Arab wrestling coach Michael Pruitt wasn’t kidding when he said his six-time returning state championship team might have three duals losses before Christmas.
He was joking when he added, “We might have three losses before December.”
The Knights almost made it through November without a loss, but they didn’t. They did lose once, to traditional Class 7A power Vestavia Hills last Tuesday.
That loss in and of itself would not have been a warning to this year’s Arab wrest-lers except for one thing: the score. Arab lost 52-9.
It was the Knights’ first in-state loss since 2016 but let’s be clear. Vestavia Hills is no Johnny-come-lately to the state’s power structure in wrestling. It won the 7A state championship in 2016 and 2017 before being dethroned by another 7A power, Thompson, earlier this year.
Arab, two-time returning Class 1A-5A state champion and winners of six straight titles and seven overall, won’t have to defeat Vestavia Hills or Thompson when the Knights try to win their seventh straight state title Feb. 14-16 at Huntsville.
But the loss to Vestavia Hills and the third-place finish in the Huntsville Invitational this past weekend (see story, page 2B) raise a few concerns about this year’s Arab team being able to continue its recent dominance.
Granted, Arab finished third at Huntsville to two returning state Class 7A state champions – Bob Jones (duals) and Thompson (traditional). And it did defeat 6A returning champion Oxford.
So, while no one is writing off Arab just yet, there are signs this year’s team has a lot of work to do. The Knights in the past have won these type of tournaments regardless of the competition.
And Scottsboro finished just behind Arab at Huntsville, notable because Scottsboro is in the same region as Arab and returns perhaps the strongest team in 1A-5A.
Pruitt, in fact, may have anticipated such as he crammed his schedule full of top-tier teams, believing the best way to get better is to face the best.
That continues Thursday when the Knights host matches for the first time this season. A couple of returning state champs come to town in the form of Oxford and Bob Jones. Then Arab competes in the prestigious McGavock Invitational at Nashville this weekend.
Arab’s wrestlers will have ample opportunity to improve as the drive for seven gets serious.
By the way, Thursday’s matches begin at 5:30 p.m. I’m sure a team that has won six straight state titles would appreciate a tremendous outpouring of support by the home folks.
• Here are two crazy stats from WJOX’s Ryan Brown. Alabama and Georgia have played for 120 minutes of regulation in the last two seasons. Georgia has led or been tied for 118:56 of that time and is 0-2.
Stat No. 2: When Georgia took a 21-7 lead over Alabama Saturday, it was the first time Alabama had trailed by 14 points at any time in 38 consecutive games, going back to the Ole Miss game in 2016. That means Alabama had played 2,338 minutes of game time without trailing by 14 points.