Alabama Class 7A State Tournament Fan's Guide
We are excited to bring you "A Fan's Guide" to the AHSAA State Tournaments that are taking place this coming weekend in Huntsville. 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. 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 most entertaining during the 1st round of action.
- Darkhorse: A wrestler that did not finish 1st, 2nd, or 3rd in his/her section, but has all the tools to knock off everyone and take the top step.
- Predicted Finals Match: Obviously who we believe will be in the finals.
A few notes before we have a look at each weight class. First, we provide a copy of the bracket (a screenshot from trackwrestling) at the bottom of each "narrative". Second, it is important to state that much of what is written below is not revolutionary. It has some opinion, but is largely based on data. Remember ... this is not designed as a prediction. Rather it is written to help those sitting in the stands understand our great sport and what to watch over the next two days.
- A Favorite will almost always be one of the two sectional champions ... and the list of contenders will have the other sectional champion and both sectional runners-up as well. The list of contenders might include other wrestlers, but it will always include the sectional champions and runners-up. The reason ... every 2016 7A State Champion was a Sectional Champion except James Edwards of Vestavia at 220 (whre he was the sectional runner-up).
- Every 7A state final was either a section champion vs. a section champion or a rematch of the section champion vs. the section runner-up, except one. And this is where our darkhorse or in 1A-5A and 6A our bracket breaker comes in ... Seth Bruder of James Clemons took 4th the previous week and won both of his matches to get to the finals (eventually losing to Davis Perry). It doesn't happen often, but there is always a chance that a #3, #4 (or in 1A-5A and 6A a #5-#8) can find a way to the finals.
NOTE: I have tried to correct any incorrect names or grades, but I'm certain a few have slipped through the cracks. Apologies for anyone that has incorrect information posted in the brackets ... the summaries are written largely from what has been produced in the brackets. Team
- Vestavia - The question is will it be Hoover or Vestavia holding the title on Saturday afternoon? Hoover brings more qualifiers, but Vestavia has more champs and runners-up ... so we go with the 2016 State Champs to defend their title this weekend. Don't be surprised if it comes down to the final match like it did a year ago ... can you imagine Austin Carter vs. Jacob Edwards in the 285 final with the team title hanging in the balance? Vestavia has 6 sectional champs, 2 runners-up and a total of 11 in Huntsville this weekend. The Rebels, like everyone else, cannot afford any 0-2's ... so Rob Barrentine, Spencer Haddock, and Murphy McCallum could be huge contributors to a team title.
- Tier 1
- With 13 qualifiers, Hoover headlines the tier 1 teams chasing Vestavia. They have 4 section champs, but no runners-up ... meaning the #3's and #4's will need to come up big. If Coach Gaydosh can get points from Carnes, Mason, Smith, Wallace, etc. and get a few of them on the podium, the Bucs could put some pressure on Vestavia. Thompson has 9 qualifiers and bonus point machines in Latona, Akins, and Hixenbaugh. Add in Hussey as a section champ and Oliver as a runner-up and the Warriors could put 5 on the podium. If Campbell, Whitlock, Megois, and McAdams can find the podium, Thompson could make things interesting for both Hoover and Vestavia. Bob Jones is our final tier 1 team ... they also qualified 9, but with just 1 champ and 2 runners-up it will be difficult for them to challenge the top 3. One advantage they have is that their other six wrestlers all finished 3rd in the North Sectional ... so an "upset" win in the first round and putting 9 through to the semifinals would make a huge difference. Many of them have favorable match-ups to make that happen.
