MACON - The Eastside Eagles are just one match away from winning their first-ever state dual championship.
Eastside faces LaFayette today at 7:45 p.m. in the Class AAA finals.
The Eagles have been here before as they wrestled for the Class AAAA championship last year against Rome. Unfortunately for the Eagles, they took the match a little too lightly and ended up losing. This time, however, they seemed to have learned their lesson.
"We're more prepared. Everyone knows the job is not done. We're getting ready for (today). We're not celebrating. We'll celebrate (today). Last year was a first-time experience," Eastside coach Brandon Blakeman said. "Now the guys have worked hard and I don't think they'll have as much nerves as they have in the past."
Eastside started the duals beating Heritage (Catoosa) 39-36 before beating West Laurens 56-18 in the quarterfinals and West Forsyth 54-16 in the semifinals.
Rockdale had a chance to battle for the Class AAAA championship, beating Rome 51-19 and Hardaway 39-30. However, the Bulldogs were unable to make it three in a row losing to Whitewater 39-26.
Alcovy and Newton each went 1-1, winning their opening bouts but losing in the next round.
Alcovy beat Hephzibah 44-33 before losing to Whitewater 51-21 in Class AAAA action.
In Class AAAAA, Newton crushed Lovejoy 61-16 before losing to Class AAAAA No. 1-ranked Collins Hill.
Eastside trailed Heritage (Catoosa) 36-33 with the entire match depending on Trevor Bailey at the 140-pound weight class.
Bailey showed that he was able to handle the pressure, pinning his opponent and keeping Eastside in the championship hunt.
"I don't think we overlooked Heritage. But what we showed ourselves is that we have the fortitude to fight back," Blakeman said.
Eastside led West Laurens 6-3 but was on the verge of losing the lead at 215.
Trailing 8-2 late in the third period, Lincoln Temple was able to get a reversal and a pin to not only win the match but also change the momentum.
"Our point was let's hope he doesn't get pinned so we could keep the score close. When he threw the kid and stuck him, we gained the momentum," Blakeman said. "It really fired everybody up, plus I could tell what it did to the other team. We took the fight out of them."
In the semifinals against West Forsyth, Eastside trailed 10-5 before wins by Brandon Gatt (103) and Cody Durden (112) put the Eagles up for good.
Eastside's Joel Stafford (125) was a perfect 3-0 with all his wins coming on pins. Also going 3-0 with two pins were Danny Gatt (119) and Durden.
Rockdale's bout against Hardway went right down to the final match with Kafuba Donzon (160) winning his match to send the Bulldogs to the semifinals.
However, they were unable to do much against Whitewater.
"They were better then us. There were some matches that could've gone our way but it didn't happen," Rockdale coach Craig Hargrove said. "I told them the tournament is not over. We just have to win one in order get to wrestle for third."
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