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Rockdale builds on momentum

CONYERS - Rockdale wrestling coach Craig Hargrove is looking forward to next season - and with good reason.

This winter, the Bulldogs will be missing only one wrestler from their 2007-08 lineup, which won the Conyers Cup.

"This past season was an enjoyable season," Hargrove said. "We had several accomplishments that we are proud of, which include winning the county championship, placing fourth at the area (tournament), qualifying five wrestlers for state and having two state placers in Jake Morris, fifth at 103 (pounds), and Luis Ponce, second at 125.

"We want to continue and build upon the successful season we are coming off. As a team, we are looking to win the area and qualify for the state dual tournament (next season)."

The Bulldogs will have a talented lineup back to chase their goals. They only lost one wrestler to graduation - John Collins, an Area 8-AAAA champion at 140 pounds.

"John was a dedicated wrestler who led by example," Hargrove said. "He will be hard to replace."

Ponce, a three-time state qualifier, and Morris, a two-time state qualifier, will lead the Bulldogs in the lighter weights next season.

Also back will be Jimmy Brown, a three-year starter and state qualifier at 171 pounds, and Kafuba Donzon, who qualified for state at 160 pounds.

Hargrove is also looking for good things from Hylan Taylor, E.J. Banks, Joseph Richardson, Miseal Najera, Muhamad Bois and Rashaud Ferrell.

"Our wrestlers put in a tremendous amount of work in the spring. We had a successful freestyle season, having several wrestlers place at local tournaments," Hargrove said. "This summer we are hitting the weight room and staying on the mats working on technique. We also wrestled in several dual tournaments during the month of June.

"Three of our wrestlers have qualified for the junior nationals in July, so we will be working extremely hard to prepare them. This summer and fall we want to get as strong as possible and become better wrestlers, so we can perform at the highest level come (next) February."

Jeff Gillespie can be reached at jeff.gillespie@rockdalecitizen.com.