- Tier 2
- Oak Mountain, Hewitt-Trussville, and Huntsville are lurking and have the hammers to make it interesting. Each team is lacking the # of qualifiers to make a serious run at the top step, but they do have the ability to finish in the top 3 with a superb weekend. Oak Mountain has 2 champs and 4 runners-up ... six semifinalists would be huge. If Jaylin Gaines and Cole Thomas (both #3's) can find a win, then the Eagles could be in the hunt. The Huskies of Hewitt-Trussville have 2 champs and 3 runners-up and are in a similar position to Oak Mountain. Their 2 #4's (Caleb Hammond and Harrison Shelton) must not go 0-2 if HT is going to push for a top 5 finish. Huntsville has 3 section champs (2 of the 3 are favorites) and each should get to the finals. Their team will ultimately depend on how well Elijah Morrow (a #2 at 285), Jawaun Doughty (#3 at 132), and Michael Nitti (#3 at 160) wrestle. If those three can join Schrimsher, Curtis, and Clark high on the podium, Huntsville will be in the mix.
- Tier 1
- Favorite: Sam Latona (SO) - Thompson
- James Hughes (JR) - Grissom
- Agustin Gonzalez (JR) - Tuscaloosa County
- Sullivan Tipton (FR) - Oak Mountain
- Best 1st Round Match: Hughes vs. Rivers
- Darkhorse: Jack Rivers (SO) - Spain Park
- Finals: Hughes vs. Latona
- What to Watch: Thompson's Sam Latona is easily the best 106 in the bracket. Latona, a Greco National Champion and Freestyle Runner-up in Fargo, is one of the best 106's in Southeast. He won the KC Stampede and his only loss on the season came to Matt Ramos of Lockport Township at the Cheesehead in Wisconsin. He is wrestling at another level and one could make the case that he is the best wrestler in the state regardless of classification or weight class. After throwing around those accolades you have to wonder if anyone has a chance. The answer is always yes. The bracket is filled with talented wrestlers and it only takes one moment to take a dominant favorite out. Grissom's James Hughes also has just one loss on the season, to Jailen Young of Jemison. Hughes, the North Section Champion, leads the pack that will look to knock off Latona. Keep an eye on Agustin Gonzalez of Tuscaloosa County and Sullivan Tipton of Oak Mountain. Tipton and Toney have not met this season and that could be the best 1st round match ... Rivers has faced some outstanding competition this season so don't let the 12 losses fool you. He lost last weekend to Latona and then forfeited his consolation final (presumably to be on the opposite side of the bracket than Latona). He is not a typical #4 from a section.
- Favorite: Chandler Akins (SO) - Thompson
- Tyler Ivey (SO) - Grissom
- Zaderian Toney (SO) - Bob Jones
- Kobe Frazier (SR) - Jeff Davis
- Best 1st Round Match: Toney vs. Thomas
- Darkhorse: Cole Thomas (SO) - Oak Mountain
- Finals: Akins vs. Ivey
- What to Watch: Thompson's Chandler Akins destroyed the south section bracket last weekend and will look to do it again this weekend in Huntsville. He pinned Cole Thomas of Oak Mountain and earned a 16-0 technical fall of Kobe Frazier, a 2016 State Placer at weight, of Jeff Davis. Akins and Ivey met in January with Akins taking an 8-0 major decision ... it would be surprising if the two didn't match-up again on Saturday. Frazier vs. Juan and Toney vs. Thomas look like very good 1st round matches ... if Frazier can get by Juan, then a Frazier vs. Ivey semifinal seems likely. That will be the one to watch. Cole Thomas is tough on the top side, but can't seem to get past Akins (plus he has his work cut out for him in Zaderian Toney in the first round).
- Favorite: Alex Thomas (JR) - Vestavia
- Stone Barden (SO) - Hewitt-Trussville
- Marc Hunt (JR) - Central-Phenix City
- Emmanuel Oliver (FR) - Thompson
- Best 1st Round Match: Oliver vs. Snyder
- Darkhorse: Parker Snyder (JR) - Bob Jones
- Finals: Thomas vs. Barden
- What to Watch: Thomas and Barden have battled twice this season with Thomas winning by the narrowest of margins each time. Expect the two to meet again in the finals on Saturday afternoon. Hunt beat Oliver 6-3 to capture the south section title and gets Jaime Harkins of Huntsville in the 1st round ... a matchup with Barden (assuming he beats Mason) looms in the semi's. Oliver vs. Snyder looks like the best 1st round match, but the winner will likely get the defending 106 lb. State Champ Alex Thomas (Thomas pinned Snyder in the 1st period last weekend and beat Oliver 8-0 in a meeting earlier this season). Strange things happen on the mat, but it looks like a Thomas vs. Barden match is likely.
