The ultimate team goal – winning a Class 7A title -- remains consistent for the Thompson High wrestling team year in and year out. A large step in becoming Alabama’s top team in the largest division, however, takes place outside state lines.
The Warriors have already competed in a pair of North Carolina tournaments and are in Kingsport, Tennessee this weekend. And, neither of those are even part of what Thompson head coach Shawn Weltzin calls “our long road trips.”
That portion of the schedule begins with a trip to Kansas City, Missouri and includes tournaments in Illinois, Minnesota and Wisconsin. Reasons for the trips are multi-layered and it begins with getting better.
“They come back from those long road trips as world beaters,” Weltzin said. “It’s night and day. You got to learn how to take a punch to get one.”
It also gives the Thompson wrestlers some valuable recruiting exposure.
“These big tournaments are where college coaches are going to look,” Weltzin said. “They want to see the kids wrestle. Nobody that just stays around Alabama is going to get recruited to colleges. It just doesn’t happen. They look and see if they can compete at the national level.”
Thompson’s lineup is led by a couple of wrestlers – Sam Latona and Gabe Hixenbaugh -- who have captured national championships. Both are returning state champions, as is Chandler Akins. Dylan LeSeuer was a state runner-up.
All four are part of a deep and talented junior class that, ultimately, will set the tone for this team.
A pair of key components of the Thompson High football team, which advanced to the Class 7A semifinals before finishing 12-1, have bolstered the upper weights. Senior Seth Whitlock and junior Aubrey Glidewell will anchor the lineup.
“Seth Whitlock has improved every year he’s our heavyweight,” Weltzin said. “He should be a pretty good point scorer for us. Glidewell was a round away from state last year.”
Thompson should have talent throughout lineup, certainly enough to challenge for the program’s sixth state championship. But, there is work left before Weltzin settles on a starting lineup.
“We don’t have our lineup secured yet,” Weltzin said. “I kind of like to mix it all up through this part of the season. None of our guys wrestle JV. They all wrestle other schools’ varsity. It kind of works out to where they get some lumps and take lumps and get accustomed to it.”