Arab wrestlers headed to state tournament with momentum

Arab won the North Super Sectional this past weekend, but the real prize is up for grabs this Thursday, Friday and Saturday at Huntsville.

Arab’s wrestling team didn’t quite reach perfection in winning the Class 1A-5A North Super Sectional at the Birmingham CrossPlex this past weekend, but it came pretty close and in the process, left itself in prime position to win another traditional state tournament this week at Huntsville.

Arab qualified 13 of its 14 wrestlers for the state tournament, which starts at noon Thursday at the Von Braun Center and concludes Saturday with the consolation and championship finals.

The tournament begins Thursday with the Class 1A-5A and 6A preliminary matches. Arab has a chance to do some real damage that day, according to head coach Michael Pruitt, who said his team is the favorite “on paper” simply because of the number of wrestlers qualified.

“We have brackets we can score in that other teams can’t,” he said. “I’ve looked at the brackets and I think it’s possible we can put 10 in the semifinals.”

What each wrestler does with his opportunity is another matter.

“I think all our kids can win a match,” Pruitt said. “I also think all our kids will have to win a match to win as a team.

“We can’t have anyone going 0-2.”

Pruitt was pleased with his team’s performance in the sectional and said it did slightly better than he anticipated.

“We started out really well,” he said. “We went 8-for-8 in the first round and 14-for-14 in the second round,” meaning every wrestler won at least one match.

“We put six in the finals and I was thinking maybe we’d get five, so that was one better than we hoped. And we came darn close to gettng everyone qualified.”

Three of those six who reached the final won sectional championships: Cabe Dunn at 106 pounds, Jacob Holland at 113 and Caleb Roe at 160.

Holland, in particular, has had a spectacular season. He’s 47-1 and won his state duals match in 12 seconds.

Dunn is 47-1 and Roe is 55-5.

Those three will be Arab’s biggest threats to win individual state titles but Pruitt is looking for every wrestler to contribute in some way. He’s also looking for some help from other teams, though that will be the case for the coaches of every contending team.

“I think we can get five in the championship finals of those 13 (who qualified),” Pruitt said. “Anything more than that will be icing on the cake.

“But, we’ve got to take care of our business and then have a little help. There are too many teams with too many good wrestlers to think anyone can win it without some help.

“Last year, we got absolutely no help. None.”

By help, Pruitt means having some of the other contending teams’ top wrestlers knocked off before they win individual state championships – or preferably even sooner, before they accumulate a lot of points for their teams.

Last year, Moody won almost all of its championship matches, and that was enough to beat Arab, which finished second despite having, perhaps, the deepest overall team.

Pruitt certainly thought so.

“The best team last year was Arab,” Pruitt said flatly. “Arab was not the best team that weekend. Moody was.”

Arab has won seven traditional state titles, including six in a row before finishing second last year. The Knights also have won three of the four state duals tournaments, including the fourth one Jan. 24.

Thus, in Pruitt’s mind, the Knights are going for state title No. 11 this week.

“We have a shot, a good shot,” he said. “I’m thankful for that. A lot of teams would like to be in the position we’re in.

“I think the boys appreciate it, too, but it might be 10 years before they truly appreciate the opportunity they have.”

Arab’s quick start last weekend helped it immensely in its battle with Jasper, which finished second with 253.5 points. Arab totaled 287.

“Not only did we win those (early) matches, we got bonus points in the majority of them,” Pruitt said.

Bonus points are those that exceed the basic three points awarded for a decision.

Corner was third with 165.5 points, followed by Southside-Gadsden (159) and Mortimer Jordan (144.5).

Moody finished sixth and has some very good wrestlers that advanced to state but not enough to actually win again, Pruitt said.

Three Arab wrestlers finished second: Austin Silva at 120 pounds, Josh Roe at 132 and Sam Atchley at 182.

“I thought Josh Roe wrestled his best all year,” Pruitt said.

Patrick Lawler, at 138 pounds, finished third, and Xander Shipp, at 220 pounds, finished fourth.

Kaden King finished fifth at 145 pounds. Michael Myslinski (152 pounds), Ryan Morelan (170) and Christian Eaton (195) finished sixth.

Skyler Rodgers also qualified by finishing seventh at 285 pounds.

The only wrestler who did not qualify, eighth grader Logan Silva, ended up 2-2 in the 126-pound class and thus scored points for the team.

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