MACON - For the second year in a row, the Eastside wrestling team made it to the championship round but could not bring home the gold in the state dual championships on Saturday at the Macon Centreplex.
Eastside lost a close 31-30 match after LaFayette was awarded the point following a 30-30 tie after the 14 matches.
Winning for Eastside were Trevor Bailey (140 pounds), Tommy Williams (189), Lincoln Temple (215), Brandon Gatt (103), Cody Durden (112), Danny Gatt (119), Joel Stafford (125) and Michael Green (130).
The Eagles technically won nine of the 14 matches but had a decision reversed for a called illegal move that was not illegal. They also lost a team point for unsportsmanlike conduct.
"You hate to see a match like that be decided by a call here and there. To me, the wrestling should decide it," Eastside coach Brandon Blakeman said. "It just should be left on the mat. To have it come down to someone's judgment or personal decision, that's tough.
"I'm not disappointed in the boys whatsoever. They wrestled the best as a team I've ever seen them wrestle. I'm disappointed in the outcome but not what any of the boys did. Even though we lost, in my opinion, we showed everyone we're the best team in AAA."
It did not look good for the Eagles as they trailed 24-3 after the first six matches.
Bailey provided Eastside's only points in his 3-2 decision.
Eastside had a chance to win another match and not get pinned in another, but mental mistakes allowed the Ramblers to take advantage of the situation.
"We have to cut out the mental mistakes," Blakeman said. "We need to understand that when you're winning late (in a match), they have to come to you, they have to score. When you're up, you make them work, you don't need to force it."
Eastside started its comeback when Williams made it 24-6 with a 7-2 win before Temple pulled out a surprising win for the second time in the tournament.
Trailing 5-1 late in the third period, Temple was able to get out from under his opponent in the blink of an eye and get the pin, making the score 24-12.
After being given the match at 285, LaFayette extended its lead to 30-12 before Eastside won the final five bouts.
"I told them that was the greatest comeback I've ever seen. I couldn't be more proud of them, even if they had won," Blakeman said. "To be down like that and keep their composure and not fold like a lot of teams in that situation, it was something."
Both Gatt brothers and Durden won their matches to make it 30-21 with two matches left after the team point deduction.
Following Stafford's pin, Eastside needed a major decision, a technical pin or a fall to win the championship.
However, LaFayette's Zeth Taylor held on, refusing to let Green accumulate enough points to give Eastside the title.
Even after Eastside's Green was given a point for stalling by Taylor, the LaFayette wrestler managed enough action to prevent himself from being disqualified.
"It's not necessarily dirty, you want to see the wrestling decide the outcome," Blakeman said. "But when you're talking about a state championship on the line, you're going to do whatever you need to do to win it. If it were one of my boys in that position, I would not be above it to tell him to do the same thing because it's not illegal per se. Some people do frown at stalling, but in that situation, you do whatever you can to win a state championship. It's not your typical match.
"My hat's off to LaFayette, that's one of the better teams we've seen all season. I was impressed with the intensity they brought back to the mat early when they took their lead. It was a heated situation, but it had nothing to do with the two teams or the coaches. They were a class act, and I appreciate the opportunity to get out there and wrestle them. I hope we see them again."
Manny Fils can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.