Rockdale looks for a fast start on the mats

CONYERS - The Rockdale wrestling team is primed and ready for its 2007 campaign.

Rockdale, which returns a handful of grapplers from last season, as well as four state qualifiers, hits the mats for the first time Tuesday night at home.

Rockdale coach Craig Hargrove said he's excited about the opportunities that lie ahead for this year's team.

"As far as talent goes, we're definitely a more talented team this year," Hargrove said.

Luis Ponce, John Collins, Jimmy Brown and Jake Morris all qualified for the state tournament last year and are back on the roster this season.

Also look for Kafuba Donzon, Miseal Najera, Richardson, E.J. Banks and Ahmed Burton to be major contributors this season.

"We definitely have guys that have been around wrestling for awhile. They've put their time in," Hargrove said. "We've got some experienced guys on the team. Still, the guys are going to have to maintain throughout the season and stay on track. It's a long season, and it's important that the guys keep their goals in front of them and be able to endure."

Hargrove said many of his wrestlers have set the goal of advancing or returning to the state tournament, but as a whole, he simply wants his team to reach its full potential.

"As a team, we want to get better every time we get on the mat. Every day, every week and every time we compete, we want to improve," Hargrove said. "We have several guys who have set individual goals to qualify or place at state. We also have a few who have set the goal to be a state champion. We certainly think these things are possible as long as they do the necessary things to reach those goals."

Hargrove said the key to being successful this season involves hard work and dedication.

He also said it's important that his wrestlers don't let their opponents dictate the type of match they wrestle.

"Our guys have got to go out there this year and set the pace. One thing we're working on from last year is not getting down early and having to play catch-up," he said. "They've got to go out there, take charge and set the tempo of the match. We want them to play to their strengths and not wrestle the other guy's kind of match."

Rockdale hits the mats Tuesday night at home against Eagle's Landing and Stone Mountain.

Brandon Evans can be reached at brandon.evans@rockdalecitizen.com.

SideBar: At a glance

Team: Rockdale wrestling

Coach: Craig Hargrove

First match: Tuesday at home