FOUR TO GO: Thompson wrestling takes fourth-straight 6A titlePublished 9:53am Wednesday, February 19, 2014
By DREW GRANTHUM/Sports Writer
ALABASTER — Sirens and blue lights pierced the air at Buck’s Pizza in Alabaster as a crowd gathered to watch the commotion with anticipation. Instead of observing Alabaster’s finest take someone away, those gathered watched the APD bring the Thompson wrestling team into the already crowded parking lot.
Ushered in like royalty, with an escort leading and procession following, the team stepped off the bus a combination of tired and elated, having captured its fourth consecutive AHSAA Class 6A wrestling title to their families and friends waiting for them.
It was a celebration fit for kings, and right now, there is little doubt the Warriors rule the state’s wrestling world.
The squad captured the overall title by a score of 186-150 over Vestavia Hills High, with individual weight class titles being taken by Riley Pike, Jaden Hunter and T.J. Rayam.
Head coach Shawn Weltzin said he was proud of his team’s effort.
“It was pretty fun,” he said. “This is the youngest team we’ve ever had at the state championships.”
Despite its youth, Weltzin said his squad stepped up in a big way all season. The Warriors logged several hundred miles, traveling to find the best competition in the nation to try and improve. Stops included Minnesota and Kansas City, among others.
“I think (traveling to face top teams) gives us a feel for the bigger picture,” he said. “I think if we gun for national (rankings), the state championships fall in line.”
Several Warriors placed, including Dom Latona, Cody Mealer, Conner Gilson, Brewer Gilliland and Trey Watson. Gilson, a former state finalist that didn’t make the tournament last season, sealed the championship with points earned in a consolation match.
“That was huge for (Conner) and us,” Weltzin said. “It’s a lot of pressure, and he stepped up and was able to capitalize.”
With their fourth-straight title in hand, Weltzin said the Warriors intend to start competing for regional and national championships soon.
“I hope the next couple of years we’ll be able to compete (on that level),” he said. “One of our goals is (a) top five (ranking) in the southeast, and top 50 in the nation. I think in a couple of years, we can tackle (them).”