Arab wrestling: Knights win state championship

Jacob Holland, left, and Cabe Dunn show off their individual state championship medals and the team trophy.

Arab’s Austin Silva gained his sweet revenge against Lincoln’s Austin Creamer in a highly anticipated 120-pound consolation-bracket rematch Friday night at the Von Braun Center in Huntsville.

Silva, a sophomore and a strong finalist contender in his weight class, had been deprived of that opportunity when he had to forfeit his opening-round match to Creamer on Thursday because of highly questionable tactics by his opponent.

But with emotional teammates and wrestlers and coaches from other teams looking on, Silva destroyed Creamer Friday evening, running up the score to 17-8 before mercifully pinning him in the final period.

It was a beatdown that brought joy and happiness to a lot of folks in the Propst Arena, not just those wearing Arab blue.

And oh, by the way, Arab’s wrestling team dominated the Class 1A-5A state tournament, capturing the team title on Friday while sending a school-record six wrestlers to Saturday’s championship finals. It was the school’s eighth traditional tournament state title and 11th overall, including three duals championships. The Knights’ dynamic duo at the top of the lineup, Cabe Dunn and Jacob Holland, both won individual titles, capping sensational seasons.

It capped a decade of dominance by the Knights, who won their first state title in 2011, won six straight state crowns from 2013 through 2018 and finished runnerup in the two years they didn’t take first place (2012, 2019).

In three of those title-winning seasons, Arab also won the state duals championship – 2017, 2018 and this year – though the AHSAA doesn’t recognize those as official state championships.

Arab coach Michael Pruitt does.

“That’s three more banners,” he said after the final match had been completed on Saturday. “One more blue one (state) and two more white ones (duals and North Super Sectional).”

Not to mention another blue plaque for the ever-growing trophy room.

This tournament had it all for the Arab family, except perhaps a nail-biting final day, which was just fine with Pruitt and his assistants, Klay Cranford, Scott Cleland, Jacob Spencer and B.J. Hayes.

“The fans may enjoy the tournament coming down to the last day, but I can tell you what coaches like a whole lot better, and that’s when you can leave on Friday night and have it clinched,” Pruitt said. “At least this coach does.”

Pruitt and his coaches could sit back and enjoy watching their six finalists compete for individual titles, and Dunn at 106 and Holland at 113 made the early viewing pleasant. Both had flown through their matches to reach the finals, but both had to work hard to take home their medals.

Dunn won by pin three times before scratching out a 2-0 win in the final. Holland won by pin twice and major decision once before winning a 6-4 decision for the title.

“Those two have been our hammers this season,” Pruitt said. “Actually, with Silva, also, the first three have been dependable hammers for us all year long.”

Dunn, a sophomore, has compiled a 51-1 record this season. Silva, also a sophomore, finished at 36-9. Holland, a junior, just completed a dominant season, going 55-1, with one of those wins being a 12-second pin in the duals championship.

Both Dunn’s and Holland’s lone losses came against out-of-state competition.

The six finalists is a school record and one more win by the next four would have matched the school record for individual titles won in a state tournament.

But Josh Roe lost a major decision (16-4) at 132 and Patrick Lawler lost a brutal match at 138, 3-0.

The next – and as it turned out best – chance came at 160 pounds when Caleb Roe, the North No. 1 seed battled South No. 1 Jack Burt of Montgomery Catholc. The match came down to – literally – the last second, as Roe appeared to have won 7-6 on a last-second, two-point takedown.

But the scorer’s table overruled the two referees and ruled the takedown came just after the last second ticked off the clock (see more about this match in “In the Tank” on page 1B).

That left Sam Atchley at 182, but he fell in another extremely close match that came down to the wire, 6-4.

Pruitt deflected any talk that Saturday had been a disappointing day for his wrestlers.

“We were actually 4-4 on the day because (Silva and Morelan) had won consolation matches in the morning,” Pruitt said. “In the finals, we could’ve won all six and we could’ve lost all six. We lost a major decision in one. In the others, we lost 3-0, 6-5 and 6-4. So, we’re right there in those matches.

“And the ones we won, we won 6-4 and 2-0. “In the big picture, we wrestled eight matches today and every guy wrestling today placed in the state. This is good wrestling.”

Silva took third place and Morelan fifth with their wins on Saturday. Ironically, those two played pivotal roles for the team on Friday, particularly Silva.

In his second consolation match, Silva won by pin and brought Arab to the brink of the team title. Morelan, wrestling later in the round, won by major decision, clinching the team title for the Knights.

But it was the next consolation round that had everyone hopping. Silva, who was disqualified in the opening round because his opponent, Creamer, wouldn’t get up after being slammed to the mat, had to win out to place third.

And that he did, winning by forfeit, pin and major decision before matching up with Creamer again for the right to wrestle in Saturday morning’s third place match.

Silva was up 6-1 in the first period but Creamer was awarded the forfeit to advance.

“I was so mad after that,” Silva said. “I didn’t even bring him down with a trapped arm, but they called it that I did.

“I was on a mission after that.”

Emotions were high on the Arab side for the rematch, to say the least.

“The kid took a dive,” said Arab senior Xander Shipp. “We’re pretty sure he faked an injury so he wouldn’t have to keep wrestling. He’s done it before.

“We were ready to watch Austin teach that kid a lesson. And Austin was the man to do it, for sure.”

Austin, per Pruitt’s instructions, would let Creamer up for a one-point escape after taking him down for two points or more.

“We cut him,” Pruitt said, meaning Silva cut him loose. “It’s a strategy of taking him down and letting him go.

“It’s a way to build points (toward a possible major decision) and also mentally getting into the other kid’s head. It can be very frustrating.”

There was little doubt it was the latter not the former that Pruitt and Silva were trying to accomplish.

“Point made, message sent,” Pruitt said. “I hope they learned a lesson, and by that I mean the kid and the program.”

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