By Robert Carter
The North Jefferson News
HUNTSVILLE — For Brandon Brindley, it was familiar territory. For Josh McCoy, it was the ultimate finish to a high-school career.
Brindley and McCoy won the 112-pound and 152-pound titles, respectively, at the AHSAA State Wrestling Championships at Huntsville’s Von Braun Civic Center on Saturday.
For Mortimer Jordan’s Brindley, it was the second straight year the freshman was won a state crown, putting him on a pace to become a five-time champion, equalling Scottsboro’s famous Cuthbertson brothers and two others. Last year, he was victorious at 103 pounds.
“Brandon’s potential is — well, the sky’s the limit,” Blue Devils coach Terry Tingle said. “He could end up anywhere from a Division II or NAIA school all the way up to a major college like Oklahoma, Iowa or Oklahoma State.”
McCoy improves on his fourth place finish last year at 145 pounds.
Brindley’s championship, along with a runner-up finish by Travis Shelnut at 119 pounds, was enough to propel the Blue Devils to fourth place in the team standings. Perennial powerhouse Scottsboro dominated the 5A field, winning the team title for the fourth straight year.
At one point before the final matches began, Jordan was as high as second in the standings, but could not hold on to the position. The Devils were two points behind second place Fort Payne, and a scant half point behind Gadsden Southside. As assistant coach Chris King said, “There weren’t enough bullets in our gun.”
In all, Jordan sent eight wrestlers to the state meet, and five of them finished on the award podium with fourth place or better.
“It’s great for a fourth-year program — at one point, we were fighting for second,” Tingle said. “We bring eight, one gets a championship, one second, and three thirds. It exceeded anything I expected.”
The Devils’ three bronze medalists were James Stewart at 160 pounds, Matt Barnett at 140 and Zach Payne at 189.
Hayden finished sixth in the team standings. Besides McCoy, Hayden had podium finishes by Tyler Newton, who finished second at 145 pounds; Trey Howse, fourth at 103; Brandon Buchanan, third at 130; and Adam Roberts, who was fourth at 160, losing to Jordan’s Stewart in the third-place match.
“We had seven qualifiers out of 14 weight classes, so we were hoping for anything from the middle of the pack and above,” Hayden coach Paul Moore said. “Sixth place for seven wrestlers is not bad at all, and were were just 12 and a half points out of second place.
“Josh was our only senior, and we have four medalists coming back, so that’s a good nucleus for next year. I’m happy with how we did for the minimum number of wrestlers we brought.”
McCoy and Brindley were two of six local wrestlers to advance to the title matches. Fultondale’s Chris Self very nearly became the third state champ, but lost a heartbreaking final at 152 pounds in the last eight seconds of his match. Trailing 9-8, opponent Miles Wilson of Saks scored a takedown as time wound down. Self nearly broke free to score an escape and tie the match, but couldn’t score before time expired.
“It was a mental error, but he did what I told him,” Fultondale coach Billy Hughes said. “I should’ve told him to stay away [from Wilson], because he hadn’t had any stalling warnings. It was a coaching error on my part, not his fault.”
Brett Pennington took the silver medal at 140 pounds, losing 4-0 to Tyler Causey of Walter Wellborn in the final match. At 171 pounds, Sam Robles won the bronze, pinning Philip McEnvoy of Susan Moore in the consolation final.
“We were hoping for a top 10 team finish,” Hughes said, and that’s what they got: eighth place with 52 points, well behind 4A-1A champion Piedmont.
Gardendale, which qualified eight wrestlers for Huntsville, had much tougher going against the larger Class 6A field, and wound up in 17th place.
The Rockets’ Daniel Swann took the bronze medal in the 130-pound division by pinning Hoover’s Austin Porter in a speedy 59 seconds in the consolation final. Joe Jones took fourth place in the heavyweight class, missing the bronze by just one point when he was beaten by Oak Mountain’s Whit Whitfield 5-4 in the third-place match.
By Robert Carter