COLLEGE PARK — For the second year in a row, the Eastside wrestling team is headed to the Class AAAA state duals after finishing as the 4-AAAA area runner-ups Saturday at Woodward Academy.
The Eagles defeated Hampton 53-24 in the semifinals before losing to the host War Eagles 62-16 in the finals. Austin Wilson, James Brundage and Seth Martin all went undefeated at area to lead the way for the Eagles.
“We beat a solid Hampton squad in the semis and I thought we wrestled fantastic,” Eastside head coach Earl Larimer said. “Then I was proud of the way we competed against Woodward. With that said, you’re not content if you don’t win it and we’re not happy about getting beat. But I was proud of the kids’ effort. They battled.”
After reaching the team duals last season, the Eagles were quickly eliminated from competition after losing to Central Carrollton in the first round and Chestatee in the wrestlebacks.
With several wrestlers returning to state and mix of first-year wrestlers in the lineup, Larimer is hoping to make more noise this year.
“We got there last year and went 0-2,” Larimer said. “Our goal this year is to be happy and excited to be there, but not to be content. We want to go down there and win some duals and not just be there.”
In order to make the noise Larimer is hoping his team will make, the Eagles will have to get past North Oconee in the first round, Class AAAA’s No. 6 ranked team. The Titans reached the second round of the tournament last season before losing in the second round.
“I have a lot of respect for their coach and their program,” Larimer said of North Oconee. “It’s going to be a battle. They’re a good, solid squad. It’s like what we expect with any team here, if you want a chance to win, you have to bring it. (North Oconee) will be no different. They’re well-coached and a good technical squad. We’re excited about the opportunity.”
After being without standout wrestler Wilson for most of the season, the sophomore is set to compete Thursday morning against the Trojans in what will be a much-needed boost to the Eastside lineup.
“No doubt,” Larimer said. “He’s a guy that got third in state last year. Anytime you can have a guy in the lineup that is that high up in the state, that’s a big piece that helps your team.”
Having a good mix of returning starters and new faces in this year’s lineup is something Larimer hopes will be a driving force for the team when they arrive at the Macon Centreplex early Thursday morning.
“You want to start a culture of guys that have gotten there and expect to get there,” Larimer said. “This is the second year in a row, so it’s good to see guys get back and be able to perform on that state again and see how they grow.”
It’s good to see guys that have never been there get that experience. Once they see the big arena and realize the magnitude, you want the guys to have that experience because it makes them hungry to want to get back.”
Eastside will face off against North Oconee at 9 a.m. on Thursday.