A Fan's Guide to Alabama 7A State Tournament
We are excited to once again bring you "A Fan's Guide" to the AHSAA State Tournament that are taking place this coming weekend at the Von Braun Center in Huntsville. We are scheduled to cover the event and will be posting pics and results throughout the tournament - please look for that coverage on the results page. We are pleased to provide the casual fan an insider's look into each bracket and what may (or may not) happen over the course of the weekend. We make no predictions about who will win or grab one of the few spots on the podium For each weight class we provide a few bulletpoints to watch and then a copy of the bracket (which you can see for yourself on trackwrestling.com). Each weight class features:
- Favorite: Our favorite to win the weight class based on this past season and past performance.
- Contenders: A list of wrestlers that should challenge the favorite for the top step on the podium.
- Best 1st round match: The match we believe will be the closest during the 1st round of action.
- Darkhorse: A wrestler that did not finish 1st or 2nd in his/her area, but has all the tools to knock off everyone and take the top step.
- Bracket Breaker: A wrestler that finish 4th at the Sectional Tournament, but has the best opportunity to be in the finals.
- Predicted Finals Match: Obviously who we believe will be in the finals.
Individual Notes: SQ = 2015 State Qualifier; 1st = 2015 State Champ; 2nd = 2015 State Runner-up, etc.
Oak Mountain easily outdistanced Thompson and Hoover to claim the South Section title, Vestavia had an easier time in the North Section (winning by a wide margin over Bob Jones and the rest of the field). Given the number of qualifiers from each school, this is a four team race (Vestavia, Oak Mountain, Thompson and Hoover). Vestavia and Thompson each qualified 12, Oak Mountain has 11 and Hoover has 10. Bob Jones, Hewitt Trussville, Huntsville, Tuscaloosa County, Prattville, and others will play a role in who wins the team title, but none has the #'s to challenge for the top step. Oak Mountain and Vestavia each had 9 finalists and 5 champions and enter as the co-favorites. Thompson had 3 champions and 5 finalists, but will need their 7 wrestlers that finished either 3rd or 4th to come through and find the podium if they are going to win another title. Hoover has the longest shot of the four contenders, but with 2 section champions and 4 finalists they have a shot. If you are interested in the team race, be sure to watch any of the matches featuring the above teams.
- Favorite: Alex Thomas (Oak Mountain)
- Stone Barden (Buckhorn)
- Cale Land (Hewitt Trussville)
- Jack Rivers (Spain Park)
- Best 1st Round Match: Ivey vs. Rivers
- Darkhorse: Tyler Ivey (Grissom)
- Bracket Breaker: Studd Morris (Central Phenix City)
- Finals: Thomas vs. Barden
- Summary: Returning 106 lb. State Runner-up Alex Thomas of Oak Mountain has been a beast all season at 113 and now he has made is way down to 106. This should make an already tough bracket that much better. Thomas, who we have at 25-2 on the season, has only lost to GA 6A 106 lb. State Champ Kyle Golhoffer of Woodland and GA 2A 106 lb. State Champ Trevor Burdick of Sonoraville (we choose not to count the forfeit when Thomas went out injured). An important note ... he has yet to wrestle Stone Barden or Cale Land (from our records). Both are outstanding and should pose the greatest threat to Thomas taking the top step. Keep an eye on Grissom's Tyler Ivey. Ivey lost a close 2-0 decision to Cale Land at last week's Sectionals and should be considered a threat. In case you are interested we have Ivey and Barden wrestling just once this season, a Barden 5-3 win in overtime. Barden better not be looking ahead to that match, Morris is tough and should not be taken lightly.
- Favorite: Gabe Hixenbaugh (Thompson)
- Maxwell Kauffman (Central Phenix City)
- Braden Treglown (Hewitt Trussville)
- Samuel Jaggears (Gadsden City)
- Best 1st Round Match: Huff vs. Jaggears
- Darkhorse: Patterson Huff (Hoover)
- Bracket Breaker: Kobe Frazier (Jefferson Davis)
- Finals: Kauffman vs. Hixenbaugh
- Summary: Great weight class. Returning 106 lb. State Champion Gabe Hixenbaugh headlines a very talented field. Hixenbaugh, who is 17-4, has yet to lose a match to an Alabama wrestler this season ... all four losses came at the Cheesehead Invitational in Wisconsin. But of those 17 wins, two came by the narrowest of margins over Maxwell Kauffman of Central Phenix City (5-4 in the finals last week) and 3-2 over Patterson Huff of Hoover in a dual earlier this season. Hixenbaugh will need to bring his "A" game this weekend if he hopes to stave off the likes of Huff, Kauffman, and Treglown. Don't sleep on Jefferson Davis' Kobe Frazier. He is not your typical #4 out of a sectional and has the ability to beat anyone in the bracket. We might be mistaken, but we are fairly certain a #4 won a title at least year's State Tournament ... if it happens again you should look no further than Frazier.
