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Collins gets revenge on way to state finals

Photo by Christine Troyke

Photo by Christine Troyke

DULUTH -- C.J. Collins' only loss to a Georgia opponent this season came in the dual state finals last month. Collins Hill already had the team championship locked up at the time, but the defeat still lingered for Collins.

He got his revenge in Friday's quarterfinals of the Class AAAAA state tournament at the Arena at Gwinnett Center.

Collins beat Pope's Charlie Farr 4-3 and then won in the semifinals to reach the state championship for the second year in a row.

"That was my second Georgia loss in two years, so to go out and avenge it was awesome," Collins said.

What made the day even better for Collins was seeing his best friend and training partner Mac Bennett survive overtime to reach the finals as well.

"We're like brothers and I was so pumped when he won," Collins said.

Collins and Bennett were two of six Eagles to reach today's state finals, which are scheduled for 5 p.m. The Eagles also have six in the consolation bracket, which will battle for third through sixth place.

"I'm really proud of everyone," Collins Hill coach Cliff Ramos said. "Everybody from Steven Bradtmueller, who lost a close one, to Pat Riley, who was one match from placing, I'm so proud of all of them."

Collins Hill holds a commanding lead in the team standings as it pursues its third straight state championship. The Eagles have 245 points followed by Camden County (155.5), Pope (144) and Valdosta (95).

Drew Ferguson advanced at 103 pounds for Collins Hill followed by Bazell Partridge at 112.

The defending state champion survived a scare in the final seconds when he was put on his back by Etowah's Jeremiah Lutz. Partridge was able to hold off the pin and won 17-14 to reach the finals.

Two-time state champion T.J. Mitchell (125) continued to dominate in the state meet with another pin to reach the state finals. The Virginia Tech signee was joined by defending state champion and Arizona State signee Joel Smith at 145 pounds.

Bennett provided the most excitement for Collins Hill's state finalists. The junior was hit with two penalties, including locked hands in the final 30 seconds to trail 3-1. A takedown in the final 15 seconds forced overtime.

"After he hit me with locked hands, I knew I had to make something happen," Bennett said.

A fourth-place finisher last year, Bennett got a takedown in overtime to get the victory.

"He used to find ways to lose and now he wins matches at the end," Ramos said.

Gwinnett County also put six other wrestlers in today's state finals. Peachtree Ridge's Tsvetomir Petrushev (152), Dacula's Zeke Hunt (160), Parkview's Matt Johnson (215) and Central Gwinnett's Jacob Aiken-Phillips will go state titles in Class AAAAA. Wesleyan's Zack Rindik and Josh Tolman will battle for championships in Class A.