Wrestling Preview: Pettibone hits it hard

It’s an old cliché, but sometimes it’s the truth — hard work pays off.

Pelham senior wrestler Matt Pettibone is a prime example, as he has risen in the program the past three years, finishing second in the state tournament last year.

“Matt’s a special kid,” Pelham head coach Robert Parker said. “Things he struggled with last year, he worked hard during the off season to fix … Everything he does (in a workout) gets hard, and Matt just gobbles it up.”

Pettibone opened the 2008-09 season Monday with a quick pin, wrestling up a weight class at 171.

“I just try to make it as hard as I can (at practice), so when I come out on the mat it just seems easy,” Pettibone said after the pin.

During the off season from high school wrestling, Pettibone cut back on his out of state competitions and focused on intense drilling and workouts at ZonaFit in Montevallo with former jujitsu Olympic gold medalist Jorge Bonnet.

If the workouts were not challenge enough, Pettibone plans to continue to push himself through the season, wrestling up a class or two at 171 or 180 instead of 160, where he is certified to wrestle at state.

“I know there’s some challenges I want to go for, so I’m going to meet some of those guys. They’re some of my friends and some of the best wrestlers in the state,” Pettibone said.

He hopes the training will payoff in February when the state tournament begins, as he looks to become Pelham’s first state champion since Ben Johnson won in 2004.

But while Pettibone wants to leave his name etched in the Panther Wrestling Hall of Fame as an individual champion, he is focused just as much, if not more, on leading his team to a Top 5 finish — something the program has not done in the past two decades.

“I think we have the potential, and we have the guys, if I can just get them working harder and to have the mentality that they can hand with any of these guys at any of the levels. I’ve seen them, and I know they could,” Pettibone said.

He has severed as one of the team’s leaders since his sophomore year, and is now looking to not just build up a team this year, but strong programs for the future by helping the youngest kids in the program.

“I remember when I was younger, I probably wouldn’t have started out working as hard as I did if I didn’t have older guys from the high school coming to me and pushing me,” Pettibone said. If I start their mentality out right on working hard and just pushing as hard as they can to their limit each match and each practice when they’re young, it’s just going to carry over to good things in high school.”

Such a display of leadership leaves one to wonder what will come next with Pettibone’s wrestling career. He is unsure at this time, as he looks at colleges. The one definite is that he wants to one day serve as an officer in the U.S. Marine Corp. Until that day comes, Pettibone will remain faithful in workouts with the goal to take Pelham to its best season on the mat in recent history.

2008-09 WRESTLING PREVIEW

CHELSEA

Class 5A, Section 1

Head coach: Ryan Adams

ROSTER: Thomas Blottin, Curtis Crooks, Payton Hallmark, DJ Hill, DJ Knight, Brandon Marlow, Ryan Patterson, Davonte Peck, Zach Smith, Preston Sorrell and Zak Van Der Geest.

SEASON OUTLOOK: Chelsea sent two wrestlers to the state tournament last season, but were seniors. Young and small in numbers this season, the Chelsea Hornets will look to junior Curtis Crooks and sophomore DJ Knight for leadership. Knight returns after a knee injury last season. Ryan Adams takes over as head coach of the program.

OAK MOUNTAIN

Class 6A, Section 3

Head coach: Steve Burough

ROSTER: Ronnie Ashley, Jeff Back, Davis Bagwell, Adam Beaton, John Henry Bedgood, Michael Bell, John Blakely, Matt Chapman, Daniel Combs, Andrew Daviston, Ray Docelli, Evan Fortson, Josh Greer, Coleman Haines, Adam Hicks, Victor Kimbrough, Vincent Kimbrough, Bradley Kirkpatrick, Nate Majer, John Majors, Tim Majors, Patrick Markus, Tanner Moon, Lucas Moore, Kaheem Murray, Austin Payne, Brandon Pham, Clayton Schencker, Jake Sellers, Chris Stubbings, Josh Tatum, Zach Thompson, Evan Webb, Whit Whitfield, Jimmy Whitt, Jared Woodall, Justin Woodall and Drake Whyard.

SEASON OUTLOOK: Last year’s third-place finish in the state was the best ever by an Oak Mountain team, despite not having a single state champion. This year, three state-runner ups return in Davis Bagwell, John Blakely and All-American Tanner Moon. The Eagles have been building to this season — one they believe can end in a state title.

