Six Eagles in finals
Twelve wrestlers place for defending champs

DULUTH - A month ago when Collins Hill's Gary Tiller injured his left shoulder to go along with his torn left knee, Taylor Knapp had an idea.

The two-time state champion decided to bump up a weight class and allow Tiller to move down.

Knapp thought it would help Tiller win a state title and give the Eagles a better shot at a team championship.

Judging by Friday's Class AAAAA semifinals, it appears to be a good idea. Knapp and Tiller both advanced to the state finals in their weight classes along with four other Eagles.

"Once he hurt his shoulder, I thought it would help the team and him win state championships," Knapp said. "He deserves it."

Tiller defeated Redan's Cornelious Sutton 5-2 at 152 pounds and will take on Centennial's Steve Sealy today in the finals.

"It's amazing what those two have done," Collins Hill coach Cliff Ramos said. "Knapp went up a weight class and can still win it and helping Gary like that was the right thing to do."

Knapp advanced to the 160-pound state finals, where he will take on Peachtree Ridge's Alan Gigolaev.

The duo join Bazell Partridge (103 pounds), T.J. Mitchell (119), Joel Smith (140) and C.J. Collins (215) in the finals.

Collins Hill is in first place with 191 points, followed by Walton with 93 and Camden County with 76.5.

It will be the second finals appearance for Mitchell and Smith. Mitchell was a Class AA state championship at Wesleyan two years ago. The junior lost in the quarterfinals last year in Class AAAAA after a controversial call at the end of the third period gave him a one-point loss. Since then he's been on a tear through the state tournament, battling back to take third last year before reaching today's finals.

"I'm glad to be back," Mitchell said. "After last year it motivated me to work harder and not put the match in other people's hands."

Smith was in last year's state finals, but lost to Parkview's Carson Fields.

Collins Hill's Nick Holbert (171) and Mac Bennett (189) lost in the semis and will wrestle in the consolation semis today.

The Eagles' Caleb Sawchuk (112), John Allgood (125), Sam Hoppenbrouwer (145) and Thomas DeLain (285) battled through the consolation bracket to win their quarterfinal matches and secure a top-six finish in their weight classes. That guarantees Collins Hill 12 state placers, setting a new Gwinnett County and Class AAAAA record for the most in one season.

"I'm pretty happy that we have 12 placers," Ramos said. "I feel terrible for Allen Willard. He's one of the best in the state and it wasn't his day."