On Tuesday, the Alcovy wrestling squad hosted Eastside and Winder-Barrow for a hotly contested region matchup.
But despite home advantage, the Eagles (17-1 overall, 6-0 area) left the mat with two victories, ousting the Tigers 38-31 and crushing the Bulldogs 66-18.
"Alcovy (has) come a long way," said Eastside head coach Brandon Blakeman. "We knew that they would be tough; hats off to them. They have started a good program and that is good for the county as a whole."
The Tigers (17-1) took charge of a very inexperienced Winder-Barrow team, winning 58-12.
The top wrestlers for Alcovy were sophomore Zach Watota and senior Corey Reid. Watota defeated Jake Bergen with a pin in the 112-pound weight class, while Reid (140) had the quickest pin of the meet against Zachary Gutierrez (three seconds in the first period).
Eastside, ranked No. 2 in Class AAAA, also dominated the Bulldoggs by a score of 66-18. The victory comes after placing third at the Tiger Duels Classic in Stockbridge last weekend.
Standout performers for the Eagles were sophomores Dalton Temple and Dalton Bragg. Temple defeated Richard Cox in the 171-pound weight class, while Bragg (140) defeated Gutierrez.
Following the matches, it was then time for Eastside and Alcovy to hit the mat against each other. The two talented teams with the best records in Region 8-AAAA went the distances for much of the evening.
"Our guys, being a second-year program, have learned that they can compete against top notch programs," said Alcovy head coach Mike Mostek. "This is the first team we have wrestled that is ranked in the top 10. I felt that my guys gained a lot of confidence from tonight after this matchup."
In the heavyweight division, Alcovy's upperclassmen David Jones (285) pinned Tim Smith, while T.C. Jackson (215) defeated Lincoln Temple to start things off on the right foot for the Tigers.
Unlike Alcovy, the Eagles have had problems with its heavyweight class for much of the season after losing their best contender, Phillip King. However, Blakeman has addressed the situation, and the Eagles are hoping to have Carl Williams - who sat out last year due to injury - back in the lineup soon.
"(Carl) will add some strength to the lineup," admitted Blakeman.
Alcovy junior Malachi Outlaw next defeated Temple during the 160-pound class, while Reid pinned Bragg in the 140-pound division to keep the scoring close for the Tigers.
"Malachi has an extreme amount of talent," praised Mostek. "He needs to work a little bit in a few areas, but by the time the state tournament rolls around he will be ready."
Trailing behind in points, Eastside picked up the pace later during the meet.
Eastside junior Cody Durden defeated Jon Seymore in the 103-pound weight class, while Trevor Bailey defeated Travis Knight in the 135-pound class. Both wins came by way of major points.
Danny Gatt, who wrestled as a substitute for senior Jam Griggs at 112 pounds, also earned his win against Watota by major points.
"(Gatt) is young and has a lot to learn about positioning," said Blakeman. "He is a very capable backup if we need him, and we will definitely use him in the starting lineup next year."
Eastside then turned up the heat and finished off Alcovy with great performances from its three talented underclassmen.
Defending Class AAAA state champion Joel Stafford pinned Jay DeRojas in just 11 seconds during the 119-pound matchup. Michael Green next defeated Zach Barton with a 19-second pin in the third period, while Ardest Carter (189) topped Jacob Roberson.
"I am pleased with our team," said Mostek. "We gave a hard fought contest against the second-ranked team in the state. I couldn't be any prouder of my guys."
Alcovy won six of its matches early on in the evening, earning the respect from Eastside toward the end of the meet. Yet the Eagles and the Tigers are each looking forward to recuperating during the holidays to ready themselves for the region and state duels in Macon next month before heading to the state invitational in February.
"We need some time off," admitted Blakeman. "We got a little break which will do everybody some good. Time off will help us get over the flu bug and early injuries. After the holidays, we should be good."