Team Race: The battle between Vestavia and Hewitt Trussville a season ago was fun to watch. Given the numbers and quality each team returns, it wouldn’t be surprising to see the two go at it again in 2016. Add in Tuscaloosa County, 3rd in the South Sectional, and you have three superb teams that should battle it out for the top spot. Tuscaloosa County is not as deep as either Vestavia or Hewitt so they will need Andres, Smith, and Clark to score bonus points and get some help from Beasley and Harden. Keep an eye on Bob Jones (5 State Qualifiers return), Grissom (4 State Qualifiers return), James Clemens (2 State Placers and a State Qualifier return), and Mountain Brook (Runner-up Reed and 3 State Qualifiers return). Any of the four could break into the top 2 if the opportunity presents itself.
Contenders: Six State Champions return to defend their titles from a season ago. Tuscaloosa County’s Carlos Andres (113) and Josh Smith (195) move over from the South Sectional and will look to claim their first North Sectional title in 2016. Vestavia’s John Hayden Hill (145) and Matthew Paugh (132), Hewitt’s Davis Perry (160), and Huntsville’s Brooks Schrimsher should enter the season as the favorites. Mountain Brook’s Drew Reed and Vestavia’s George Dazzio both finished 2nd a season ago and will look to overcome that loss and climb to the top step in 2016.
Given the depth of the 7A returnees, the seven South Sectional Wrestlers that took 3rd or 4th in the 2015 State Tournament will need to string together a great state tournament to claim the top step in 2016. Hewitt’s Heath Williamson is probably the best bet to be on the top step in 2016, but he may have to beat Reed, Stoves, Latona, and/or Johnson in order to claim the title. Keep an eye on Hewitt’s Kyle Miskelley (3rd at 285) and Reagan Land (4th at 106), Tuscaloosa County’s Tristan Clark (4th at 126), Vestavia’s Zachary Nelson (4th at 182), and James Clemens’ Isaac Shafer (4th at 195) and Spencer Davis (4th at 120). Each has a legitimate shot at being on the top step, but the road will not be easy. Be sure to keep an eye on Jensen Beach (FL) Transfer Harry Walker of Hewitt. Walker was one of the top 195’s/220’s the past couple of years in Florida and should be in the running for a spot on the top step in 2016.
Hunting the Podium: Twenty-five North Sectional wrestlers that qualified for the 2015 State Tournament (and return in 2015-2016) failed to find the podium. Nine finished just off the podium and will be eager to claim a medal in 2016. Expect each of them to be on the podium in 2016 and don’t be surprised if one or more climbs to the top step. They include: Stone Barden of Buckhorn, Chris Leatherman of Sparkman, McKee Brown, Thomas Byrne, and Robert Randolph of Mountain Brook, Luke DiPietro and Tyler Ivey of Grissom, and Bowman Hill and Murphy McCallum of Vestavia. Sixteen wrestlers, Luke Mastro of Hewitt Trussville, James Edwards of Vestavia, Dominc Davis, Seth Dupree, Chase Henderson, Marshall Hildreth, and Ben Rogers of Bob Jones, Michael Harris and Jacob Cole of Grissom, Cameron Harbin and Kaden Nichols of Sparkman, Cole Holmes of Mountain Brook, Max Anderson and Houston Curtis of Huntsville, and Sean Parish of Buckhorn finished 0-2 and will need to wrestle better in 2016 if they are going to medal. Keep an eye on Jack Stoves and Quin Estes of Vestavia. Stoves had a chance to grab the top step a season ago before being injured just before the post-season. If he has bounced back, he will certainly be a threat for a spot on the podium in 2016. Estes fell in the sectionals a season ago, but should be considered a threat at 120, 126, or 132.
Under the Radar: Keep an eye on the following wrestlers: Kyle Bergmann and Garret Marks of Buckhorn, Harrison Shelton, Cale Land and Braden Treglown of Hewitt Trussville, Blake Kirby of Huntsville, Seth Bruder of James Clemens, Will Pitman of Mountain Brook, and Spencer Haddock of Vestavia.