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Wrestling: Metz, Eglian, Watkins earn traditional state championships
North Forsyth's Sophia Eglian looks towards the referee while trapping her opponent in a headlock on Saturday, Feb. 16, 2019 at the Macon Centreplex. - photo by David Almeda

Surrounded by the noise of a packed Macon Coliseum, Sophia Eglian walked to the center of the girls championship mat to face Stepehson’s Kiomy Morris, with plenty of nerves coursing through her body.

It didn’t take long for those nerves to be erased. Less than a minute into the match, Eglian caught Morris in a headlock, and North’s coaches knew it was over.

After earning her pin, Eglian’s emotions began to show through as she stood up and began to realize what she’d accomplished: She had just become the first Forsyth County girls wrestler to win a state championship. Tears of joy began to well up in her eyes as she embraced coaches and her family members that were watching from the stands.

“It was just such a shocker,” Eglian said. “I thought it was going to be longer. I thought I was going to be more exhausted. Having a state title — it’s a lot. I’m just glad to be a part of the girls showing what they’re made of.”

Eglian’s win was just one of a few notable moments for Forsyth wrestlers at the GHSA state traditional meet on Saturday. At 106 pounds, Mark Metz won Pinecrest Academy’s first GHSA state championship in any sport, and North’s Paul Watkins finally earned his own title at 145 after three previous attempts at glory.

Metz earned a 4-1 win over Gordon Lee’s Bryce James. After getting a takedown and a reversal, he did everything he could to keep his opponent from escaping his grasp for the bout’s last 20 seconds. His brother Joe lost in the finals last year and didn’t make it to that point this year, but Mark credits him for aiding his growth.

“I’m super happy,” Metz said. “I cut a lot of weight to get here. It’s really exciting — all my work’s paying off. I wouldn’t have this state title without (Joe). I’m happy that he helped me get there.”

Pinecrest Academy's Mark Metz grapples with Gordon Lee's Bryce James in the GHSA traditional state finals on Saturday, Feb. 16, 2019 at the Macon Centreplex. - photo by David Almeda
For Pinecrest wrestling coach Mark Schmidt, the win was a realization of a dream he had when he took the job. The Paladins hope their first title as a member of Georgia’s most prominent high school athletic association is just the beginning.

“We’ve been trying, man,” Schmidt said. “It’s exciting. When I took the job three years ago, my goal was to bring this school a state championship. This is a huge day.”

Unlike Eglian’s quick victory, Watkins’ matchup with North Gwinnett’s Rex McDaniel was a more much more stress-inducing one for North’s coaching staff. They knew it would be close, but after Watkins was hit with a stalling call in a scoreless second period, North head coach Travis Jarrard sat next to the mat, anxious with his hands on his head. 

“I was sitting there thinking, ‘Oh, crap. We’re going to get hit again at the end.’” he said. “I knew we were.”

North Forsyth's Paul Watkins locks arms with North Gwinnett's Rex McDaniel at the GHSA state traditional finals on Saturday, Feb. 16 at the Macon Centreplex. - photo by David Almeda
Watkins eventually eased those fears — he was able to get a 1-0 lead by escaping McDaniel’s grasp out of the referee’s position. For most of the third period, it was a matter of holding that slim edge.

“I know I start off every match 1-0,” Watkins said. “I can get out from the bottom of anyone. I just had to hold my defense and I stayed smart the whole match. I can’t even explain it. I’m just so happy that I could get the win this time.”