After clearing one hurdle – simply getting to the Von Braun Center on Thursday – the Arab wrestling team cleared a few more obstacles on the first day of the AHSAA Class 1A-5A tournament en route – the Knights hope – to another state championship.
Bus driver Leonard Haga got the team to Huntsville and back, using different alternate routes to bypass the closed portion of U.S. 231. Once in Huntsville, the Knights got down to business, totaling 76.5 points on the day and sending six wrestlers to the championship semifinals.
Those six already are state placers (at least sixth place) and another five remain alive in the consolation round, putting the Knights in very good position to capture their eighth traditional state title.
Jasper, considered to be Arab’s biggest challenge, at least on paper, is in second place with 56 points. The Vikings had a good opening day but not quite as good as Arab’s. They have four in the championship semis and six wrestlers still alive in the consolation bracket.
“We have the (numbers) advantage, but it’s still early,” Arab coach Michael Pruitt said. “If we can get four of the six in the championship finals, we’ll be sitting pretty.”
After Jasper are Ranburne (43 points), Mortimer Jordan (40) and Southside-Gadsden (40). Defending champion Moody is in seventh with 34.5 points.
Arab got off to a sizzling start Thursday but it could have been even better. After the first-round (preliminary) matches, Arab led Jasper 34-30. Arab had seven wins by pins, one win by forfeit, one win by decision, two losses by pins, one loss by forfeit and one loss by decision.
It was the loss by forfeit that had Pruitt upset, not at his wrestler, Austin Silva at 120 pounds, but at his opponent, Lincoln’s Austin Creamer.
Silva was leading 6-1 early in the match when he was called for an illegal slam. Pruitt said he thought the move was legitimate but because Creamer stayed on mat and did not get up, the officials awarded him the match.
“The kid took a dive. He wasn’t hurt,” Pruitt said. “I hate to say that, but we’ve seen him do the exact same thing before.
“It’s just unfortunate. I hate it for Austin.”
Silva won his first consolation match Thursday and has a good chance to meet up with Creamer again, according to Pruitt.
“We’re just hoping he has the chance to make the universe right again,” Pruitt said.
Arab’s seven first-round pins were by Cabe Dunn (106 pounds), Jacob Holland (113), Patrick Lawler (138), Michael Myslinski (152), Caleb Roe (160), Ryan Morelan (170) and Sam Atchley (182).
Josh Roe (132) won by forfeit, and Xander Shipp (220) won by decision (4-3).
Dunn and Holland started the championship quarterfinal round with back-to-back pins to push Arab’s team total to 54 points. Josh Roe won by tech fall (17-2) and Lawler won by major decision (10-0). Caleb Roe and Atchley won by decision.
Besides Silva, other Knights still alive in the consolation bracket are Myslinski and Shipp, both of whom lost by pin in the second round; Morelan, who lost by a 7-5 decision in the second round; and Rodgers, who won by pin in the the first conso round.
Kaden King (145) and Christian Eaton (195) were eliminated on the first day. Arab did not qualify a wrestler at 126.
The tournament concludes today with the championship finals.