First things first. The Arab wrestling team has one, potentially two huge matches today at Hartselle.

In the first one, Arab will take on Region 8 runner-up, Athens, in a round of 16 match in the 5A-6A state duals tournament. Win there and the Knights will take on the Hartselle-Oxford winner in the quarterfinals that same night.

One team will emerge to advance to the semifinals at a site TBA on Tuesday. The winner there advances to the state finals at Birmingham next weekend.

Arab won Region 7 and Oxford was runner-up. Hartselle won Region 8 and the right to host the two matches.

That’s a lot, but the following two days will be even busier. The Knights will host the Arab “Duals” Invitational, a tournament that will feature up to 24 teams competing at different times in two gyms over two days.

“We were just trying to not lose this tournament,” head coach Kyle Routon said of the complicated format required because of COVID-19 protocols. “We’re trying to make things as normal as possible.”

But that’s just not possible this school year. As of early in the week, Alexandria, Jackson-Olin, Bob Jones, McAdory, Southside, Hartselle, Chelsea and Buckhorn had indicated they would compete on Friday. That group of eight teams will be split into two pools, with four teams competing for a pool championship in each group.

Friday’s competition starts at 4:30 p.m.

On Saturday, two groups of four teams each will compete in a morning session that will start at 8:30 a.m. in both gyms. In the afternoon, another two groups of four teams each will compete beginning at 2 p.m.

Arab will compete in one of the afternoon groupings, Routon said, unless teams drop out on Friday, necessitating the Knights compete on Friday.

Already, there have been dropouts and additions to the tournament lineup.

“It’s been a headache,” Routon said. “Teams have had to back out for various reasons, including scheduling conflicts caused by so many postponements, and we’d find more teams to bring in.”

Six six pool championships will be awarded. It has to be that way because there can be no cross-over competition to minimize the possibility of a major outbreak of positive tests.

Besides Arab, teams scheduled to compete on Saturday include East Limestone, Fort Payne, Athens, Gardendale, Pell City, Pelham, Mortimer Jordan, Hayden and Mae Jemison.

All teams are guaranteed three matches.

Arab picked up a pool championship itself Saturday in the Dick Clem Invitational at Bob Jones. Arab defeated Auburn 54-30 and James Clemens 53-15.

The night before, at Hoover, Arab lost to Smiths Station 45-32, primarily because it was missing four starters, most due to injuries.

Arab did win its first two matches, including 60-15 over Tuscaloosa County.

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