- Favorite: Carlos Andres (Tuscaloosa County)
- Heath Williamson (Hewitt Trussville)
- Brett Cruce (Oak Mountain)
- Marcus Boler (Auburn)
- Best 1st Round Match: Boler vs. Mitchell
- Darkhorse: Daishun Mitchell (Bob Jones
- Bracket Breaker: Murphy McCallum (Vestavia)
- Finals: Williamson vs. Andres
- Summary: Not to take anything away from Brett Cruce, Marcus Boler, Daishun Mitchell, and the rest of the field, but the two best 120's are Heath Williamson of Hewitt-Trussville and Carlos Andres of Tuscaloosa County. Williamson and Andres have split their two matches this season and it would be a huge surprise if they didn't get a chance for #3 on Saturday afternoon. In their last meeting, Cruce fell to Wiliamson 7-5 (before that Williamson won by fall) ... so a semifinal matchup between Williamson and Cruce will be a fun one to watch. Andres should have little trouble with the bottom side of the bracket. If you are watching the team race ... assuming McCallum (Vestavia) and Roberts (Thompson) lose their 1st round matches - a win in the 1st round of consolations could be the difference between their teams picking up the team title or not. If Cruce can down McCallum, and then beat Williamson (his probable opponent), the Eagles will be hard to catch in the team race.
- Favorite: Dominic Latona (Thompson)
- Quin Estes (Vestavia)
- Blake Randle (Oak Mountain)
- Jawaun Doughty (Huntsville)
- Best 1st Round Match: Clark vs. Randle
- Darkhorse: Larry Wallace (Hoover)
- Bracket Breaker: Tyler Wilson (Smiths Station)
- Finals: Randle vs. Latona
- Summary: Returning 120 lb. State Champion Dominic Latona has looked fantastic this season and is the prohibitive favorite to take home the 126 lb. title. Mountain Brook's Drew Reed downed Latona earlier in January, so the field has hope that they could knock Latona fro mthe top step. That seems very unlikely (although crazy things happen all the time). Vestavia's Quin Estes and Oak Mountain's Blake Randle look to have the best chance to advance out of the top side of the bracket. Randle has beaten Estes both times they have met this season, but it should be noted that each match was extremely close and came down to the final minute. Clark and Randle have yet to meet this season and that could be one of the best 1st round matches of the tournament.
- Favorite: Khaleel Johnson (Auburn)
- Drew Reed (Mountain Brook)
- Jack Stoves (Vestavia)
- Carson Lester (Oak Mountain)
- Best 1st Round Match: Lester vs. Henderson
- Darkhorse: Austin Akins (Thompson)
- Bracket Breaker: Spencer Davis (James Clemens)
- Finals: Johnson vs. Reed
- Summary: Fantastic weight class. 2015 120 lb. State Runner-up Khaleel Johnson beat 2015 132 lb. State Runner-up Drew Reed in overtime of the finals of the Scott Rohrer Invitational. Given the way Johnson and Reed wrestled last weekend, it seems unlikely that either Stoves or Lester will be able to overcome either returning Runner-up. Stoves must first contend with Thompson's Austin Akins (an important match in the team race) and Lester must beat Bob Jones' Chase Henderson. Bouts 521 and 522 will be exciting ... be sure to watch those matches. Assuming Stoves, Akins, and Lester fall ... the backside of the bracket could decide which team ends up with the title in the end. The difference between 3rd, 4th, and not placing is significant and the gap between Vestavia, Oak Mountain, and Thompson may not be that great.
- Favorite: Michael John Harris (Oak Mountain)
- Jarrett Anthony (Hoover)
- Wesley Heartsill (Vestavia)
- Nate Hunziker (Grissom)
- Best 1st Round Match: Calhoun vs. Hunziker
- Darkhorse: Deshoun Calhoun (Jefferson Davis)
- Bracket Breaker: Jacob Megois (Thompson)
- Finals: Harris vs. Anthony
- Summary: This should be another fun weight class to watch. Returning 132 lb. State Runner-up Michael John Harris enters as the favorite, but the distance between Harris and the field is not significant. Harris beat Anthony 3-2 at last weekend's Sectional Final and Anthony has beaten Heartsill 4-3 earlier this season. Returning State Placer Jacob Megois of Thompson enters as a #4 and has yet to face Heartsill this season ... that will be an interesting match to watch on Friday morning. Deshoun Calhoun of Jefferson Davis is a tough one to understand ... he has beaten Vershone Graham of Wetumpka (returning 6A State Champion) and Jacob Megois for 3rd last week, but he lost by technical fall to Jarrett Anthony in the semifinals. If he gets by Hunziker, Harris better be ready.
