Staff Photo: John Bohn Collins Hill wrestler Griffin Riley has his eyes blocked by head gear straps, while competing against Camden county's Niko Kolgaklin in the 138 lbs weight class match of the State Duals wrestling tournament held in Macon, Saturday. Camden's Kolgaklin won the match.
It's been three weeks since Collins Hill lost to Camden County in the finals of the dual state wrestling championship.
The defeat ended Collins Hill's four-year run as state champions.
"The guys have been pretty motivated," Collins Hill coach Josh Stephen said. "It's a reminder that you have to do all the little thing the right way."
That was three weeks ago. The Eagles have moved on from the rare loss and are seeking their fifth straight traditional state championship in two weeks.
The journey towards another title begins this weekend with the Area 7-AAAAA tournament at Norcross. Collins Hill will try to qualify all 14 wrestlers for next weekend's sectional tournament at Tift County before heading to the Gwinnett Arena on Feb. 16-18 for the state tournament.
"We're trying to peak. I told them it's the first round of state," Stephen said. "You don't want to overlook anyone at region before you get to sectionals or state."
Collins Hill has won the last seven area titles and is primed to win an eighth this weekend. The Eagles have all 14 of their wrestlers seeded in the top 3. The top four from each weight class advance to the state sectional.
"I feel pretty good about where everyone's at," Stephen said.
Some of the big possible matchups include Collins Hill's Spencer Rickman vs. Peachtree Ridge's Brandon Smith, Collins Hill's Steven Bradtmueller vs. Peachtree Ridge's Mac Shiver and Collins Hill's Ryan Millhof vs. North Gwinnett's Hunter Franklin.
In the Area 8-AAAAA tournament, up and coming program Archer will try to end Parkview's dominance over the area. The Panthers have won the area title the last eight years.
"This weekend is very important for our team. First of all, Parkview has won our region for as long as I can remember," said Archer coach Tom Beuglas, who led Parkview to six of those region crowns as head coach. "One of our goals is to win the region championship and establish ourselves as the elite team in the region. We won the area duals, now we want to win the region title.
"We want to start our own streak of region title championships."
The Tigers will have the best lineup they've had all season with the return of Isaiah Hunt and Elliot Lee from injuries.
Sam Bullard, DaQuan Olbert, Ernest Alexander and Hunter McCleskey also have the ability to score a lot of points.
"I think winning this weekend would give us more confidence moving into the sectionals and state," Beuglas said. "We have won eight tournaments this season and we want another one."
Greater Atlanta Christian will host the Area 6-AA tournament. The Spartans took second at last year's area tournament, falling one point behind Lovett. The two teams went one-two at the area duals last month.
Defending area champs Zach Feuerbach and Caleb Bumpers return for the Spartans. Feuerbach is 52-7 this season, which is the school record for wins. The senior has 34 pins, which is tied with teammate Parker Fair (49-5) for the most in team history.
Buford placed fourth at least year's area tournament and returns defending area and state champion Chip Ness.