LILBURN -- The only question coming into the Area 8-AAAAAA wrestling tournament was not if Archer would win, but how many Tigers would stand on top of the podium.
Archer put all 14 wrestlers in the championship match and finished with 12 gold medals, a feat that impressed a coach that has seen a lot.
"In all the years I was at Parkview and now here, I can't remember having 14 in the finals," said Archer coach and five-time state champion Tom Beuglas. "That was pretty good."
So is his team. Good enough that 12 area champions still didn't meet expectations.
"Our goal coming in was, we wanted 14 champs," Beuglas said. "We were close but we didn't quite get it done."
In a related story, Archer is the overwhelming favorite to win it all in two weeks in Macon. Having all 14 kids with one of the top two seeds in next week's section tournament at Chattahoochee won't hurt.
"That's really cool," said Archer's stud 195-pounder Ernest Alexander. "Every tournament we've gone to we've had almost everyone in the finals, so it makes you think 'oh I can't lose because my teammates are winning.'"
Alexander hasn't lost all season and his buddies only lost twice Saturday.
The dual meet state champs finished with 275.5 points to win their second straight area title, followed by Brookwood (152 points) and Parkview (121.5).
The Tigers piled up a lot of those points with pins. Of the 36 matches Archer wrestled in, 23 were decided with the other guy on his back.
Daniel Bullard (138 pounds). Zach Wright (152), Elliot Lee (170) and Hunter McCleskey (220) won all of their matches with pins. McCleskey only wrestled 2:53 to get his three wins.
"He's usually a pinner," said Beuglas. "When he wins, he wins by pin."
But McCleskey's performance -- and that of Bullard, Wright and Lee -- was not good enough to be named the tournament's Most Outstanding Wrestler.
Neither was Archer's defending state champ Alexander. Alexander pinned his first two guys and beat Parvkiew's Harrison Schmid 6-3 in the finals to capture another area championship.
"I'm not planning on losing this season," said Alexander, who is 48-0. "I feel great about (state) and our team I feel really great about."
Part of the reason Alexander -- and most everyone else -- feels great about Archer's chances is its lightweights. Vinny Artigues (106), DaQuan Olbert (113), Sam Bullard (120) and Grant Aycox (126) were never really challenged on their way to the top step of the medal stand. But none of them were picked as the tournament's best.
Neither was their teammate Robby Kwarteng. He weighs 165 pounds, but wrestled at 182 pounds and went 3-0.
Archer's heavyweight M.J. Couzan won a title with a pin and a 13-1 blowout. Chris Diaz also had a pin in his two wins at 132 pounds. But they weren't named the best either.
Instead that honor went to Central Gwinnett's Leivon Lewis. The 145-pound junior is the top wrestler in his weight class and proved it with a 7-3 win over Archer's Thomas Bullard in the finals. That win brought one of the loudest ovations from the Central Gwinnett and non-Archer crowd.
"It was a surprise," said Lewis (35-1) on taking the tournament's top individual honor. "I didn't really perform like everyone else. But I got it."
Beuglas wasn't as surprised. In fact he warned his kids before the announcement came that this might happen.
"I told my kids 'don't get upset, I've seen it happen like this before," said Beuglas.
Naturally his vote was for Alexander.
"He's 48-0 this year. That's pretty outstanding."
Lewis took fourth in state last year and couldn't feel any better about his chances to win the state title."It's looking pretty good right now," said Lewis. "I'm dreaming about it. This is the first step."
Parkview's Khalil Abdush-Shakur was the other non-Tiger to win an Area crown. Abdush-Shakur is also the top-ranked wrestler in his weight class. He took down Archer's Orlando Nawade with less than a minute left and held off several escape and reversal attempts to take the crown.
"That's the sign of a champion who can find those two points at the end of the match and holds on," said Parkview head coach Josh Porter. "He deserves everything he gets. I think he can (win state). He's going to be awful hard to beat."
Now the focus shifts to the Chattahooche and the sectional tournament where the top four seeds from Area's 2, 4, 6, and 8 will fight for one of eight spots in the state tournament in Macon in two weeks.
Guess who is feeling no pressure.
"We got four ninth graders and three sophomores and they don't know any different," said Beuglas. "To them this is fun. I told them after we won the duals 'that takes a lot of the pressure off, but it will hurt if you don't win the last one,'"
"It's a very difficult thing to get 14 kids in the finals and they should be commended for that," said Porter. "It will be tough, the rest of the state will gunning for them so they will have that bull's-eye on their back. But with how well they wrestle I think they can get it done."