SUWANEE -- It's December. That means it's still a little too early to tell how high school wrestling teams will shake down in February.
But for one night before Christmas, North Gwinnett took home a bigger trophy than five time defending state champion Collins Hill.
The Bulldogs took fourth place Saturday in the Kyle Maynard Duals, while the host Eagles took fifth.
"I'm really pleased with what we did today," said North Gwinnett head coach Phil Daniel. "This is one of the toughest tournaments in the southeast and for us to take fourth in it, I'm very pleased."
The Bulldogs (19-5) finished 3-2 with wins over Cherokee (60-18), Paulding (54-25), Woodland (44-27). North went down to in the semis to nationally ranked Brandon, Fla., 58-22. Brandon would go on to win the meet, while the Bulldogs lost to Bremen 39-30 in the third place match.
But that nine-point loss to Bremen this year is a lot better than the 63-3 thumping the Blue Devils put on the Bulldogs in this same tournament last year.
"We are really proud of where we've come from," said Daniel. "This time last year we were wrestling just to get out of here. This year time we placed. We are going in the right direction."
Bremen also gets the distinction of being the first team in Georgia to beat Collins Hill this year. The Eagles (12-4) went 4-1 Saturday, but the 37-36 loss will turn a lot of heads in the wrestling world. Just not the head that matters most.
"I don't care about that. We are used to that," said Collins Hill head coach Josh Stephen. "People are always trying to look at us losing (but) we are training for February. It's all about state titles in the end."
The Eagles won this tournament in 2010 and took second last year and in 2009. But this year, Collins Hill entered with four of its starters out, most of them injured.
So it was no shock to Stephen that this group stumbled to a quality Bremen squad.
"We didn't match up that great with them," said Stephen. "We are not super-deep right now. There is little margin for error"
Besides the loss to the Blue Devils, the Eagles ran through Flowery Branch (51-21), Chapel Hill, N.C., (66-12), Holy Innocents' (47-28) and Woodland (47-25).
Codi Russell (106 pounds), Sean Russell (113), Ryan Millhof (120), Griffin Riley (132) and Anthony Codella (160) all went 5-0 for the Eagles. Brett Byerly (195) and Jalen Brooks (220) were unbeaten for North.
The two schools did not wrestle each other in the this tournament, but it did allow both coaches to get a glimpse at the squad they might have to face for the region duals Jan. 5.
"That is the class program over there," said Daniel after he reminded his team who they needed to beat come January.
Peachtree Ridge and Buford wrestled in the bronze division of this 24 team tournament. The Lions took first in the division, while the Wolves did not place. They went 1-3.