Eagles want to reclaim dual state title

By Collins Hill's standards, last season was a down year.

The Eagles lost in the championship of the dual state tournament by one point, ending their run of four straight titles.

While they rallied to win the traditional state championship a month later, that loss in the dual finals still lingers.

The Eagles will get their chance for redemption this weekend.

Collins Hill heads to Macon this weekend for the Class AAAAAA dual state championship with only one goal -- a state crown.

"We want to win it really bad," Collins Hill coach Josh Stephen said. "It was a tough pill to swallow last year with Camden."

Collins Hill is one of four Gwinnett County teams in the tournament along with Archer, Brookwood and North Gwinnett.

When the Eagles won their four straight dual state titles, they were the favorite every year. That's not the case this season. Fourth-year program Archer, which is seeded No. 1, is the favorite.

"It's a different role for us to be more an underdog," Stephen said. "I think people are excited to have Archer be strong this year."

The Eagles spent the first half of the season traveling the country facing some of the nation's top wrestlers and teams. When they returned for the Kyle Maynard Duals in December, they were shocked with a loss to Class AA's Bremen.

But they showed they were still title contenders at the Area 7-AAAAAA duals by beating a very good North Gwinnett team 43-18. Cody and Sean Russell and Ryan Millhof have been Collins Hill's top wrestlers this year. But Griffin Riley, Michael Roquet, Jimmy Gall, Anthony Codella and Charles Huff have filled in the lineup nicely.

"With everyone not expecting us to win, we are ready to go down there and win it again," Stephen said.

It won't be an easy road to the championship. Collins Hill wrestles Marietta in the opener and then the Alcovy vs. Wheeler winner in second round. They could face Camden in the semifinals and try to redeem last year's 28-27 loss on the tie-breaker criteria of pins.

"It's what we kind of expected," Stephen said. "We want to hit Camden, especially after last year. It will be a good dual. But we're not looking past anybody."

A win over Camden would likely set a championship match against Archer. There hasn't been an all-Gwinnett final since 2006 when Parkview and Collins Hill met in the championship three years in a row. In the 11-year history of the tournament, a Gwinnett team has won it seven times. Parkview won the state title in 2004 and 2006 when Archer head coach Tom Beuglas was the coach for the Panthers and Archer assistant Kyle McKee was the captain for the '04 team.

"There are quite a few good teams, and we are not going to overlook anyone, but I think the three teams to beat are us, Camden and Collins Hill," Beuglas said.

Archer is 25-0 in duals this season and has won nine of 10 tournaments. The dual record includes a 39-20 win over defending state champion Camden in December.

No school has won a state wrestling title in its fourth year of existence in the highest classification, which is something Archer is trying to do this year. They were third at last year's state duals.

"We have won nine tournaments this season, we are 25-0 in duals and ranked No. 1," Beuglas said. "Whether we win or not, the season still has five weeks left, and the kids have individual goals, but we are going down there to win."

The Tigers are led by state champion Ernest Alexander, Hunter McCleskey, DaQuan Olbert, Zach Wright, M.J. Couzan and Sam Bullard.

North Gwinnett is in the state tournament for the second time in three years. Brookwood is making its third appearance in four years. The Broncos placed sixth last season, the highest finish in school history.