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Eagles look within for new coach

Josh Stephen knows he has big shoes to fill, but it's a challenge he's willing to accept.

The Collins Hill assistant wrestling coach was promoted to head coach Friday, taking over for legendary coach Cliff Ramos.

"After so many years of what Coach Ramos has done, it's just a huge honor to be the guy to come in behind him and keep it going," Stephen said. "My goal is to keep winning state championships and move up in the national rankings."

Ramos stepped down on Tuesday after a 34-year coaching career. In his 16 seasons at the Suwanee school, he led the Eagles to nine state championships. Collins Hill has won the last three Class AAAAA traditional and dual state championships and is ranked No. 9 in the country, the highest ranking ever for a Georgia team.

"There's definitely pressure there, but that's what you want as a coach," Stephen said. "He set the bar as high as you can set it. But you have to go big with this program."

Stephen, whose twin brother Mike is the head coach at Grayson, has spent the last two years as a Collins Hill assistant. Prior to joining Eagles, he was the head coach at Harrison for six seasons. Stephen led the Hoyas to a state runner-up finish in the Class AAAAA traditional and dual state tournament in 2008. He coached 23 individual state placers and seven state champions, most notably four-time winner Josh Condon.

"Josh has been an integral part of Coach Ramos' program the last two years and is very aware of the work and dedication put into making this a successful program," Collins Hill athletic director Roland Wallace said. "We feel Coach Stephen is up to the challenge and we are excited to have him as our new head coach."

Stephen inherits a Collins Hill program that has been one of the best in the state for more than a decade. The Eagles consistently place in the top three at the state tournament and have produced 31 state champions and 111 state placers. The Eagles return seven state qualifiers, including state champions Drew Ferguson, Bazell Partridge and Mac Bennett.

"With the state champs coming back, there's depth in the program with the JV and the youth program is great, so the future looks very bright," Stephen said. "It's all the ingredients to stay successful. I'm excited for the opportunity."