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Eagles heavy favorite to defend dual title

Collins Hill is the defending dual state champion, is nationally ranked and has crushed in-state opponents. So naturally, the Eagles' wrestling team is the heavy favorite to win the Class AAAAA state championship this weekend at the Macon Centreplex.

Just don't tell that to head coach Cliff Ramos.

"There's teams in Georgia I'm very worried about," Ramos said. "I don't care what's happened. There's teams I'm very concerned about."

Collins Hill is 26-3 in duals this season with one of those losses coming to Pope in the season opener when the Eagles were without several key starters.

Since then only one Georgia team has scored more than 10 points on the Eagles.

"Nobody has got anything for Collins Hill," Parkview coach Tom Beuglas said.

"I don't think anyone can hang with them in state," said Peachtree Ridge's Danny Sinnott, who lost to the Eagles 60-12 in the Area 7-AAAAA finals. "They are tough."

Collins Hill, which is ranked No. 27 in the nation by Amateur Wrestling News, opens with Valdosta and then faces the Lovejoy-Newton winner in the second round.

"I don't overlook anybody, not at all," Ramos said. "On a given day, we could be a little down, someone could be way up. It could happen. I'm not overlooking anybody."

The Eagles are one of five Gwinnett teams headed to Macon today for the wrestling dual state championships.

Perennial participant Parkview is back along with Grayson and Peachtree Ridge in Class AAAAA, while Wesleyan will compete in Class A.

It's the first time Peachtree Ridge has qualified for the state duals in the school's six-year history. The Lions have placed third at the area duals in recent years, but were finally able to get over the hump last weekend.

"It's our first time going, so it's pretty exciting," Sinnott said. "It's a landmark for us. We've had some big landmarks individually, but as a dual team we've never reached that goal."

As a reward, Peachtree Ridge (20-9) will face one of the toughest teams in the state in Union Grove. The Wolverines feature five potential state champions.

"They're obviously extremely good," Sinnott said. "At some weights we've got some matchups we can win. It's just a matter of who is going to win what. They've got some serious studs."

Along with Collins Hill, it's the ninth straight year Parkview has qualified for the state duals. The Panthers feature a young team this season with only one returning state placer and have surprised some people in what was expected to be a down year.

Parkview is 26-4 and has won six of the seven tournaments it has competed in, including last week's Area 8-AAAAA championship.

"We really wrestled well Saturday (at area duals)," Beuglas said. "It's probably the best we've wrestled all year."

Parkview defeated Grayson in the area finals and the Rams secured their trip to Macon with a win over Dacula in the consolation finals.

It's the second straight year Grayson has qualified and third time in four years.

Like Peachtree Ridge, Grayson got a tough matchup in the first round, drawing fifth-seeded Camden County. The Rams are also on the same side of the bracket as Collins Hill.

"We're not really on the best side of the bracket," first-year Grayson head coach Mike Stephen. "I think we can go deep, but it's going to be tough with two of our starters out."

Jack Dunster and Roman Mangini, who have combined for 40 wins the season, will be out for the Rams (17-6).

"Ultimately, we want to win it all," Stephen said. "But if we can't we want to be in the top four."

It's the fifth-straight year Wesleyan has qualified for the state duals. Wesleyan won the Class AA state duals two years and was runner-up last season. The Wolves have moved down to Class A where there are many unknowns with the teams they'll face.

"I think if we wrestle well we've got a chance," Wesleyan coach Jeff Plunk said. "It's hard to say. We haven't seen any of these guys all year."

Wesleyan faces Darlington in the first round and Bremen and Bowdon are among the teams that will challenge Wesleyan for the state title.

"Bremen is probably the team to beat and they are on the other side of the bracket from us," Plunk said.

Wesleyan is 12-6 and all of those losses came to schools in larger classifications and when it had wrestlers still in the football playoffs. The Wolves get three guys back this week that have been injured in recent weeks.

"It gives us a lot more depth," Plunk said.

SideBar: STATE DUALS

What: State Duals Wrestling Championships

When: Today-Saturday

Where: Macon Centreplex

Local first-round matchups:

· Collins Hill vs. Valdosta

· Grayson vs. Camden County

· Peachtree Ridge vs. Union Grove

· Parkview vs. Johnson-Savannah

· Wesleyan vs. Darlington