DULUTH - Salem's Peter Yates and the Eastside Eagles proved they were the best in Class AAAA by winning state championships Saturday in the State Traditional Wrestling Tournament at The Arena at Gwinnett Center.
Yates won his third state championship, this one in the 145-pound weight class, with a 17-0 technical fall over Dacula's John Hall, while Eastside's 10 wrestlers dominated as a team, earning 159 points to claim the Class AAAA team championship.
On his way to his third championship, Yates won three of his matches by pins and the other two by technical falls. Yates did not allow a point to be scored against him and both technical falls were 17-0 wins.
He completed his four years of high school wrestling with a record of 161-1. His only loss was in his sophomore year in a Class AAAA championship match to a four-time state champion.
Yates is the only three-time wrestling state champion in Rockdale County history.
"I knew I had to come out like I do every match and do the same thing. I had a similar outcome (against him in the region tournament) teching in the second period," Yates said. "It feels good to finish off my senior year with a third one, but I'd like it if it was my fourth one."
For the last four years, the Eastside wrestling team has been chasing a state championship, but somehow it's never able to stay on top at the end. The Eagles finished second last year in traditionals, eighth the year before and 17th four years ago. But this year, despite not having any state champions, it was Eastside's year.
The Eagles accumulated 159 points with their closest competitor, Stockbride, finishing second with 129.5 points.
Eastside took 10 wrestlers to state and had seven place.
The Eagles had three runners-up, three fourth-place finishers and one sixth-place finisher.
Making it to the championship round were Jamarkus Griggs (112), Joel Stafford (119) and Trevor Bailey (135). Fourth went to David Bender (152), Ardest Carter (189) and Karl Williams (215). Jon Palmer (171) finished sixth.
"As a coach, my concern is a team as a whole. While we didn't get the individuals, I'll take the overall over the individual titles," Eastside coach Brandon Blakeman said. "But what I'm most proud of is to bring 10 and to place seven; that's an astonishing number. We've never had more than three in a single year and to come away to have the overall just shows you how hard they've worked."
While everyone wants to win the gold, Blakeman learned that what matters is advancing as many wrestlers as possible through the bracket.
Of the three Eastside wrestlers who didn't place, Cody Durden (103) and Michael Green (125) were one win away from the quarterfinals in the consolation bracket while the other, Brandon Cole (130), was two wins away from the consolation quarters.
"Your points don't come from winning those matches, they come from getting there. That just goes to show you the intensity, the drive, the motivation the boys had. Out of every tournament we've ever had, this is probably the best we've ever wrestled," Blakeman said. "My thing is the team and the team accomplished what it set out to do."
Other local standouts included Alcovy's Malachi Outlaw (second at 160) and Adam Pollard (third at 130) and Rockdale's Luis Ponce (second at 125) and Jacob Morris (fifth at 103).
In team scores, Alcovy finished 16th with 69 points, Rockdale was tied with Glynn Academy for 24th with 50 points, Salem, with two wrestlers, finished 28th with 38.5 points and Heritage finished 35th with 25 points.
"Peter's been great the whole time he's been there. All four years he was always somebody I could depend on to be a leader and to win matches for the team. He's going to be sadly missed as are my other seniors," Salem coach Tim Owens said. "I feel bad for Sammy (Ahonen) because he worked so hard this year. He had an extremely tough draw; the weight class was extremely tough. I thought he was going to place. He wrestled his heart out and I'm very proud of everything he's done."
In Class AAAAA wrestling, Newton, which took 11 to state, had 27 points and finished tied for 31st with Redan.
Corey Ware (119) and Michael Fellows (285) advanced the farthest for the Rams. The two were one win away from the consolation quarterfinals, finishing 3-2 for the tournament.
Manny Fils can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.