So far this year the Eagles have won several tournaments and brought home a trophy as the fourth-place finishers at the Class A State Dual meet in January. Now, with 11 wrestlers qualified for sectionals, the Eagles are trying to get as many advanced to Macon next weekend as they can.
"We have been looking at film. We've been trying to fix things that we did wrong or things that we can improve on for this weekend coming up. It's going a little bit tougher. You've got the top-four guys out of each area going head-to-head. I feel confident in our guys, they've been practicing real hard," MZ coach Michael Cleek said. "Looking forward to good things at Darlington."
Will Sizemore, the only state qualifier last season and Area 3-A champion at heavyweight, leads the group, as MZ will try to get more than just one wrestler through this time around. After facing their own area last weekend, the Eagles will match up against the top-four finishers from Area 2-A, with the top four making it through.
The junior heavyweight is joined by area runners-up in Javier Martinez (132), Ashton Robinson (106), Hunter Smith (113), Mitchell Chambers (120), Fernando Valles (145), Cody Spicer (152) and Daniel Anderson (182). Also qualifying was 126-pounder Dillion Lovell in third, while Nathan Whaley (195) and Eugene 'Buddha' McClure (220) took fourth.
The team to beat in Class A this season is last year's traditional runner-up to Bremen — now in Class AA — and back-to-back Class A Dual champions, Gordon Lee. The Trojans are in MZ's area, so they have some experience against them, but the Eagles still have to face them to get to Macon.
"It helps. But at the same time, they're still the champs until somebody bumps them off. We have to bring our 'A' game in order to wrestle against them. They put through 13 guys. Their team is really good and Darlington is no slouch. We're going to have to wrestle our best to advance to the state tournament," Cleek said.
That's just for the teams the Eagles have gone up against. Coming out of the other area brings another group of unknowns. This week the focus has been on finding out what they can about some opponents while reviewing what they know about individuals they've already wrestled against.
This time of year, everyone is good — and everyone wants to make it to state.
"Your expectations are always high for the guys that have gotten this far. You've got to make sure they're confident going in, make sure they understand what they're up against. We tried to scout as much as we could to see who we're going to match up with," Cleek said. "Like in the case with Eagle's Landing, we've gone head-to-head with them, we've wrestled them in the past. We can look at film there."
The year this group of Eagles has had was building for some time. The young bunch has grown up and they have grown up together. Now they have a chance to make a little more Mt. Zion history as they will try to send as many through to state to have a chance to bring home another trophy.
"It's just phenomenal. Our guys, we're a tight-knit group, and they're there for each other, even the guys that have been put out. They're still in the room practicing, trying to get the 11 guys we have left the best look they can to get better. They're just leaning on each other right now. They're pulling for each other, and it's fun to watch these guys as they've grown up. Now they're putting forth some quality wrestling. And not just one or two at a time, but together with 10, 11 of them at a time. I'm just excited for this bunch of kids," Cleek said.