- Favorite: Gabe Hixenbaugh (SO) - Thompson
- Maxwell Kauffman (JR) - Central-Phenix City
- Braden Treglown (SR) - Hewitt-Trussville
- Nathaniel Nailen (SO) - Vestavia
- Best 1st Round Match: Nailen vs. Wilson
- Darkhorse: Tyler Wilson (SR) - Smiths Station
- Finals: Hixenbaugh vs. Kauffman
- What to Watch: 2016 113 lb. State Runner-up Maxwell Kauffman has two losses this season, both to Thompson's Gabe Hixenbaugh. Hixenbaugh, the 2016 113 lb. State Champ, has downed Kauffman 3-2 and 1-0 in two very tight matches. Can Kauffman (like Barden at 120) make the 3rd match a charm and knock off the defending champ? Both must find a way to make the finals, but given their track record that seems like a distinct possibility. Nailen vs. Wilson is definitely the best 1st round match ... Nailen barely lost to Treglown in the North Sectional final and Wilson might be the third best wrestler in the bracket. The fight for 3rd will be interesting. Whalen barely beat Hoyt, Camp had a medical forfeit to Wilson ... pick the top two seems like a sure thing, beyond that it could be anyone else in the bracket.
- Favorite: Blake Randle (SR) - Oak Mountain
- Daishun Mitchell (SR) - Bob Jones
- Heath Williamson (SR) - Hewitt-Trussville
- Johnnie Swinnie (JR) - Central-Phenix City
- Best 1st Round Match: Swinnie vs. Doughty
- Darkhorse: Jawaun Doughty (SR) - Huntsville
- Finals: Mitchell vs. Randle
- What to Watch: Extremely good weight class. Very evenly matched and at least one section left some wrestlers at home that might have made the podium this weekend. Very competitive bracket. Oak Mountain's Blake Randle has been smooth and steady all season. He has 4 losses and each came to a very good wrestler (GA State Runner-up Lucas DeSilva, Hixenbaugh, SC's Trevor Mansfield, and FL's Ethan Basile of Jesuit). He beat Williamson 3-2 in their only meeting this season and looked very sharp in pinning his way to the south section title. Mitchell came from the #3 spot to knockoff Doughty 12-4 and Williamson 3-1 to take the north section title. If you like close battles, pay attention to this weight class.
- Favorite: Patterson Huff (SR) - Hoover
- Carson Lester (SR) - Oak Mountain
- Peter Dazzio (SO) - Vestavia
- Frank Brown (SR) - Mountain Brook
- Best 1st Round Match: Megois vs. Dazzio
- Darkhorse: Jacob Megois (SR) - Thompson
- Finals: Huff vs. Lester
- What to Watch: Returning State Placer Patterson Huff is the favorite ... he has beaten Brown, Lester, Megois, and Dazzio this season. His 4 losses have come to 2x George State Champion Raydan Wilder, Florida State Champ and 2x Runner-up Franco Valdes, Georgia State Placer Dawson Woods, and North Carolina State Runner-up Phil Daub. Lester has been close (losing once 3-2) and Megois was close in losing 4-0, but no one in Alabama has been able to solve Huff this season. The bottom side features State Placers Lester and Megois and North Section Champ Peter Dazzio. Megois and Lester have split this season (Dazzio beat Lester 1-0 in the State Duals) and Megois beat Dazzio 9-4 in January. Any of the three could emerge as the finalist on the bottom side.
