Collins Hill cements claim as Georgia's best with three-peat

Photo by Christine Troyke

Photo by Christine Troyke

DULUTH -- T.J. Mitchell got off the mat, tapped his chest and then raised three fingers above his head.

The Collins Hill senior just pinned his way to a third individual state championship and helped the Eagles to their third straight traditional state title on Saturday at the Arena at Gwinnett Center.

"It kind of worked out that way for me," said Mitchell of three-peating as an individual and as a team.

The moment got sweeter for Mitchell as his younger brother Drew Ferguson followed with a state championship and all six Collins Hill state finalists won state titles.

"I believe that's a record for the largest classification," Collins Hill coach Cliff Ramos said of the six state champs. "I tell you it's been a wild three days and they all wrestled great. I couldn't be happier."

Collins Hill placed 12 of its 14 wrestlers in the medal rounds on Saturday, where the Eagles were 11-1. In addition to Mitchell and Ferguson's titles, Joel Smith and Bazell Partridge repeated as state champions, C.J. Collins avenged his state finals loss from last season and Mac Bennett won a state title as well.

"I'm happy to win state, but I'm even happier for (Bennett)," Collins said. "He's like my brother and I couldn't be happier."

Collins Hill claimed its third straight Class AAAAA traditional state championship with 301 points. Pope (188) was second, Camden County (161.5) was third, Kennesaw Mountain (110) was fourth and Valdosta (107) was fifth. Parkview (67) placed 10th and Dacula (52) was 13th.

It's the fourth title in six years for Collins Hill and the fifth in the program's history. It's the first time a school has won three in a row in the state's largest classification since McEachern won seven from 1989-95.

But that's just part of the history Collins Hill made on Saturday. All year long, the Eagles proved month after month they should be considered the best team in Georgia history.

"I'd like to say so. If we haven't proven to Georgia now, I don't know what else to do," Collins said.

Collins Hill has put together an impressive resume. The Eagles are ranked No. 9 in the nation by Amateur Wrestling News, the highest ranking ever for a Georgia team. The Eagles traveled out-of-state to three prestigious tournaments, winning the Toshiba Midwest Classic in Kansas City, placing second at the Powerade Invitational in Pa., and taking third at the Final Four in Pa.

Collins Hill won its third straight Class AAAAA dual state championship to go along with the traditional title in January. The Eagles' dual record was 30-2 with both losses coming to nationally ranked teams. Collins Hill lost to Brandon (Fla.) by 10 points and to Blair Academy (N.J.), which was ranked No. 1 in the nation at the time, by three points. If that wasn't enough, the Eagles beat Georgia opponents by an average of 62 points and had nine shutouts.

"I don't see how anybody could make the argument against it," Ramos said. "I thought last year's team was the best and they finished the season ranked No. 21."

Collins Hill defended its state championship with a team that had a little bit of everything. Mitchell (Virginia Tech), Smith (Arizona State) and Collins (Fort Hayes) are future college wrestlers. Partridge won his second state title and has the chance to three-peat next season. Although he was taken to overtime and then used a late takedown to secure the win in the finals.

"I just wanted to get my second state title," Partridge said.

Ferguson emerged as one of the state's top wrestlers and Bennett went from a good wrestler to a state champion. Both had the most emotional victories for the team, racing to see their parents after winning.

Allen Willard (140) was a state favorite last year, but missed placing. He came back this season to take third along with Thomas Delain (285), giving state champion Jacob Aiken-Phillips his toughest match of the state tournament. Jamie Hertica (152) upset the tournament favorite and finished fourth. Joseph Doyague (119), Devante Brown (135) and Nick Holbert (171) placed fifth.

Pat Riley and Steven Bradtmueller didn't place for the Eagles, but were key contributors for Collins Hill in their first year in the starting lineup.

"With six state champs and everything we did, going to the Final Four, winning Kansas City by 100 points, I don't see how you can't make the case for best team ever," Ramos said.