a lot of people's radar."

No. 6-ranked Parkview, which is 12-4 in duals this season, will wrestle No. 5 Centennial in the first round today.

"We're going to have a tough match against Centennial. It won't be impossible to win," Beuglas said. "The big thing is my kids that aren't doing well if they give up pin points. Hopefully, we can get some matchups that will go in our favor."

Seniors Carson Fields and Brian Farris have been Parkview's most consistent wrestlers. Clint Jones and Josh Davis have also emerged as standout wrestlers for the Panthers.

A win over Centennial and Parkview would face the winner of Valdosta-Groves and then possibly Harrison.

"Our goal this weekend is to finish in the top four and it's going to be tough to do that," Beuglas said.

SideBar: Wrestling

·What: State duals

· When: Today-Saturday

· Where:

Macon Centreplex

· Schedule:

First-round matchups

for local teams

· Collins Hill vs. Murray County

· Parkview vs. Centennial

· Grayson vs. Pope

· Dacula vs. Tucker

· Wesleyan vs. Pike County