MADISON - The Eastside wrestling team had eight area champions, four runner-ups and two third place winners while cruising to their second traditional area championship Saturday.
All 14 of the Eagles' wrestlers will advance to Class AAA East State Sectional on Friday and Saturday at Eagle's Landing High School.
"It was a great day. Last year, we had six or seven area champions. You have to realize that some of these kids had never been to area," Eastside coach Brandon Blakeman said. "We knew what we had and what they were capable of doing. But we had all these questions of how they would perform having never been on this stage before. They did a great job."
The Eagles won the Area 8-AAA traditional championship beating out their closest competitor, Oconee County, 2951/2 to 214.
Eastside won the Area 8-AAAA traditional championship last year and for the fourth year they also hold the area team duals championship and the traditional championship at the same time.
"I give this to the seniors. They came in as freshmen and won the first area title, both dual and traditional," Blakeman said. "They established a tradition of winning and they wanted to go out that way."
This is also the first year the Eagles are getting out of an area tournament with all 14 wrestlers advancing.
Winning Area 8-AAA championships were Danny Gatt (119 pounds), Joel Stafford (125), Michael Green (130), Trevor Bailey (140), Jake Malcolm (145), Jonathan Palmer (160), Dalton Temple (171) and Phillip King (285).
Going to Class AAA sectional after runner-up finishes are Brandon Gatt (103), Cody Durden (112), Tommy Williams (189) and Lincoln Temple (215). Sage Allen (135) and Jonathan Hilley (152) both finished in third.
"That's something that we thought we could do but you never know. I knew we would have a large group that was capable of getting that far," Blakeman said. "I'm very excited."
Making it even harder is the fact that the Eagles had a bull's eye on their backs as everyone was targeting them. Whenever an Eastside wrestler lost, which was not often, the other wresters would come by and congratulate the victors.
However, Blakeman knows that it's all part of the sport.
"To a certain extent that's to be expected," he said. "When you've won and won and won and you're the top team, people do celebrate when they beat you, but nobody was over the top. It was all in good taste."
Manny Fils can be reached at email@example.com.