- Favorite: Robbey Killough (Prattville)
- Matthew Paugh (Vestavia)
- William Curtis (Huntsville)
- Jon Storey (Central Phenix City)
- Best 1st Round Match: Curtis vs. Metcalf
- Darkhorse: Connor Metcalf (Hoover)
- Bracket Breaker: Pierson Cauwels (Bob Jones)
- Finals: Killough vs. Paugh
- Summary: This isn't a knock on the rest of the field, but this looks like a two-man race for the top step. Returning 138 lb. State Champion Robbey Killough of Prattville is 2-0 against returning 132 lb. State Champion Matthew Paugh of Vestavia this season. One match went to overtime, the other wasn't close as Killough downed Paugh 9-3 in the semifinals of the Heart of Dixie. Curtis, Metcalf, Yager, and Storey should battle it out for a spot on the podium, but it would be a big surprise if we didn't get to see Killough vs. Paugh III in the finals. Mingyu Lee of Oak Mountain could help push the Eagles to the team title by finding a spot on the podium, something that is well within his reach.
- Favorite: Robert Morales (Central Phenix City)
- Bowman Hill (Vestavia)
- Riley Pike (Thompson)
- Cameron Harbin (Sparkman)
- Best 1st Round Match: Morton vs. Harbin
- Darkhorse: Hall Morton (Oak Mountain)
- Bracket Breaker: Perez Pickett (Prattville)
- Finals: Hill vs. Morales
- Summary: Central Phenix City's Robert Morales finished just off the podium in 2015, don't expect that to happen again in 2016. Morales has looked fantastic this season and punctuated his status as the favorite with a 1st period fall of Perez Pickett of Prattville and a 2nd period fall of Riley Pike of Thompson. Morton fell to Pike 10-2 in the Sectional semifinals and North Section Champ Bowman Hill has lost to both Morales and Morton this season (he has yet to face Pike and easily beat Pickett). A Hill vs. Pike and Morton vs. Morales seems likely, but don't sleep on Sparkman's Cameron Harbin or Mountain Brook's Cole Holmes. This weight class will likely have a huge impact on the team race. The absence of Griffin Ridgeway of Bob Jones at 152 or 160 is significant.
- Favorite: Hayden Hill (Vestavia)
- Terence Perkins (Prattville)
- Chris Leatherman (Sparkman)
- Jermario Powell (Jefferson Davis)
- Best 1st Round Match: Randolph vs. Powell
- Darkhorse: Robert Randolph (Mountain Brook)
- Bracket Breaker: Jordan Thompson (Buckhorn)
- Finals: Perkins vs. Hill
- Summary: The absence of Griffin Ridgeway and Barrett Blakely leaves 160 open for returning 145 lb. State Champion Hayden Hill. Hill and Blakely battled back and forth all season and Hill beat Ridgeway in a tough match in late January ... their absence (Ridgeway out altogether and Blakely at 170) means that this is Hill's bracket to lose. Hill has handled returning State Qualifier Chris Leatherman of Sparkman, South Section Champion Terrance Perkins of Prattville, and Jermario Powell of Jefferson Davis withe relative ease this season. Each has a shot at taking the top step, but given the 2015-2016 results it seems unlikely. Keep an eye on the battle on the top side of the bracket and the match between Randolph and Powell. Could Thompson's Dakota Collins "shock the world" and take out Hill? Anything is possible and it would be huge for the Warriors.
- Favorite: Brooks Schrimsher (Huntsville)
- Barrett Blakely (Oak Mountain)
- George Dazzio (Vestavia)
- Jacarius Gullatte (Auburn)
- Best 1st Round Match: Gullatte vs. Moulton
- Darkhorse: Tyler Moulton (Bob Jones)
- Bracket Breaker: James Gomer (Prattville)
- Finals: Schrimsher vs. Blakely
- Summary: Fantastic weight class that could be argued as the most competitive in 7A. Schrimsher, Blakely, and Dazzio lead the way, but Gullatte, Moulton, and Allen should not be discounted. Returning 152 lb. State Champion Brooks Schrimsher of Huntsville downed Bob Jones' Tyler Moulton 4-0 in the section semifinals and then Vestavia's returning State Runner-up George Dazzio 3-1 in overtime to claim the North Section title. As a result, Schrimsher won't have to face a red hot Barrett Blakely (if at all) until the finals. Blakely easily handled the South Section bracket, 2 1st period falls and a technical fall over Gullatte in the finals, and has looked fantastic all season. Blakely and Schrimsher have yet to meet this season, but Blakely will likely need to get past Dazzio to set up that meeting. Blakely and Dazzio have split their 2 matches this season and that semifinal will be one of the best to watch.
