Phenomenal finish
Eastside takes team title; Rockdale wrestler a champion

DULUTH - It was truly a dream season for the Eastside Eagles wrestling team. Just ask head coach Brandon Blakeman.

However, Eastside was not the only local school to leave the mat at The Arena at Gwinnett Center on Saturday with victories.

Rockdale's Luis Ponce finished a phenomenal senior season with a 50-1 record and a Class AAAA state championship at the 125-pound weight class.

"This is probably our first (state champion) since the early '90's, I think," Rockdale head coach Craig Hargrove said. "(Ponce) had a great senior season. He was very focused, very determined. He's going to do well in the future."

Winning Class AAA state championships for Eastside were Trevor Bailey (140) and Jonathan Palmer (160).

The third Eastside wrestler to win a state championship was Joel Stafford (125), who became the school's first two-time state champion.

"It was a season full of school records. Most area qualifiers, most state qualifiers, 10 state placers and three state champions in a single season," Blakeman said. "The most we ever had was two (state champions) three years ago with Joey Montgomery and Joel Stafford. It's been one of those dream seasons."

As a team, the Eagles scored 204.50 points to claim their second state championship after winning the Class AAAA State Traditional championship last year.

It was a sweet victory for Eastside, beating Lafayette for the championship after losing to them in the Class AAA Team Duals earlier this season.

Lafayette, who won the Class AA Traditional championship last year with 149 points, finished second in AAA this year with 189 points.

"It was close the whole way. But what really helped us was having seven advance to the finals. That was big. They had eight placers, we had 10. Normally, if you have eight placers you're on top," Blakeman said.

"It's an outstanding feeling. It's a completely different group of boys from last year. We had kids that came through for us and were huge all weekend. It was a complete group effort. We had 10 state placers, seven finalists, three state champions and one runner up that was three seconds away."

Coming in second for the Eagles were Cody Durden (112), Danny Gatt (119), Sage Allen and Tommy Williams (189).

Michael Green (130) and Phillip King (285) came in fourth place with Dalton Temple (171) placing sixth.

Joining Ponce on the medal stand were Kafuba Donzon (152-third), Jake Morris (103-fourth) and Lloyd Martell (171-sixth).

"We brought seven and placed four. We had a great tournament," Hargrove said. "We wrestled well and fought hard."

The Alcovy Tigers had three state placers, Adam Pollard (130-second), Malachi Outlaw (152-fourth) and Travis Knight (140-fifth) with Heritage's Billy Abrahamsen (112) placing fifth.

In Class AAAA, Rockdale finished sixth as a team with 70 points followed by Alcovy in 13th (53) and Heritage in 37th (12).

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