- Favorite: Jack Stoves (SR) - Vestavia
- Conner Smith (JR) - Hewitt-Trussville
- Jonathan Handy (JR) - Grissom
- Derek Hussey (SO) - Thompson
- Best 1st Round Match: Scott vs. Handy
- Darkhorse: Cameron Harbin (SR) - Sparkman
- Finals: Stoves vs. Smith
- What to Watch: We have no idea what to expect between Stoves and Smith. Smith is 4-2 against Stoves this season, but Stoves won the last meeting 6-4 in the North Section Finals. That could give us a Harbin vs. Smith semifinal match (Smith beat him last week 10-4). Harbin beat Hussey by technical fall in late December in their only meeting this season ... can Hussey correct that and set himself up with a match with Smith? This is assuming Smith beats Fontenot (the two have not met this season). Stoves has beaten Brady, Handy, and Scott this season ... so if past results predicts future performance - Stoves should be in the finals ... the big question is against who?
- Favorite: Houston Curtis (SR) - Huntsville
- Robert Morales (JR) - Central-Phenix City
- Cole Holmes (SR) - Mountain Brook
- Mingyu Lee (SR) - Oak Mountain
- Best 1st Round Match: Haddock vs. Lee
- Darkhorse: Spencer Haddock (JR) - Vestavia
- Finals: Morales vs. Curtis
- What to Watch: Curtis beat Morales 11-10 earlier this season, giving Morales his only loss this season. He has not faced a very good Cole Holmes yet this season, so a path to the finals is not a given. Haddock has beaten Lee twice this season and should get another shot at Curtis. Curtis pinned him very early in the season and the two have not met since. Unless Holmes or Haddock pull the upset, this looks like a rematch of Morales and Curtis. Hold on because this one is sure to provide some fireworks.
- Favorite: Barrett Blakely (JR) - Oak Mountain
- Bowman Hill (JR) - Vestavia
- Jordan Hunter (SO) - Buckhorn
- Jeffery Mooney (JR) - Prattville
- Best 1st Round Match: Hunter vs. Freidenreich
- Darkhorse: Charlie Freidenreich (JR) - Auburn
- Finals: Blakely vs. Hill
- What to Watch: A pair of 2016 State Runners-up headline the 160 lb. bracket. Bowman Hill lost in the 152 finals to Robert Morales last season and Blakely lost in the 170 final to Brooks Schrimsher. Both are back and ready to make a run at the top step. Blakely has beaten Hill twice this season, 12-8 and 10-3, but neither should look ahead to the finals just yet. Hill has beaten Rudolph, but hasn't wrestled either Mooney or Nitti this season (again according to track). Blakely has pinned Freidenreich twice, but hasn't faced either Hunter or Oliver. It would be a surprise if it wasn't Blakely vs. Hill for a third time on Saturday, but don't get ahead of yourself.
- Favorite: Randy Jenkins (SR) - Hoover
- Braedon Keith (SR) - Hewitt-Trussville
- Zachary Nelson (SR) - Vestavia
- Justin Evans (JR) - Oak Mountain
- Best 1st Round Match: Francovitch vs. Evans
- Darkhorse: George Francovitch (SO) - Bob Jones
- Finals: Jenkins vs. Keith
- What to Watch: Jenkins is the only returning state Placer in the bracket and all 3 2016 State Qualifiers are on the top side (Nelson and Thompson join Jenkins). But don't let that fool you into thinking that the bottom side is weak. North Section Champ Braedon Keith has beaten Nelson 3 times this season and Thompson twice. He has yet to face Jenkins ... so a match between the two could be interesting. Jenkins pinned Milner in the South Section bracket, but has yet to face Nelson this season. Keith hasn't faced Francovitch this season, but has beaten Evans twice (11-10 and 10-3). Jenkins vs. Keith is the likeliest possibility, but don't sleep on Nelson, Evans, Milner, etc.
