Extra points help Eagles to eighth straight area duals title

DULUTH -- Collins Hill's wrestling team dominated the lower- and middleweight classes, and go just enough from their heavyweights to beat North Gwinnett 43-18 in the finals of the Area 7-AAAAAA meet on Saturday at Duluth High School.

"Everybody, for the most part, had (North) ranked above us," Collins Hill coach Josh Stephen said. "And I knew it was going to be a good dual. They're hungry. ... They're there to win. But I thought our guys did an incredible job top to bottom."

Extra team points from pins by Sean Russell at 120 pounds and Riley Griffin at 138 pounds, combined with technical falls from Cody Russell at 113 and Anthony Codella at 160 and major decisions by Ryan Millhoff at 126, Michael Roquet at 145 and Jimmy Gall at 152 proved decisive in Collins Hill claiming its eighth straight area duals title and earning a spot in next week's Class AAAAAA state duals in Macon.

But while the Eagles didn't win many matches in the upper weight classes, Stephen found those wrestlers' performances just as important in the team's victory.

"We had a lot of unselfish kids that we sent out when they were underdogs," Stephen said. "We won some of those, and we lost by decisions in matches that a lot of folks might have thought we'd (get) pinned. I think we came through and did an awesome job pulling some wins through (in other weight classes) because (North is) a good team. They came to compete."

The competitiveness of Collins Hill heavyweights proved decisive as they held onto a big early lead of 22-6 built up by the wins from Griffin Roquet, Gall and Codella.

It began in the 170-pound match, in which Charles Huff was involved in a big battle with North's Avery Elford, who tied the score at 6-6 with a big takedown in the final minute.

But after two near misses, Huff managed to free himself for a one-point escape just before the final whistle for regulation blew, giving him a 7-6 win and a huge three team points.

North did rally to win the next five matches, with Timi Akinniranye (182), Brett Byerly (195), Jalen Brooks (220) and Alex Stoehr (285) helping pull the Bulldogs back in to the meet at 22-18.

But only Byerly was able to gain a win by pinfall, while Collins Hill's Aubrey Johnson, Kyle Henschel and Palm Anderson were all able to hold their opponents to regulation decisions to keep the Eagles in front.

And with North forced to forfeit the 106-pound match due to an injury, the hole became too big to overcome, especially after Cody Russell and Sean Russell helped slam the door for Collins Hill with their wins.

Despite the loss, North will also advance to the state duals after Peachtree Ridge, which came from behind to defeat Mountain View 37-33 in the third-place match, forfeited the true second-place match due to several injuries suffered throughout the day.

And coach Phil Daniel said his Bulldogs are looking forward to the opportunity to prove itself on the state level.

"It was disappointing," Daniel said of Saturday's loss. "Those kids (at Collins Hill) have won their whole lives. That's a very, very tough program and a very, very tough team. ... They just beat us.

"When you give up (extra) points to a team like that, you can't make it up. (But) our kids fought. I had two kids in the lineup (Saturday) that it was their third and fourth varsity matches. ... I'm glad we're going (to state) and will get some kids to where they need to be weight-wise. I'm proud of my kids."