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Hitting the mat for state
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Three Rockdale High School wrestlers are working hard on the mats at the Gwinnett Arena trying to improve on their accomplishments from a year ago.

Alonzo Allen, Ulises Ponce and Jose Robledo are all competing at the state wrestling championships for the Bulldogs, a level of competition they have seen before.

Allen and Ponce finished second and Robledo third in the 2011 finals. All three set out to improve on those placements on Thursday when the 2012 championships began.

All three have experience here at Gwinnett,” Hargrove said. “I’m expecting all three of them to finish out well.”

Allen won both of his first matches by pin to reach the semifinals held Friday night. Robledo also fought his way into the semifinals after winning both his previous matches by major decision.

Ponce won his first match and fell 3-2 in the quarterfinals, forcing him to win two more matches to become a finalist.

“Ponce just got to come through with wins in these next two to step up and get into the medal rounds,” Hargrove said.
Although Ponce, Allen and Robledo are in a similar position than they were a year ago, they are not completely similar wrestlers from their older selves. A year of experience will help that.

“They’re more mature wrestlers,” Hargrove said. “Just in how they handle the tournament; it’s a long, three-day tournament, and the ability to stay focused and get yourself mentally prepared is the biggest difference I see.”

The Bulldogs’ trio has shown that difference as they reach for their first state titles, respectively.

“They’re wrestling great,” Hargrove said.

Salem also has a wrestler looking for a state title this weekend in Gwinnett. Reginald Hurt is the lone Salem Seminole competing for a medal.