Team Race: In the last few years, few teams have been able to hang with the Warriors of Thompson. The boys from Alabaster have been on a roll and given what they return in 2015-2016, they should once again be the team to beat, both at sectionals and state, in 2016. Oak Mountain pushed them at the 2015 South Sectional Tournament, but fell away from Thompson on the big stage and finished 5th. They represent Thompson’s greatest challenge in the South Section. Hoover, which took 4th at the 2015 Sectional Tournament, and Central-Phenix City, which finished 5th, have the pieces back to push for a top spot in 2016. It will be exciting to see Fairhope and Foley enter the mix in 2015-2016. Keep an eye on Prattville and Jefferson Davis, both teams could jump into the top 3 if someone stumbles.
Contenders: Four 2015 State Champions return to defend their title. Prattville’s Robbey Killough (138) and Thompson’s Gabe Hixenbaugh (106), Dominic Latona (120), and TJ Rayam (285) should enter the season as the favorites. Hixenbaugh will almost certainly move up in weight and may battle teammate Cody Mealer (2nd at 113) for the varsity spot at 113. Seven wrestlers finished just off the top step in 2015 and will be hungry to take that top step in 2016. The three most notable are 120 lb. Runner-up Khaleel Johnson of Auburn, 220 lb. Runner-up Bret Winters of Hoover, and 132 lb. Runner-up Michael John Harris of Oak Mountain. The trio get one last shot at the top step in 2016. Will they finally climb to the top step in 2016? 6A Champ (2014) and Runner-up (2015) Hank Turner moves into 7A with a transfer to Thompson and will be looking to be back on top again in 2016. He has had a great pre-season and should battle it out with 152 lb. State Champion Brooks Schrimsher of Huntsville, 160 lb. State Champion Davis Perry of Hewitt Trussville or 170 lb. State Runner-up George Dazzio of Vestaiva if they fall into the same weight class. Thompson’s Nicholas Mobley fell to James Clemens’ TJ Edwards in the finals at 182 a season ago. Mobley enters the 2015-2016 season as one of the favorites at 182, 195 or wherever he lands. Lastly, 106 lb. State Runner-up Alex Thomas of Oak Mountain has looked outstanding at 106 in the pre-season, particularly at the super tough Super 32 tournament in North Carolina. Expect Thomas to battle throughout the season at 113 and then be the favorite at 106 entering the post-season.
Five South Sectional Wrestlers took 3rd and two finished 4th in the 2015 State Tournament. Each has a great opportunity to take the top step in 2016, but each will need to win a match or two against some tough competition if they are going to take home the individual hardware. Keep an eye on Hoover’s Patterson Huff (3rd at 106) and Gage Camp (3rd at 113), Jeff Davis’ Deshoun Calhoun (3rd at 132), and Oak Mountain’s Jaried Buxton (3rd at 170) and Coleman Reeves (3rd at 160). Each member of the quintet should be wrestling for a state title Saturday afternoon. Maxwell Kauffman (4th at 113) of Central-Phenix City and Jacob Megois (4th at 132) of Thompson have an outside shot at the top step in 2016. Be sure to keep an eye on 2014 State champion Riley Pike of Thompson. Pike missed the post-season a year ago and will be looking to make up for that in 2016.
Hunting the Podium: Nine South Sectional wrestlers qualified for the 2015 State Tournament, but failed to find the podium. Five 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: Central-Phenix City’s Robert Morales and Carson Lester, Armond Lloyd, Hall Morton, and Blake Randle of Oak Mountain. Four wrestlers, Marcus Boler of Auburn, D’Angelo Dewitt of Hoover, Barrett Blakely of Oak Mountain, and Austin Akins of Thompson finished 0-2 and will need to wrestle better in 2016 if they are going to medal. Two other wrestlers, Sam Latona of Thompson and Kobe Frazier of Jeff Davis, have a real shot at a spot on the podium in 2016. Latona, just a freshman, but has a ton of experience and should be in the hunt for a spot at 106. Frazier just missed a trip to the 2015 State Tournament after being the odd man out in a very tough 113 lb. South Section bracket a season ago. Expect both of them to push for a spot on the podium in 2016.
Under the Radar: Keep an eye on the following wrestlers: Jonathan Foshee of Auburn, Kristian Scott and Johnnie Swinnie of Central-Phenix City, Larry Wallace and Lake Williams of Hoover, Trey El of Jeff Davis, Jaquaris Milner of Lee-Montgomery, Brett Cruce and Andrew Stanfield of Oak Mountain, Terence Perkins and Tristan Powell of Prattville, Jacobb Goodwin of Smiths Station, Christopher Campbell and Clay Christian of Spain Park, and Jeran McCarthy of Thompson.