ATHENS - Who's next?
Perhaps that should be the new slogan for Rockdale wrestling after defeating Loganville 40-25 to win the Area 8-AAAA duals Saturday afternoon at Clarke Central High School.
Futhermore, it was a first in school history.
"I'm just excited for these guys," Rockdale coach Craig Hargrove said. "I knew these guys could do it. I'm so proud; they definitely put the work into it."
Heritage took fourth place after falling to Habersham Central 39-36 in the consolation match, while Salem lost to Clarke Central 66-5.
The Bulldogs advance to the state team duals next weekend in Macon.
"These guys support each other," Hargrove said. "They see each other during the spring, during the summer, and at each other's houses working out, and it pays off."
But the glistening hardware did not come easy.
Earlier Saturday, Rockdale battled neighboring foe Heritage, winning 56-17 in the semifinals to advance to the championship.
"Of course, any time you're going against a crosstown rival, there's a lot at stake,"
Hargrove said. "But more importantly the guys knew they (made) it to the finals - that was really what they were wrestling for. Everybody knew what was at stake and everybody wrestled at their best."
Nevertheless, the Patriots walked off the mat with a trophy of their own.
"We're young, so we're going to make mistakes," Heritage coach Randy Hooley said. "They'll fight to the end, but we'll come back strong. For the most part, I'm pleased. There are some letdowns, but that's just because of the immaturity that I've got grade-level and age-wise with wrestling."
Indeed, the Patriots did bounce back, topping Clarke Central 50-18 before bowing to Habersham Central. Heritage's Dalton Heath (275 pounds) and Billy Abrahamsen (122) each recorded pins.
"It's just a very competitive match every time," Rockdale's Jimmy Brown said. "Heritage is a very big rival for us across the town in Conyers. We're always big rivals, so we just like to show it up big."
The Bulldogs recorded seven pins to zero against the Patriots.
"(This) boosts our confidence a lot," Rockdale's Muhamad Bois said. "We didn't know what we were going to go in there with, but we came out strong."
Against Loganville, Brown recorded a pin to put Rockdale up 15-0 in one of three exhilarating matches.
The other two included a last-second strenuous burst by Rockdale's Kafuba Donzon (160) and an overtime victory by Lloyd Martell (189).
Excluding forfeits, Rockdale won eight of 11 matches to secure the title.
"We came out strong, well-rested and ready to wrestle this morning," Donzon said. "Everybody had the same mentality - to go out there and wrestle and win. It felt good."
Rockdale recorded three pins in the championship bout from Brown (171), Grady Jarrett (285) and freshman Jose Robledo (125).
"Well, I told the guys look, we're going to enjoy this because you deserve it, but they're ready for next week," Hargrove said. "There are some things that we do need to work on, so Monday we just go back to work. We'll enjoy (it) this weekend, get rested up and get ready for Macon."
Jason Murdock can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.