Shelby County wrestling comes home

Published 12:00 am Wednesday, January 11, 2006

When Jeffrey Hughes stepped onto the wrestling mat at Shelby County High School Monday night, he also stepped into history.

The Wildcat wrestler took the mat in the first match ever held at Shelby County in the school&8217;s 95-year history. The &8217;Cats welcomed Alabama School for the Blind and American Christian Academy for the inaugural meet.

The lower stands filled up as parents and students ready to support their squad at home for the first time filed in, but wrestling head coach Mike Harrison said the milestone did not come without a lot of effort.

When Harrison arrived in Columbiana three years ago, the 2-year-old team had seven members. Three seasons later, the Wildcats are 30 members strong and growing as the sport gains popularity with students and the community.

&8220;We&8217;re building a foundation for the future with these guys,&8221; Harrison said. &8220;Every guy is a building block, and we already have a stout foundation.&8221;

Harrison is excited about the team&8217;s chance to perform in front of their home crowd, admitting that his team is tired of traveling to every meet.

&8220;We have 11-to-14 dates every season,&8221; he said. &8220;That&8217;s a lot of traveling for these kids to do. They get to be in front of their parents and friends for the first time tonight, and it&8217;s a good feeling to have the home crowd yelling for you.&8221;

The coach credits a number of people for helping the program thrive at Shelby County including athletic director Bruce Breland, men&8217;s head basketball coach Charles Dickinson and Pelham wrestling head coach Bob Parker.

Parker has regularly offered help to the team, Harrison said.

&8220;He helped us find the wrestling mat we have now and loaned us mat tape and other equipment so we could host our meet,&8221; Harrison said.

Dickinson has pledged $1,000 from his team&8217;s budget at the end of the season to help pay for the wrestling mat and other expenses for a team that has no official budget.

&8220;School officials, administrators, teachers and coaches have been so supportive of this program,&8221; Harrison said. &8220;We couldn&8217;t have done it without them.&8221;

Wrestlers and their parents raised money in the off-season, parking cars at football games and selling discount cards to the community.

The Wildcats went 1-1 in their first home meet, defeating the Alabama School for the Blind, 45-36, and falling by one point to American Christian Academy, 43-42.

Eight Wildcats earned victories over ASFB wrestlers in their matches.

Jeffrey Hughes

(103-pound), Marcus Wright (140-pound), Dane Reece (145-pound) and Ethan Lann (152-pound) all earned pins for Shelby County. Geoffrey Strehle (112-pound), Chris Tortorici (119-pound) and Andrew Gutherie (125-pound) won by forfeit. Micah Cotton (135-pound) won his match by decision.

Seven Shelby County wrestlers earned victories against the American Christian squad.

Strehle, Cotton, Reece, Chris Tortorici (119-pound) and Brian Platt (171-pound) pinned their ACA opponents. Gutherie and Ryals Sinqufield (130-pound) won by forfeit.

The Wildcats traveled to Moody last night and will face ACA and Tuscaloosa County at American Christian on Thursday night