WINDER - The Eastside Eagles won their third straight Area 8-AAAA traditional title and claimed five individual area champions in the process Saturday.
"That's awesome. To come out with five area champions, I don't think we've had five area champs in our previous runs," said Eastside head coach Brandon Blakeman. "I'm proud as could be about winning the area title again. It says a lot about the boys. Wanting it again and again, not ever being content with just the one time. Wanting to stake their flag in the ground. I think they did that."
Eastside won the tournament with 240 points, followed by Jackson County (182.50), Dacula (165), Rockdale (148), Alcovy (144.50) and Heritage (136).
Salem finished 10th with 58.50 points.
Picking up their first area championships were Jon Palmer (171-pound weight class) and Ardest Carter (189).
Karl Williams (215) won his second after sitting out last season.
Also winning additional area championship were Joel Stafford (119) and Trevor Bailey (135).
Eastside won five of the eight matches they competed in. The Eagles are sending 10 wrestlers to the Class AAAA state traditional tournament this week.
Of course, not all of Eastside's matches went smoothly.
In the waning seconds of the 189 bout, Carter trailed 6-4 before escaping from Jackson County's Ryan Howe. Carter then scored two points on a takedown to take a 7-6 lead and held on for the win.
After having his hand raised in victory, the Jackson County coaches protested the escape point. Following some deliberations, the referees agreed to take the point away from Carter and end the match in a tie.
But Carter took care of business in sudden death, bringing Howe down for the win.
"They raised my hand, and they're not suppose to go back on it, but they did," Carter said. "I used it all to inspire me, got back in there and did what I had to do."
Eastside was not the only team to come away from the area tournament with individual champions.
Winning for Alcovy were Adam Pollard (130) and Malachi Outlaw (160).
Rockdale and Salem each had one area champion.
Two-time state champion Peter Yates (145) won for Salem, while John Collins (140) won for Rockdale.
In Yates' match, it was like watching a cat toying with a mouse until he was tired of it.
Yates tossed Dacula's John Hall around the mat, racking up points. Yates led 14-0 after the end of the first period before scoring the final point five seconds into the second period for the technical fall.
Finishing second in the area were Eastside's Cody Durden (103), Jamarkus Griggs (112) and Brandon Cole (130), Alcovy's Corey Reid (140), Heritage's John Wigington (160), Rockdale's Luis Ponce (125) and Salem's Sam Ahonen (152).
Besides the area champions and runners-up, third- and fourth-place finishers also will go to state starting Thursday at The Arena at Gwinnett Center in Duluth.
Third place went to Eastside's Michael Green (125) and David Bender (152), Heritage's Cody Shubert (112) and Steven Crawley (119), Alcovy's Travis Knight (135) and Rockdale's Jacob Morris (103).
Earning the final spots for state were Heritage's Raheem Williams (125), Erik Lauritsen (130) and Travis Martin (189), Rockdale's Ahmed Burton (145) and Kafuba Donzon (160), and Alcovy's Jon Seymore (103) and T. C. Jackson (189).
"Our goal was to take more, but everything changes once you get into competition. But with the injuries that we had, I'm happy with it," said Heritage head coach Randy Hooley.
Heritage and Alcovy are each taking six wrestlers to state. Rockdale will take five and Salem two.
Manny Fils can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.