North Jefferson News, Gardendale, AL

February 18, 2014

Wrestling: Two at the top for the Tribe

Turner, Crocker win titles for Pinson Valley; Fultondale third in 1A-4A team standings

By Robert Carter
North Jefferson News

HUNTSVILLE — A small army of local high school wrestlers went to the AHSAA State Championships last weekend, hoping to be the one to stand atop the medals platform on Saturday afternoon.

But after two days, only two were able to accomplish that feat.

Pinson Valley’s Hank Turner at 138 pounds and Adam Crocker at 145 won back-to-back final matches in the middle of the Von Braun Center floor, and were the only two local grapplers to walk away with a state championship.

They helped propel the Indians to a fourth-place finish in the Class 5A team standings, well behind repeat champion Arab but not far away from runner-up Southside-Gadsden and third-place Scottsboro.

Mortimer Jordan placed eighth, and Hayden 10th.

The team finish for the Tribe was a little lower than what his team had hoped for, coach Gene Richardson said.

“We had hoped for a little more, and our expectations were a little high,” Richardson said. “But we have nine state qualifiers coming back next year, and we did the best that we’ve done since I’ve been at Pinson. So you can believe that we’re going to come back next year and work even harder.”

Eight local wrestlers made it to the final bouts, but all except Turner and Crocker were beaten — some barely, others decisively.

One of the quickest losses came for Jordan’s Devyn McCombs, who had breezed through his first two bouts to win both by pinfall. But when your opponent in the finals is going for his record-tying sixth straight state title — and is famous enough that the AHSAA puts his face on the cover of the meet’s official program — then an opponent has his work cut out for him.

Scottsboro’s Brandon Womack stayed true to form though, and quickly had McCombs dominated. Womack pinned McCombs in just over a minute and a half making the Blue Devil the last vanquished opponent in Womack’s stellar high school varsity career.

Womack, who will move on to Cornell University, went 77-0 for the season, a state record. His 422 career wins were also a new state record. Michael Sutton of Weaver is the only other six-time champion in Alabama.

The Devils’ Braxton Worthington was pinned in just 71 seconds by Arick Shankles of Muscle Shoals in the 106-lb. finals.

Fultondale had one of its best team finishes in Class 1A-4A in recent years, narrowly being edged out for the runner-up spot by St. James by 2½ points. Both were well behind champion Tallassee.

It was a finish that met the Wildcats’ goals, said coach Billy Hughes, though he was hoping one of his finalists would win gold to give the team enough points to overtake St. James for second.

“Our goal was to finish in the top five,” Hughes said. “We had a shot for second, but it just didn’t happen. But this will be a springboard to make it better next year.”

Fultondale had two silver medalists: Dylan Trice at 113 pounds, who lost to Zachary Van Alst Montgomery Catholic by a 7-2 decision in the finals; and Austin Durbin at 182, who was edged out in a 7-6 decision by Drew Baker of Tallassee.

Hayden’s lone finalist, Hunter Flowers, was pinned in 1:27 by Nick Cater of Arab.

And Gardendale heavyweight Daniel Adkins fell short in his quest of winning gold in his final high school match, losing a 6-1 decision to T.J. Rayam of Thompson.

In all, Pinson Valley put five wrestlers on the podium, with bronze medals for Brandon Adams, Jonathan Duke and Barrett Crossley.

Fultondale put four third-place finishers on the medals platform: Timothy Murphree, Gerald Smith, Ryan Johnson and Mitch Holcomb.

Jordan added fourth-place finishes from Lane Lucas and Cody Skinner. Chase Phillips finished fourth at 113 pounds for Hayden. Andrew Freeman placed sixth at 195 pounds for Gardendale.

Corner’s lone state qualifier, Dalton Absher, was knocked out in the consolation semifinals.