- Favorite: Davis Perry (Hewitt Trussville)
- Coleman Reeves (Oak Mountain)
- Zachary Nelson (Vestavia)
- D'Angelo Dewitt (Hoover)
- Best 1st Round Match: Nelson vs. Phillips
- Darkhorse: Austin Phillips (Smiths Station)
- Bracket Breaker: Seth Bruder (James Clemens)
- Finals: Reeves vs. Perry
- Summary: Returning 160 lb. State Champion Davis Perry headlines the weight class. Perry, who is 22-0, has easily handled the competition this season and that should continue this weekend. His closest challenger, Jaried Buxton of Oak Mountain, has jumped up to 195. He has yet to face Buxton's teammate Coleman Reeves, but it seems unlikely that Reeves or anyone else in the bracket will be able to knock him off. Keep an eye on the top side of the bracket with Reeves, Bruder, Nelson and Phillips. South Sectional Champion Coleman Reeves is likely candidate to emerge from the top side, but don't sleep on any of the other 3. The Byrne vs. Dewitt opening round match should be a good one.
- Favorite: Bret Winters (Hoover)
- Jaried Buxton (Oak Mountain)
- Isaac Shafer (James Clemens)
- Seth Dupree (Bob Jones)
- Best 1st Round Match: Mobley vs. Shafer
- Darkhorse: Nicholas Mobley (Thompson)
- Bracket Breaker: Nicholas Mobley (Thompson)
- Finals: Buxton vs. Winters
- Summary: Since dropping to 195, returning 220 lb. State Runner-up Bret Winters has been unbeatable. He pinned returning 182 lb. State Runner-up Nicholas Mobley of Thompson in a dual and beat 170 lb. State Placer Jaried Buxton 6-2 in the finals last weekend. Mobley's loss to Buxton in the semifinals last weekend and then forfeiting to 4th puts him on the opposite side of Winters and makes the top side of the bracket very difficult. Returning State Placer Isaac Shafer gets Mobley in the best 1st round match of the tournament ... the winner will likely get Buxton unless Morrow can pull the upset.
- Favorite: Josh Smith (Tuscaloosa County)
- James Edwards (Vestavia)
- Christon Taylor (Hoover)
- Jeran McCarthy (Thompson)
- Best 1st Round Match: McCarthy vs. Davis
- Darkhorse: Dominic Davis (Bob Jones)
- Bracket Breaker: Mickey Demos (Huntsville)
- Finals: Edwards vs. Smith
- Summary: Like 182 ... Returning 195 lb. State Champion Josh Smith of Tucaloosa County has been on another level all season. Smith is 42-0 on the season and his closest matches have been wins by 4 or 5 points ... no one has even been close. That isn't likely to change this season. The big question is who will emerge from the top side to battle Smith in the finals? Vestavia's James Edwards has beaten Hoover's Christon Taylor several times this year, but the matches have been close and that should be a very good semifinal (assuming both win their opening round matches). Davis vs. McCarthy is an important opening round match in the team race ... The Warriors need a McCarthy win and then a win in bout 697 (consolation semifinals). Those points will be important.
- Favorite: TJ Rayam (Thompson)
- Armond Lloyd (Oak Mountain)
- Kyle Miskelley (Hewitt Trussville)
- Ben Rogers (Bob Jones)
- Best 1st Round Match: Jackson vs. Rogers
- Darkhorse: Gavin Jackson (Hoover)
- Bracket Breaker: Drimitri Anderson (Auburn)
- Finals: Lloyd vs. Rayam
- Summary: Every season we seem to enter with the thought that TJ Rayam can be beat and every year we walk out after the last match realizing that Rayam has won another state title. After a 9-4 semifinal win over Hoover's Gavin Jackson and an 8-5 win over Armond Lloyd of Oak Mountain in the South Section finals we once again wonder if this is the year when it happens. All will give their best shot, but it seems very unlikely that Rayam loses in his last trip to the state tournament. Keep an eye on Miskelley and Lloyd on the top side ... that semifinal (assuming they both advance) should be excellent. Lloyd has beaten Miskelley both times they have met this season, but both matches were close and it could go either way in another match. Keep an eye on Ben Rogers of Bob Jones ... at 47-3 he is a legitimate threat on the bottom side of the bracket (he lost 3-2 to Miskelley in the North Section Finals last week).