One goal for the Arab wrestling team has been dashed. Work started on the second goal on Wednesday.
“It’s three and a half week til the state tournament,” a disappointed but determined Kyle Routon said after his team fell to Gardendale 32-27 in the semifinals of the state duals tournament Tuesday night.
Gardendale is ranked No. 1 and Arab No. 2 in the newly created 5A-6A classification in wrestling, but only Gardendale will advance to this weekend’s state finals in Birmingham.
Arab had won three of the previous four state duals tournaments, two in 6A and this past year in Class 1A-5A.
The traditional state tournament – the one recognized by AHSAA as the official state champion – will be held in Huntsville Feb. 18-20.
The Knights had defeated Gardendale 37-33 in Arab in December but coaches on both sides knew neither team fielded its best lineup, mostly due to injuries.
Arab coaches saw Gardendale field its best lineup in one of its matches in the Arab Invitational this past weekend. The Rockets defeated McAdory in that match, 54-8, on Saturday morning, so Routon and his staff knew Tuesday night would be a battle, especially since Arab still can’t field its best lineup because of injuries and illness.
The loss overshadowed an otherwise ultra-successful week for Arab wrestling. The Knights defeated Athens 66-10 in the round of 16 of the duals tournament at Hartselle last Thursday, then defeated the host team 43-25 in the quarterfinals to advance to Tuesday’s semifinals.
Then, over the weekend, the team, coaches, staff and volunteers were able pull off the Arab “Duals” Invitational despite all the hurdles presented by pandemic protocols.
The competition was divided over Friday and Saturday, and 19 teams competed, some more than once. The tournament featured pool competitions Friday night, Saturday morning and Saturday afternoon in both gyms.
Six pool winners were awarded plaques because teams couldn’t cross over to wrestle other teams.
“It’s the first time all year it felt almost normal, at least for us,” Routon said. “We got to see all the coaches, we had a hospitality room.
“It didn’t feel normal to everybody (teams coming on different day), but it did for us.”
Arab also performed at a high level. Wrestling Saturday afternoon, the Knights Arab defeated Buckhorn 63-12, East Limestone 78-0 and Hayden 75-0 to win one of the plaques.
On Friday night, Alexandria and Bob Jones won plaques. Alexandria defeated Buckhorn 42-24, East Limestone 60-18 and Jackson-Olin 60-18.
Bob Jones defeated Hartselle 33-27, Southside 54-29 and Chelsea 53-28.
Saturday morning, Fort Payne and Gardendale won pool titles. Fort Payne defeated Athens 60-15, Jasper 51-27 and Pell City 69-6.
Gardendale defeated James Clemens 67-9, Mae Jemison 66-16 and McAdory 54-8.
Pelham won the other Saturday afternoon pool by defeating Mortimer Jordan 57-14 and Southside 44-36.