COVINGTON - The Eastside wrestling team will try to establish itself as an Area 8-AAAA dynasty this weekend in Athens as the Eagles take aim at their third straight area duals wrestling title.
The Eagles are fresh off back-to-back area duals titles and have steamrolled through the competition this season, earning a No. 1 seed in this year's tournament, which begins today at Clarke Central High School.
Eastside coach Brandon Blakeman said there's nothing that he and his grapplers would like more than to win a third straight area duals title, but he knows the road will not be an easy one.
"I expect great competition," Blakeman said. "I know that our area has improved over the last two years. Our area is consistently getting better and better. Our main objective is to keep our focus. When you get used to being on top, you kind of relax a little bit, and that's when those hungry teams can come in and bite you. You've got to go out every time and prove that you're a champion."
Alcovy coach Mike Mostek has led his team to a No. 4 seed this season, but he still feels like Eastside is the team to beat.
"I think the favorite is definitely Eastside," Mostek said. "As far as our team, we got the No. 4 seed going in, so we've got Cedar Shoals in the first round tomorrow, and I feel confident about that. Going into the quarterfinals, we'll be looking at Loganville and I think that'll be a challenge for us. We're going to have to be ready to go. There are 7 to 8 teams that could come out and get that No. 2 seed. It just depends on who steps up."
Alcovy's program has been on the move this season. The Tigers entered the area duals as a No. 11 seed last year, but have earned a No. 4 seed this season.
"I definitely like our chances better this year than last year," Mostek said. "I think we've got a stronger team. We were a first-year program last year, so I definitely like our chances better this year."
Meanwhile, Heritage earned a No. 6 seed and will take on Winder-Barrow today in its first-round matchup.
"Staying healthy will be the key," Heritage coach Randy Hooley said. "We're kind of battered up after last week's tournament."
Heritage took 10th at the Wildcat Invitational in Valdosta last weekend.
"The tournament was filled with many previous state qualifiers and was a great warm-up for the area duals," Hooley said. "This was the type of tournament that we needed to get ready for the area duals. We got our eyes opened with the size and the different styles of wrestling that the southern wrestlers possess. Since our team has gotten back to practice, they have been more focused than ever."
Rockdale coach Craig Hargrove also knows his team will have to bring its 'A' game if they are to get one of the two state bids up for grabs.
"It's going to be tough. Right out of the gates, it's going to be a dogfight," Hargrove said. "All the teams are competitive, so it should be a great weekend to wrestle."
The Bulldogs earned a No. 8 seed and will take on Habersham Central today. If they advance, they will face Eastside in the second round.
Brandon Evans can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.
SideBar: If You Go
What: Area 8-AAAA team duals
Who: Alcovy, Eastside, Heritage, Rockdale and Salem wrestling teams
Where: Clarke Central High School, Athens