Highly touted Eagles set to defend title

The Collins Hill wrestling team hung with some of the top teams in the nation over the Christmas break.

Now the Eagles are ready to defend their Class AAAAA dual state championship.

Collins Hill is the heavy favorite going into Saturday's Area 7-AAAAA championship at Duluth High School, leaving the rest of the region battling for second place.

"Oh man, it's going to be a fight for that No. 2 spot," Collins Hill coach Cliff Ramos said. "It could be anybody."

Collins Hill has won the Area 7 title the last five years and Peachtree Ridge was the other team to qualify out of the area last season. The top two teams from each area qualify for next weekend's state tournament in Macon, where the Eagles have won the last two state titles.

At least five teams have a legitimate shot of qualifying for state out of Area 7 this year. Peachtree Ridge, North Gwinnett, North Forsyth, South Forsyth and Chattahoochee have all beaten each other during the season.

"This is one of the tougher regions in the state," North Gwinnett coach Phil Daniel said. "It's nasty, just nasty team wise."

Collins Hill won the Toshiba Midwest Classic, lost by 10 points to the No. 4 team in the nation and placed second at the Powerade Invitational.

The success has earned the Eagles a No. 10 national ranking and the only team to beat Collins Hill this season was Brandon (Fla.) 34-24.

Collins Hill is 18-1 this season, which includes eight shutouts. Pope, last year's state runner-up, is the only Georgia school that has kept a dual close with the Eagles in a 38-14 defeat.

"It's hard not to look past the area duals," Ramos said. "But our guys will be ready."

In Area 8-AAAAA, Parkview is the six-time defending champions and the Panthers are once again favored to win it all.

"We're the No. 1 seed, so by seeding criteria we're supposed to win it," first-year Parkview coach Chris Hardin said. "That's the expectation to win the area duals."

Parkview won the Gwinnett County tournament last month with several starters out of the lineup. Jesse Forte (171 pounds), Matt Johnson (215) and Bradley Atkinson (125) are expected to be back in the lineup.

"It looks to be the best team we're going to send out this year," Hardin said.

Grayson was the other team out of the area to qualify for state last year, but the Rams are seeded No. 4. Grayson could face Parkview in the semifinals and Parkview has already beaten the Rams this season, along with No. 2 seed Dacula. Brookwood is the No. 3 seed.

"I like where we sit," Hardin said.

Wesleyan doesn't have the individual standouts it's had in the past, but the Area 2-A defending champs are still among the favorites for a bid to Macon.

"I think Commerce is the team to beat based on what I've seen," Wesleyan coach Jeff Plunk said. "They've got a lot more seniors and state placers and I think they've got a little more fire power than we do."

Wesleyan wrestled its best match of the season Wednesday in a 20-point win over Woodward Academy. The Wolves have qualified for the state duals the last five years and won the Area 2-A championship last season after winning the Area 3-AA title the two previous years.

"That's our goal to win four in a row," Plunk said.

Greater Atlanta Christian will host the Area 6-AA tournament and first-year schools Archer and Mountain View will travel to Oconee County for the Area 8-AAA tournament.