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Eastside freshman steps up in big way

COVINGTON - With four days notice, Eastside freshman Sage Allen went from junior varsity to the No. 2 135-pound wrestler in Class AAA.

After an incident at the Burnt Mountain, Allen was thrown into the spotlight, having to wrestle in the Area 8-AAA traditional duals.

"When we got back to school that Monday of area we said, 'Hey you're wrestling,'" Eastside coach Michael Blakeman said.

"We had confidence in him. We've always known what his abilities are. We knew he was going to be good when he was in middle school."

After taking third at area, Allen qualified for state, finishing seventh in the AAA East Sectional.

Most freshmen might feel a little intimidated being in front of a big crowd, but not Allen. He was able to muster confidence from his teammates and remain calm.

"I was glad I was going to state. I was talking to Joel (Stafford) and he said it would be a good match. I wrestled hard," he said.

His first match at the state level was against No. 2 seed Cesar Santana from Druid Hill.

After beating Santana 15-4, Allen pinned his next two opponents, setting him up in the finals.

"The kids he wrestled up unto the finals weren't as technical, they use more muscle," Blakeman said. "He knows how to approach those matches so he was able to use his techniques and his ability to counter them."

Allen again showed his cool composure, watching match after match waiting for his turn. Of the 14 matches, his was the final one of the night.

"I liked the final match, people thought I was nervous. People were saying I could make it to the finals and that motivated me," Allen said.

Even though Allen was on the mat by himself, he had a lot of help preparing for the matches between area and state.

"I practiced with Dalton (Bragg). He pushed me real hard at practice and talked to me," he said. "He was like, 'you don't know how proud I'd be of you if you placed at state.' I tried as hard as I could."

Making Bragg an even bigger part to Allen's success then a training partner, is the fact that Allen took Bragg's spot on the varsity team.

"Even though (Bragg) was in the situation he was in, a lot of kids would say I don't want to be here. But they're buddies and he did what he had to do to help (Allen) prepare," Blakeman added.

By being able to not break under the lights, Allen played an important part in helping Eastside achieve their second wrestling title.

Allen earned 20 points for the Eagles who beat LaFayette by 15 points, 204.5-189.

"A lot of freshmen get in that position and they get nervous, being in The Arena (at Gwinnett Center) and the big stage. If you take his points away we don't win. Him being able to wrestle smart and not let the pressure of the big stage get to him is huge. He had to do what he needed to do. They all did," Blakeman said, "If any of those 10 not doing what they did, if they had done one match less, there's a great chance we wouldn't have finished the way we did.

"He's much better in the bigger tournaments than he does in the small tournaments. The small tournaments he doesn't take as serious the bigger ones."

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