Team Race: The Leeds Greenwave crushed the 1A-5A competition a year ago, winning the South Sectional title by 40 points and the State Title by 27. With seven State Placers, including 285 lb. State Champion Josephus Smith, returning the Greenwave has to be considered the favorite to repeat in 2015-2016. Can anyone challenge the Greenwave on their way to another title in 2016? Yes, but it won’t be easy. Ohatchee, St James, Weaver, and Cleburne County are the likely suspects. Each returns multiple State Placers and multiple State Qualifiers. If any of the quartet are going to knock off the Greenwave, they will need some of the their “supporting cast” to step up and provide some significant points in Huntsville. Keep an eye on Alexandria and Helena. Both teams have the horses to be in the top 5 and could surprise some teams and be in the top 3.
Contenders: Thirty medalists from the 2015 State Tournament return for another shot at the top step in 2016. Four 2015 State Champions return and each is set on claiming another title in 2016. 120 lb. State Champion Zachary Van Alst of Montgomery Catholic might be the best wrestler in the state regardless of classification. Van Alst has made a significant push this pre-season to challenge himself against the best in the nation and it is unlikely he will be challenged in 1A-5A as he goes for another title. Taylor Mayfield of Cleburne County, Josephus Smith of Leeds, and Nick Souder of Weaver are all back to defend their titles from a season ago. Each wrestled a tough match in the finals, but found a way to push through and claim the top step. Five State Runners-up return to claim the title that eluded them a season ago. Four of the five, Tre Nation (2nd at 220), Alex Nickell (2nd at 152), and Toren Pollard (2nd at 138) of Leeds, and Chase Rodgers (2nd at 195) of Weaver are seniors and 2015-2016 represents their last attempt at an individual title. Ohatchee’s Jim Wilson fell to Souder in the finals at 106 and will be looking to start a streak of titles in 2016 that won’t be broken for several years.
Nine south sectional wrestlers made the consolation finals in 2015 and will be looking to push through and wrestle for a state title in 2016. They include: Fletcher Swindall (3rd at 106), Lane Trapp (3rdat 113), and Christian Knop (4th at 160) of Alexandria, Preston Jarrell (4th at 120) of Cleburne County, Cade Scott (4th at 182) of Helena, Austin Johnson (3rd at 120), Geoffrey Murray (3rd at 132), and Richard Williamson (4th at 195) of St James, and Michael Collin Allison (3rd at 182) of Weaver. Twelve additional south sectional wrestlers finished on the podium in 2015 and will be looking to climb the podium in 2016. Each has the ability to claim the top step, but may need to wrestle a fantastic 2016 State Tournament to knock off the competition in front of them. They include: Ryan King (6th at 152) of Alabama School for Blind, Alex Miller (5th at 106) of Helena, Arthur Patton (5th at 170), Will White (5th at 145), Jackson Brown (6th at 195), and Chandler Teems (6th at 132) of Leeds, Gabriel Keating (5th at 152) of Montgomery Catholic, Caleb Montgomery (5th at 195) and Josh Sexton (5th at 120) of Ohatchee, Bryan Tutton (6th at 170) of St Clair County, Will Prater (6th at 145) of St James, and Matt Elston (6th at 220) of Weaver. Keep an eye on Jake Baker of Tallassee and Sean Caleb Allison of Weaver. Neither wrestled in the 2015 post-season, but both have the ability to be on the podium.
Hunting the Podium: Thirty-two South Sectional wrestlers qualified (and return in 2015-2016) and recorded at least one win at the 2015 State Tournament. Each failed to find the podium, but will be looking to change that in 2016. Eleven of those 32 finished just off the podium, with a 2-2 record, and will be eager to claim a medal in 2016. Expect each of them to be on the podium in 2016. They include: Noah Beam and Travis Bell of Cleburne County, Timothy Thomas of Elmore County, Austin Rhodes of Holtville, Logan Burch and Skyler Mizzell of St Clair County, Mason Pattie of St James, Christian Shaneyfelt of Springville, Jeremy Noah of Tallassee, Brady Rinehard of Walter Wellborn, and Kyle Clapper of Weaver.
Twenty-one wrestlers finished 1-2 at the 2015 State Tournament and will need to wrestle better if they are going to medal in 2016. Each has an outside shot at a medal in 2016. Keep an eye on: Jack McCormick, Aaron Whittaker, and Gannon Womack of Alexandria, Tryston Gentry of Beauregard, Samuel Pate and Austin Turner of Cleburne County, Nicolas Thames of Elmore County, Joshua Gruhn of Helena, Cody Gibson of Holtville, Will Patterson and Westley Stone of Moody, Hayden Pitts and Austin Snelling of Ohatchee, Jacob Van Northington of Prattville Christian, Jack Burt of St James, Jordan Brooks and Andrew Kilgore of Saks, Aaron Stagner of Shelby County, Andy Baker and Bruin Hathcock of Tallassee, and Tyler Johnson of Weaver.
Under the Radar: The following 14 wrestlers qualified for the State Tournament a season ago but failed to register a win in Huntsville. They have State Tournament experience, but will need to wrestle much better in 2015-2016 if any of the following is going to be on the podium in 2016. Tracy Strouse of Elmore County, Hunter Gruhn and Braxton Hiatt of Helena, Nathan Smith of Holtville, Brandon Franklin and Sam Sims of Leeds, Garrett Dorsett and Steven Porter of Moody, Coleman Wright of Prattville Christian, Denver Wages and Patrick Wilkins of Shelby County, Chace Nappier of Springville, Kiwanis Woods of Tallassee, and Justin Conner of Walter Wellborn.