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Eagles pumped to defend state wrestling title

Since Camden County finished ahead of Collins Hill at a tournament earlier this year, many have wondered if the Eagles are still the best team in Class AAAAA.

Collins Hill heads into this weekend's dual state championships ready to show it's still the top team in the state. The Eagles have won the last four Class AAAAA dual state titles, but Camden stands in the way of a fifth straight crown.

"I've waited for this week ever since the Cougar Invitational," Collins Hill coach Josh Stephen said. "We wanted to get to this point. This is what matters, winning a state title."

Collins Hill will face Brookwood in the first round. The Broncos were the runner-up in Area 8-AAAAA to qualify for the state duals for the second time in three years and fourth time overall.

Camden finished ahead of Collins Hill at the Cougar Invitational in Plant City, Fla., on Dec. 3. The tournament was a traditional style format and Collins Hill was without two of its best wrestlers.

This weekend's dual state tournament is a different format, but Collins Hill is still excited to see the Wildcats in the tourney.

"They are a good program and have great coaches," Stephen said. "Once we get out there and wrestle, I'd like to show our dominance and that it's not as close as people think."

Camden County is ranked No. 24 in the nation by Amateur Wrestling News, while Collins Hill is right behind them at No. 25.

"I've used that with the rankings to motivate the kids," Stephen said. "To me, it's the chance for us to show we're a solid program."

Collins Hill features a lineup that could produce seven state champions later this season. The Eagles are led by sophomore standouts Sean Russell and Ryan Millhof, two-time state runner-up Spencer Rickman and 2010 state champ Drew Ferguson-Mitchell.

Andrew Krawulski, who was the team's only placer at the prestigious Ironman tournament, Matthew Connell and Steven Bradtmueller, who has fought injuries, add firepower to the lineup.

"They have been our anchors," Stephen said.

Camden's biggest roadblock to the state finals will be Archer. The third-year program has emerged as one of the state's best. The Tigers captured the Area 8-AAAAA title by beating Brookwood. Archer is 28-3 this season, which includes a 66-12 loss to Collins Hill.

"I haven't seen Camden this year, but if what everyone is saying is true, it's two-horse race," Archer coach Tom Beuglas said. "Last year we made it to the semifinals and then struggled. If we can get a trophy, I'd be happy."

Peachtree Ridge is the fourth team from Gwinnett in the Class AAAAA tournament. The Lions will face Harrison in the first round.

In the Class AA state tournament, Greater Atlanta Christian has qualified for the second straight year. The Spartans were the No. 1 seed in the Area 6-AA duals and lost to Lovett in the finals. The defeat was costly since GAC will have to face AA power Jefferson in the first round for the second year in a row.

The Dragons, who are ranked No. 40 in the nation, have the state's top program in the smaller classification, winning 10 straight dual state championships.