- Favorite: Brooks Schrimsher (SR) - Huntsville
- Zack Noble (SR) - Prattville
- Seth Bruder (JR) - James Clemens
- Gibbs Sherrell (JR) - Fairhope
- Best 1st Round Match: Sherrell vs. Barrentine
- Darkhorse: Rob Barrentine (SO) - Vestavia
- Finals: Schrimsher vs. Noble
- What to Watch: There is only one thing for certain in this bracket ... Schrimsher is the favorite. The defending 170 lb. State Champion is a perfect 38-0 on the season and has beaten many of the best 182's in the state (love to see he and Knop wrestle). Beyond that things are a bit up in the air. Sherrell finished 2nd to Noble in the South Section and his 1st round match vs. Barrentine appears to be the best of the bracket. The bottom side is a complete unknown. Bruder recently dropped from 195, where he has been ranked all season, and gave Schrimsher a good match in the North Section finals (losing 7-5). Biggs is a tough #4, but he medically forfeited to Barrentine ... is he healthy enough to take on Prattville's Zack Noble? Noble's only losses have come to out of state competition. Noble vs. Bruder looks like a gret semifinal with the winner getting Schrimsher. Remember Bruder came from the #4 spot last year to take 2nd ... so he knows how to make a run through the bracket.
- Favorite: D'Angelo Dewitt (JR) - Hoover
- Jaeger Clark (JR) - Huntsville
- Manny Allan (SR) - Spain Park
- Harold Gilmore (JR) - Bob Jones
- Best 1st Round Match: Gilmore vs. Phillips
- Darkhorse: Austin Phillips (SR) - Smiths Station
- Finals: Dewitt vs. Clark
- What to Watch: Uncertainty. Dewitt, the South Section Champ, took the top spot with a medical forfeit of Allan in the finals. He pinned #2 seed Austin Phillips in the semifinals to get there. He also has a loss to Clark on the season and has not wrestled Gilmore. All of that to say, he is our favorite. The reasoning is this ... the bottom side of the bracket looks much more daunting. Little lost to Allan 8-5 earlier this season, but we don't know why Allan forfeited last weekend. The uncertainty of how healthy Allan is and the impact that can have the bottom side of the bracket, pushes us to go with Dewitt as the favorite. Don't be surprised to see Dewitt vs. Allan in the finals or Dewitt vs. Clark in the finals ... someone else could surprise (especially Phillips), but that doesn't appear likely.
- Favorite: James Edwards (SR) - Vestavia
- Jack Smith (SO) - Fairhope
- Branden Moore (SR) - Sparkman
- Deondre Williams (JR) - Smiths Station
- Best 1st Round Match: Williams vs. Dupree
- Darkhorse: Seth Dupree (JR) - Bob Jones
- Finals: Edwards vs. Smith
- What to Watch: Edwards is the defending 7A State Champion at 220 and has dominated everyone this season. It is hard to imagine him not being in the final. Williams and Dupree should be a very good first round match. Edwards has beaten Moore twice this season, Carnes once, and has yet to face Smith. Smith, the South Section Champ, came from nowhere (was not seeded it looks like) to take the title. He had a 7-2 decision of LaFrederick Walker of Lee (the #3 seed), a 1st period fall of #2 seed Bast in the semifinals and another 1st period fall over the top seed Williams in the finals. He hasn't faced anyone else in the bracket ... so no clue how he will fare against Moore or Edwards.
- Favorite: Austin Carter (SR) - Hoover
- Jacob Edwards (SR) - Vestavia
- Elijah Morrow (JR) - Huntsville
- Drmitri Anderson (JR) - Auburn
- Best 1st Round Match: Cangelosi vs. Anderson
- Darkhorse: Zackary Cangelosi (SR) - Sparkman
- Finals: Carter vs. Edwards
- What to Watch: Very good weight class. Carter, Edwards, Anderson, Morrow, Cangelosi all have a shot at the top step. We have chosen Carter as the favorite, but the distance between Carter and Edwards, Anderson, Morrow, etc. is very thin. Carter and Edwards have split this season and Carter downed Anderson in UTB to take the South Section title. He has not faced Morrow and that could be a heck of a semifinal (assuming Morrow can get past Whitlock who has been improving by leaps and bounds this season). Cangelosi vs. Anderson is by far the best 1st round match with the winner likely getting Edwards. This should be a very competitive weight class and will be fun to watch.