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Eagles, Panthers out for title defense
No. 21 nationally ranked Collins Hill after fifth straight Area 7 championship

Collins Hill's quest to defend its traditional state wrestling title begins this weekend with the Area 7-AAAAA tournament.

It's the first of three postseason weekends for the Eagles. The area tournament qualifies wrestlers for the state sectionals next weekend. The following weekend, Feb. 19-21, the state tournament will be in Gwinnett, where the Eagles look to hoist the Class AAAAA championship trophy again.

"You want to place high at this tournament because it helps for next week, which helps you the next week at state," Collins Hill coach Cliff Ramos said.

The Eagles, who are ranked No. 21 in the nation by Amateur Wrestling News, have plenty of firepower to claim a fifth-straight Area 7 title. Taylor Knapp, Gary Tiller, T.J. Mitchell and Joel Smith are all going for their third individual area championships.

"We need them all to do well," Ramos said. "But we've got one or two injuries we are concerned about. We want to place all 14. Last year we won it with 13, but I'd love to get all of them qualified. They deserve it."

Peachtree Ridge and North Forsyth are the next best traditional teams in the area. It's been a banner year so far for Peachtree Ridge. The Lions placed second at the Gwinnett County tournament, their highest finish ever, and qualified for the state duals for the first time in school history.

The Lions sent seven to the state meet last season and could have just as many qualify this weekend.

In the Area 8-AAAAA tournament at Central Gwinnett, Parkview will look go for its sixth-straight area title.

"I think we can defend our title. We have won the area tournament every year since they divided Gwinnett into two areas and I intend on winning it this year," Parkview coach Tom Beuglas said. "We have not wrestled very well the last two weeks and have had a few issues with injuries, but I think we are ready to go this week."

It won't be easy for the Panthers to defend their title as Area 8 is the toughest it has been in years with the emergence of Grayson, Brookwood and Dacula.

"The key to winning this tournament is not only having a lot of finalists, but placing all 14 of your kids in the top four and advancing them on to the sectionals next week at Camden (County)," Beuglas said.

Buford and Greater Atlanta Christian travel to Lovett for the Area 6-AA meet, while Wesleyan's area tournament will be combined with its sectional next weekend.

SideBar: Area Wrestling

Area 7-AAAAA

When: Saturday, 9 a.m.

Where: North Gwinnett

Area 8-AAAAA

When: Saturday, 9 a.m.

Where: Central Gwinnett

Area 6-AA

When: Saturday, 9 a.m.

Where: Lovett