Team Race: A year ago, the Arab Knights dominated the 6A field en route to another team title. The Knights lost six State Placers, but don’t be fooled into thinking they are not one of the favorites heading into 2015-2016. They return five State Placers, two State Qualifiers, and a program that focuses on the development of the next wrestler in line. The new faces will need to perform for the Knights to repeat, and the road will not be as easy as 2015, but it is certainly a possibility that the Knights will grab the North Section title again in 2016 and be in the running for the State title as well. The team most likely to knock off the Knights is the Panthers out of Southside-Gadsden. The Panthers, which finished 2nd at both the North Sectional and 6A State Tournament, will need to replace 170 lb. State Champion Kade Kitchens and State Placer Ryan Butler. The Panthers return a significant amount of firepower and could make the argument that they are the team to beat in 2015-2016. Keep an eye on Athens, Muscle Shoals, Clay Chalkville, and Scottsboro. Each returns a significant number of State Placers and Qualifiers and could make life difficult for both the Knights and Panthers.
Contenders: Thirty medalists from the 2015 State Tournament return for another shot at the top step in 2016. Fourteen are seniors and the 2015-2016 season represents their final shot at the top step. Three 2015 State Champions return and each is set on claiming another title in 2016. Scottsboro’s Brett Clark knocked off defending State Champion Hank Turner of Pinson Valley 4-3 to capture the 152 lb. title, Noah Bradford of Southside-Gadsden was dominant (three falls and a 6-2 win over Arab’s Javon Cortez in the finals) in capturing the 145 lb. title, and Jacob Smith of Southside-Gadsden was equally dominant in capturing the 106 lb. title. Eight State Runners-up return and each will be looking to capture the top step in 2016. They include: Javon Cortez (2nd at 145) and Dawson McDaniel (2nd at 195) of Arab, Austin Weldon (2nd at 160) of Clay Chalkville, Ian Hilyer (2nd at 138) of Ft Payne, Brennen Shankles (2nd at 120) of Muscle Shoals, Ryan Grider (2nd at 182) and John McAlpin (2nd at 113) of Scottsboro, and Landon Thompson (2nd at 132) of Southside-Gadsden.
Fifteen north 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: Kolton Clark (4th of 126) of Scottsboro, Andrew Freeman (3rd at 195) and Mac Boackle (4th at 106) of Gardendale, Timius Lowe (4that 195) of Austin, Nick Cater (3rd at 138), Seth Hyatt (3rd at 106), and Will Spencer (3rd at 152) of Arab, Keiland Clayton (4th at 285) of Clay Chalkville, John West (3rd at 113) and Jackson Prater (4th at 182) of Athens, David Dunford (3rd at 132) and Logan Smith (4th at 138) of Hartselle, and Joseph Green (3rd at 126), Greyson Beaver (4th at 132), and James Green (4th at 152) of Muscle Shoals. Four additional north 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: Cristian Lagunas (5th at 106), Marley Taylor (5th at 126), and Thomas Carter (6th at 160) of Athens, and Sam Colvin (5th at 138) of Southside-Gadsden.
Hunting the Podium: Thirty-two North 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. Thirteen 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: Andrew Schmitt of Arab, Hunter Lindsey of Athens, Kevin Turner of Austin, Jacob Smith of Clay Chalkville, Benjamin Berry of Decatur, Coleman Kim and Ian Smith of Gardendale, Colton Quattlebaum of Hartselle, JaJuan Butts of Huffman, Justin Collier of Lee-Huntsville, Tate Brannan and Cameron Hamby of Pinson Valley, and Stephan Lathem of Southside-Gadsden.
Nineteen 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: Clay Jones of Arab, Spencer Norris of Athens, Desmond Dempsey of Austin, Luis Palacios of Clay Chalkville, Tobias Miller of Decatur, Rolvin Bartolome, Gerardo Marcos, Darius Wagner, and Hunter Williams of Ft Payne, Trey Lewis of Gardendale, Marcus Henley and Owen Millette of Hartselle, Connie Toney of Lee-Huntsville, Alex Davis of Minor, Marlon Whiteside of Muscle Shoals, Zac Kusiak, George Vazquez, and Taylor Rhodes of Pinson Valley, and Bradee Snyder of Southside-Gadsden.
Under the Radar: The following 23 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. Keep an eye on: Deacon Cowart of Athens, Deandre Bass of Austin, Justin Carty, Stuart Turner and Fabian Esparza of Clay Chalkville, Juan Anaya, Brock Barrontine, and Sebastian Burt of Ft. Payne, Joey Jones, Scott Smith, and Trevor Muncey of Gardendale, Lewis Maldonado and Caleb Pope of Minor, Braden Barnes of Muscle Shoals, Isaac Franklin of Paul Bryant, Khymel Chaverst, David Pike, and Josh Walker of Pinson Valley, Drew Butler of Scottsboro, Nicholas Rollins of Shades Valley, Dakota Roddick of Southside-Gadsden, and Ryan Mobley and Miguel Sanchez of Walker.