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Rockdale on mission for state crown

CONYERS - For the Rockdale wrestling squad, the magical run continues as it prepares for the Class AAAA dual championship Friday in Macon at the Macon Centreplex.

It comes on the heels of winning the Area 8-AAAA duals Saturday, a first in Rockdale history.

As a result, the Bulldogs (27-5 overall) are ranked No. 2 in the Georgia Coaches Wrestling Poll.

"Sunday was nice just to have that day off and have that time off to kind of reflect," Rockdale coach Craig Hargrove said.

But it was short-lived, because the fourth-year coach and his staff were soon manning the phones attempting to figure out what they needed to work on against their first-round opponent, ninth-ranked Rome.

"We're at the state tournament now, so everybody's tough," Hargrove said, "but for a first-round draw, yeah, it's going to be a tough one.

"Practice went well (Monday)," he said, regarding the two-hour drill. "We focused on some areas that we needed to work on. We just need to keep working on wrestling our type of match and keep them in a really good state of mind this week."

And the mind-set will remain the same as it has throughout the season for Rockdale - focus on doing the right things, wrestling one match at a time and taking care of business.

"When you look at one team, you look at their lineup and our lineup and you think these are the swing matches that could go either way," Hargrove said. "It's a team effort because those are the important ones; it's different with everyone you face."

If there were any cause for concern for Rockdale, it would be three of its five losses coming within the past 11 days.

However, grapplers Jimmy Brown (171 pounds), Kafuba Donzon (160), Jake Morris (103/112) and Luis Ponce (125/130) have no intentions of continuing that trend.

In addition, E.J. Banks (145), Muhamad Bois (152), Darryl Brakefield (140), Rashaud Ferrel (189), Lloyd Martell (189/215) and Hylan Taylor (119) have made vast contributions on the mat.

"I'm definitely proud of the seniors - I'm proud of the job that all of the guys have done," Hargrove said. "They do want to be successful, and they've done the right things to be successful and put them in a position to win."

First-year wrestlers Eddy Francis (135), Grady Jarrett (285), Jose Robledo (125) and James Toole (215) round out the rest of the squad. Each has also helped put Rockdale in its current position.

The Bulldogs will head to Macon at noon Thursday, where they will have a light workout prior to an open match at 4 p.m. Weigh-in is at 6 p.m.

Opening ceremonies start at 8:30 a.m. Friday, followed by the first-round matchups at 10:30 a.m.

"This is a chance for Rockdale to prove itself wrestling in the state tournament," Hargrove said. "Since they've had the state duals, Rockdale's never been. That in itself is great, but these kids want to win it.

"If we can go down there and wrestle like we're capable of, there's no reason that couldn't happen."

Jason Murdock can be reached at jason.murdock@rockdalecitizen.com.