Eagles send record to state finals
13 Eastside wrestlers qualify at east sectional

McDONOUGH - Eastside's wrestling team set another milestone by sending 13 grapplers to the state meet following the Class AAA East Sectional on Saturday.

"I think for the first time 13 is a lucky number," Eastside coach Brandon Blakeman said. "That's a school record for the amount of kids qualifying (for state). We have 13 kids with the 14th kid as an alternate. He was so close to making it, he was just two seconds away.

"Our goal was to get at least 12, we thought we could. But to get 13 makes me real confident that the kids going to state at Gwinnett can score the points we're going to need in our quest to repeat."

Of the 13, the Eagles are sending eight in the top four spots from the east, including five No. 1's.

Winning the sectional were Cody Durden (112-pound weight class), Joel Stafford (125), Michael Green (130), Trevor Bailey (140) and Jonathan Palmer (160).

Finishing as sectional runners-up were Danny Gatt (119) and Tommy Williams (189), with Dalton Temple (189) coming in fourth.

"It's a great feeling. It shows you how hard these guys have worked," Blakeman said. "My personal opinion is that our sectional is the tougher of the two sectionals. Those kids that finished first or second here really solidified their chance of finishing in the top four at state."

Although finishing in the top four in the sectional is a good feeling for the wrestlers, the real meaning of their accomplishment is that they will wrestle the bottom half of their weight class from the other side.

But with the quality of wrestlers being better in the east, Blakeman said his team will face equally matched opponents at state.

"The kids from our sectional, not just our team but our sectional, who might have finished fifth or sixth will give the other kids that finished one, two, three or four from the other side a real hard time due to how much depth we had," he said.

Eastside heavyweight Phillip King (285) finished in fifth with a pin in sudden death.

Sage Allen (135) came in seventh with Brandon Gatt (103), Jake Malcolm (145) and Jonathan Hilley (152) grabbing the last spot to make it to state.

Even though Lincoln Temple did not finish in the top eight, which would have secured him a trip to the state meet, he is the first alternate for the 215 weight class.

"We did place the most amount of kids and we had the most in the finals. If they kept team points you could say we won it," Blakeman said. "But it's a qualifier and our mission was to come out with at least 12 wrestlers. We got the number we wanted."

Manny Fils can be reached at manny.fils@newtoncitizen.com.