HUNTSVILLE – Coming off of a 2016 season where Shelby County had two wrestling teams, Oak Mountain (2) and Thompson (3), finish inside the top three of the state championship results, it was time to see what the county could do in the 2017 AHSAA Wrestling State Championships at Huntsville’s Von Braun Center Feb. 16-18.
This year, as far as the team standings go, Thompson finished in the No. 3 spot for the second consecutive season, while the Eagles slid down to No. 5. The Warriors had a score of 97.0, which was 10.5 points behind second place Hoover (107.5) and a good way behind first place finisher Vestavia Hills (131.5).
Still though, two top five finishers is a strong showing for the two powerhouse wrestling schools. Spain Park finished as the No. 11 team in the 7A team standings with 21 points.
In the 6A team standings, Chelsea had the strongest showing with 69 points, while Helena came in at No. 13 with 43 points and Pelham at No. 18 with 33.5 points. Oxford won the 6A classification with a total score of 195.
Shelby County and Montevallo finished 31 and 32 in the 1A-5A classification with 10 and five points, respectively.
The most impressive part was the individual finishes by several county wrestlers, but we’ll start with the individual performance of a special coach.
Oak Mountain head coach Steve Burrough was named as the state’s wrestling coach of the year for his efforts leading the Eagles all season long. A well-deserved honor for a man that has battled through so much and still kept his passion for coaching.
After starting the tournament with 38 wrestlers from the county in the running for individual championships, that number was dwindled down to eight wrestlers that actually made it to a first place match after battling bracket style over the three-day tournament.
In the 6A division two wrestlers made it to a championship match, Chelsea’s Brantley Ledbetter and Helena’s Nathan Dunaway.
Ledbetter took on Trent Young of Athens High School in the 113-pound championship. Young ended up being too much for Ledbetter who ended up losing the match with a fall at 1:17 giving him a second place finish at state.
Dunaway, who is just a freshman for the Huskies, had a strong tournament, but came up just short in a fun championship match with Thomas Carter, also of Athens High School. Carter won a 16-8 division to win first place, while Dunaway took home second.
Oak Mountain and Thompson had three wrestlers apiece compete for individual championships, including a matchup between Sam Latona and Sullivan Tipton in the 106-pound division.
Latona, a sophomore for the Warriors, won fairly easily over Tipton after forcing a 3:32 fall. Latona finished the season 71-1 and as one of the best wrestlers in his weight class, not only in the state, but the country.
Oak Mountain had one other second place finisher as Carson Lester lost in the 138-pound weight class to Hoover’s Patterson Huff in a 2-1 decision. Lester finished the season 28-10 with a second place finish at state.
Barrett Blakely, on the other hand, brought home a state championship for the Eagles. Blakely won a fairly easy 7-3 decision in a compelling matchup with Vestavia’s Bowman Hill. Blakely finished the season 45-3 after his state championship.
The Warriors had two more individual state champions as Gabe Hixenbaugh and Chandler Akins both won to give Thompson a total of three first-place finishers as they went undefeated in their championship matches.
Hixenbaugh took down Hewitt-Trussville’s Braden Treglown in a 126-pound bout. He won with a major decision of 16-5 after another tight matchup.
Akins, a tough sophomore, won with a 6-4 decision over Grissom’s Tyler Ivery. Ivey was 47-2 coming into the match, but Akins, who held a record of 59-11, gave Ivey his third loss of the season.