February means championship season for winter sports across the state of Georgia, and action is heating up on the mats as the 2011 GHSA Traditional Wrestling State Championships take place at the Arena at Gwinnett this weekend to decide the individual and team championships. Dozens of individuals have battled their way through area and sectional qualification to book their spots in the state brackets, and now it’s time for them to give it their all in search of coveted state titles for their respective schools.
A FIGHTING CHANCE …
Wesleyan and Holy Innocents’ will be looking to unseat Bremen at the top of the Class A heap. The Wolves return five point-scorers from the 2010 event. Wesleyan relies upon Zack Rindik (125), Brent Hornbuckle (140) and Kevin Brou (285) while Holy Innocents’ could enter the mix if Wes Fanning (130), Jason Grimes (152) and Lee Davis (160) turn in standout performances.
Although his Westminster team and other Metro Atlanta schools—including a dangerous Lovett squad—are looking up at Jefferson and Sonoraville in Class 2A, Sam Bondurant has his sights set on a strong showing at 145. Bondurant is the Wildcats’ lone area winner this season, as he defeated Lovett rival Connor Johnson in the 6-AA Area Championship. As a senior, Bondurant knows what it takes to win both individual and team state championships.
“The goal is always to qualify as many guys as possible to maximize your chances of getting points,” Bondurant explained. “Once you get to state, it’s all about mental toughness. If you wrestle with the willpower of knowing that it’s ‘lose and you go home,’ you can usually find a way to get the job done.”
In Class 3A, Henry County, Woodward and Locust Grove all have the potential to claim a title in what could be the most wide-open classification in Georgia.
In 4A, Ringgold has claimed three Duals titles since 2002 and four Traditional titles in five years since 2002, but the school since has dropped down to 3A. Looking to become new dynasties, Loganville and Alexander have appeared on the scene recently, each claiming a title last season while Whitewater and Effingham County claimed the top prizes in 2009.
WHERE EAGLES SOAR …
In the highest classification, the Collins Hill Eagles have been on top dating back to 2002. Former coach Cliff Ramos got the ball rolling and current coach Josh Stephen has taken the baton and is galloping with it in his first year in charge.
“I feel the same as I did last year except I carry more responsibility to continue the success,” says Stephen, who served as an assistant before becoming the head coach. “Any coach that cares about what he’s doing is going to put pressure on themselves to win.”
Collins Hill recently won its seventh straight Traditional Area 7-AAAAA title and in the process, qualified all 14 of its wrestlers for the state sectionals. “I feel like all 14 can do big things at the end of the season,” said Stephen. “They are all capable.”
The Eagles have been steeled for competition by engaging in a national schedule with a target on their backs. “We as a coaching staff are constantly reminding them that there is a target and we are going to get the best from our opponents,” Stephen acknowledges. “I have always been a huge advocate for wrestling the toughest schedule you can.”
The Eagles’ head coach says he teaches his team that there is always someone that can beat them and it is the losses that make teams better. “I prepare my team to be the best in the country. If you do that, then state will take care of itself.”