I have a question for you: What if dreams of greatness and courage were illegal in this world? Well, if that were the case then the 2008 Eastside High traditional wrestling state champions would not only be guilty of such a crime, but they would also be deemed as rugged outlaws.
In reality, this squad has captured the imagination of all those in Covington, reminding them that all things are possible through hard work, sweat, tears, pain, fearlessness and above all, heart.
The Eagles wrestled their way to the top this season with a sense of urgency, making an immediate impact on all of those who have underestimated and dismissed them throughout the years.
When a group of talented wrestlers such as the Eagles come to wrestle, domination is the only thing on their mind. Their record this season of 38-5 overall is mere proof of that.
But Eastside knowingly had unfinished business in Class AAAA action. And the Eagles were determined to complete the journey that was started four years ago. That journey began with head coach Michael Foot-Smith, who took on the task of building a great wrestling program.
Smith-Foot brought along a young coach named Brandon Blakeman and few freshmen wrestlers in the beginning of this construction named Jamarkus Griggs, Ardest Carter, Jon Palmer, Brandon Cole and David Bender.
Along the way came Joel Stafford, Mike Green, Trevor Bailey, Patrick George and Cody Durden, who transferred from Newton High last year. In addition, brothers Dalton and Lincoln Temple and Karl Williams, who returned after recovering from a knee injury, rounded out the band of brothers, vowing to contribute their heart, soul and mind in building a great team.
What Smith-Foot and Blakeman have created in terms of their labor is an incredible program, which took a great deal of sacrifice and dedication from both men for Eastside wrestling to become what it is now.
But let's not get it twisted; this team has had its fair share of heartaches and disappointments along the way, which they have endured together as one. I witnessed this team battle illnesses and injuries for much of the season. I also watched these warriors grunt, claw and ache from every move and counter-move that they distributed and received in order to obtain the victory or loss.
It is apparent that the Eagles practice daily the way they perform on the mat - extremely aggressive yet staying ahead of their opponents mentally at all times. These characteristics are evident of a deeper commitment not only to winning, but also in life and personal achievement.
I learned that wrestling takes power, patience and intelligence. Eastside showed much of that throughout its championship season. As a result, the Eagles have now raised the bar very high. They have left Class AAAA on their own terms and are now gearing toward conquering the AAA classification.
Realizing AAA is no walk in the park either, Eastside will still compete at the highest level since both classifications are just as competitive.
Eastside will have to face Gilmer, the 2008 Class AAA traditional state champions, Henry County and Cass, who share the 2008 AAA duel state championship, Lovett, who won the state duels in 2002 and 2003 and have 11 traditional state titles and Dublin, who won the traditional title in 2002 and the duel title in 2004.
But this type of competition is nothing new to the Eagles. They have trudged through the valley of Class AAAA and emerged as champions. Although they will lose their talented seniors, they will be as strong and unified as ever come next year.
I know that some of you think this is just a phase that Eastside will grow out of. In fact, some will hope the Eagles will not be as successful as they were this season and they will not repeat as champions.
After all, it's a good thing that dreams are not illegal.
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