PELHAM

Class 6A, Section 2

Head coach: Robert Parker

ROSTER: Reed Bright, Austin Christianson, Cameron Cohill, Josh Copeland, Andrew Curry, Matt Davis, Geoffery Eggleton, Cory Gentry, Lee Hallman, Tony Higgins, Logan Huey, Derrick Jackson, Robbie Johnson, Thomas Kaufman, Nick Parten, Matt Pettibone, Hudson Pitts, Tyler Ray, Cameron Rich, Michael Riley, Trey Saville, Cory Thomas, PJ Williams and Warren Zimmerman.

SEASON OUTLOOK: All seven participants from last year’s state tournament return to the mat for the Panthers this year, with state runner-up Matt Pettibone leading the way. Seniors Austin Christianson, Cory Gentry, Matt Davis and Lee Hallman will look to step up and provide a competitive depth to the team, while three-time state participants Taylor Anchors and Hudson Pitts will lead the junior class. Pettibone said he believes this year’s team has what it takes to qualify for state and finish in the Top 5.

SHELBY COUNTY

Class 5A, Section 1

Head coach: Michael Harrison

ROSTER: Justin Abbott, Austin Barnett, John Batton, Corey Beane, Chris Danner, Tommy Eremus, Stephan Erhart, Brandon Franklin, Ethan Lann, Payton Lann, Jonathan Leon, Conner Ogle, Hunter Partridge, Michael Payne, Matt Pitts, Josh Reid, Devin Scoggins, Austin Talley, Chris Tortorici, Damian Trice, Jordan Tucker, Jon Walden and Chase Weeks.

SEASON OUTLOOK: Shelby County sent its first two wrestlers to the state tournament last year, as Ethan Lann finished third in the 171-pound weight class and Jon Walden also qualified. Lann will open the 2008-09 season as the third-ranked wrestler in Class 5A. Head coach Michael Harrison will return all but five wrestlers from last season and will look to continue to build off the strength and conditioning program most of his guys went through with football six days a week. Sixteen wrestlers return, while seven new guys join the squad this year.

SPAIN PARK

Class 6A, Section 2

Head coach: Cody Merrill

ROSTER: Bo Bishop, Reid Bishop, Geoffrey Bostany, Tommy Bostany, Devin Dunlap, Andrew Hampton, Robbie Howard, John Huseman, Garrison Lee, Brandon Moss, Nick Mullenix, Chris Pierce, Kameron Ricks, Blake Stanley, Martin Stone, Qua Thompson, Josh Webb and Connor Whatley.

SEASON OUTLOOK: Geoffrey Bostany will look to lead Spain Park this season after finishing fourth in Class 6A last year. The junior is ranked second in the state at 125 pounds. A total of four state qualifiers return for the Jaguars. Following Bostany, Bo and Reid Bishop, ranked fourth and sixth respectively in their weight classes, just missed placing at state and Brandon Moss was the fourth qualifier. Freshman Tommy Bostany is fourth in 103 pounds. All five will look to qualify for state and hope to bring more Jags with them.

THOMPSON

Class 6A, Section 2

Head coach: Shawn Weltzin

ROSTER: Cody Albarado, Dalton Burkhart, Alex Costes, Jake Ferris, Frankie Fuller, Nick Gentile, Josh Gillaspie, Matthew Gilson, Avery Hale, Nick Hall, Javian Horstead, John Jones, Eddie Madden, Austin Markman, Jesse Masters, Chris May, Jimmy Miller, Ian Murray, Kody Myers, Nick Parten, Kevin Ramay, Urijah Sailes, Jack Scott, Reid Simpson, Steven Thompson, Gary Thorne, Landon Vincent, Chris Walker and Jalen Wesley.

SEASON OUTLOOK: With the help of the Alabaster Youth Wrestling Association, Thompson head coach Shawn Weltzin continues to grow the Warriors’ program. In only its second season, Thompson fields a 29-man roster, up from 20 last year. The numbers will continue to grow, as 34 wrestlers look to compete from the middle school. This year’s incoming freshman class won the Metro Championship last year, and two state qualifiers return in Cody Albarado and Nick Hall. Transfer Nick Parten is expected to step into a key role at 215 pounds.