DULUTH - Today could be the day that dreams come true as six local wrestlers vie for a state championship while the Eastside Eagles go for the elusive team championship at The Arena at Gwinnett Center.
The championship matches begin at 7 p.m.
The Eagles have three grapplers in the finals as Salem, Alcovy and Rockdale have one each.
Eastside has three wrestlers going for the top spot. Jamarkus Griggs (112 pounds) and Trevor Bailey (135) seek their first championship. Joel Stafford (119) is hoping to make it two in a row.
"I feel great about that," said Eastside head coach Brandon Blakeman. "Last year, we had two; the year before that, we had one. This year has gone beyond anything that we've ever done as a program. We've never had three in the final. In the last day we had eight in the quarters and we still have two one match away from third. We're where we want to be; we've done an outstanding job so far."
What gives the three Eastside wrestlers a good chance at winning is that they've gone up against their opponents before.
Griggs is facing Dacula's Frankie Miller, and Stafford faces Dacula's Noah Hart. Bailey is going to meet up with Ringgold's Zach Hopkins. In the team duals, Bailey lost to Hopkins by pin even though Bailey led the point total.
"Their chances are as good as they could be; they're going to be good matches," Blakeman said. "They've all wrestled before. Trevor wrestled (Hopkins) at team state. He was trying to pin the kid and that's not his style."
Peter Yates (145) cruised through the quarterfinals and semifinals with a 17-0 technical pin and 38-second pin to get a chance to match up against Dacula's John Hall. The senior from Salem will be going for his third state title.
In the area tournament, Yates beat Hall with a technical pin five seconds into the second period after taking a 14-0 lead in the first two minutes.
While it is sometimes easier to wrestle an opponent the second time around, Salem head coach Tim Owens said it shouldn't give Hall much of an advantage against Yates.
"The kid from Dacula is tough, but Peter has so many weapons," Owens said. "He can't read Peter. All he'll know is that Peter is going to pressure him the whole time he's on the mat. Whether its trying to pin him or just going for back points, Peter will pressure him."
Rockdale's Luis Ponce (125) beat Kevin Ulmer of Effingham County in the semis to get a chance to go up against Woodland's Ben Lensiak.
Malachi Outlaw came back from a 6-2 deficit to beat Woodland's Colton Lemon with a takedown in the final moments of their match for an 8-6 win. With the win, Outlaw has a chance to be the best 160-pounder in Class AAAA if he can beat Whitewater's Chase Penland.
As only a few can go for the top, there are quite a few more with a chance to show their talents on the final day.
Rockdale's Jacob Morris (103), Alcovy's Adam Pollard (130), Eastside's Ardest Carter (189) and Eastside's Karl Williams (215) are two wins away from getting third place in the consolation semifinals.
Starting the day with one win to get to the quarterfinals at 103 are Alcovy's Jon Seymore and Eastside's Cody Durden. Heritage's Cody Shubert is wrestling at 112 while Alcovy's Corey Reid and Rockdale's John Collins are at 140.
A win by Salem's Sam Ahonen and Eastside's David Bender will pit the two against each other in the quarterfinals at 152, while Eastside's Jon Palmer is competing at 171.
While Blakeman is happy to get three wrestlers in the championship match, he knows that the other matches are just as important to accumulate team points.
"Having those three advance (to the championship finals) should certainly help," he said. "The two teams below us didn't have as many advance as we did. But we have to watch out for the wrestle-backs, they could pick up a lot of points there.
"We need to do our job with our guys and hopefully we'll get some of their guys knocked out. But that's not up to us unless they run into them head to head."
Prior to the semifinals, Eastside had a 121/2-point lead over Northwest Whitfield, 98 to 85.5, with Stockbridge in third place with 80 points.
Manny Fils can be reached at email@example.com.
112: Jamarkus Griggs (Eastside) vs. Frankie Miller (Dacula)
119: Joel Stafford (Eastside) vs. Noah Hart (Dacula)
125: Luis Ponce (Rockdale) vs. Ben Lensiak (Jackson County)
135: Trevor Bailey (Eastside) vs. Zach Hopkins (Ringgold)
145: Peter Yates (Salem) vs. John Hall (Dacula)
160: Malachi Outlaw (Alcovy) vs. Chase Penland (Whitewater)