Local wrestlers perform well at AHSAA state tourney

By DAWN HARRISON | Special to the Reporter

HUNTSVILLE – The Von Braun Center once again played host to the AHSAA State Wrestling Tournament between Thursday, Feb. 13 and Saturday, Feb. 16, and Shelby County was well represented.

A total of 57 wrestlers from eight different schools from across the county were in attendance, 27 of which stood on the podium at the conclusion of the tournament.

It was a tournament that saw some exciting matches and some agonizing upsets.  Though every wrestler left everything on the mat in the fight for a state title, three Shelby County wrestlers had special stories.

Senior Sullivan Tipton of Oak Mountain High School came to the tournament with a record of 47-1, placing first in the South Sectionals, and holding the coveted number one ranking all season.

Tipton was well known as a very skilled wrestler taking home the first place medals in many tournaments, but this tournament also proved how much of a fighter he was as well.

Tipton arrived at the tournament fresh off surgery on a broken hand less than two weeks ago that had limited mobility and also affected his ability to grip his opponents.

Despite this injury he went on to win his first match over Dominck Ciccolella of Huntsville with a fall time of 1:52. He advanced to the semifinal championship round and wrestled against Gray Ortis of Mountain Brook.  The match was a very physical match with his injury coming into play as he had issues being able to get an arm to turn his opponent.

This ended with him losing to Ortis by Decision of 8-5.  The loss put him into the consolation bracket where he needed to win two more matches to win third place.  The senior went on to win both to claim a spot on the podium in third after a special fight.

The final match of the tournament was another that ended in an upset in the heavy weight class. Spain Park senior Jaxon “Pablo” Bast and Thor Zogg of Tuscaloosa County wrestled for first place. Bast would came into the match with two fall times of less than a minute.

The final round pitted him against the season long number one ranked wrestler and it marked a rematch between the two after Zogg bested Bast at the Heart of Dixie tournament.

In the state championship match, Zogg got the first takedown and almost pinned Bast in the first period, but Bast fell into some luck as Zogg, unaware of his position, went out of bounds. That gave Bast a reset, which allowed him to end the period with no more point being scored against him.

The second period saw three reversals with Zogg ending in control not only of his opponent but also of the score with a 9-2 lead.

But in the third period, Bast pulled out a move he is well known for to pin his opponent with a fall time of 5:00.

The celebration moves that followed were yet another thing that fans associate Bast with, as the back to back state champion cartwheeled and flipped around before other wrestlers celebrated with him.

Montevallo’s Rankin Allen also put together a special moment after winning one of his matches. With his opponent injured, Allen lifted him up, put his arm around the wrestler and helped him to the first aid area before even celebrating the win.

Allen went on to finish fifth in the 1A-5A 195-pound weight class with a record of 3-2.

In addition to those three, there were several other highlights, including two champions, two second place finishers and three third place finishers.

The two individual state champions both came from Helena, who put together a strong team performance as well with the limited number of wrestlers in attendance.

In the 6A 126-pound weight class, Michael Moran picked up a state title for the Huskies with three tech fall wins and one decision victory.

He was joined by teammate Nathan Dunaway, who finished off a special career for Helena with a dominant four consecutive pins en route to winning the 220-pound weight class.

Fellow teammate Seth McGrew was able to claim a finish of third in the in the 113-pound division. After losing his second match, McGrew closed out his next four matches with wins to finish on the podium.

The Pelham Panthers also had two very strong finishes from Bryce Wanagat and Seth Branham. Both finished second in their respective weight classes. Wanagat claimed second in the 132-pound weight class after a 3-1 record, while Branham did the same in the 145-pound weight class.

Montevallo and Oak Mountain each added a podium finisher thanks to third place finishes from Jemari Harris and Camden Tipton.

Harris gave MHS the third place finish with a 4-1 record. He won his first two, lost in the semifinals and bounced back with a pin and 6-5 decision to finish third in the 126-pound division.

Tipton picked up his strong finish in the 106-pound weight class. He won his first match, lost his second, and then claimed two wins in a row, including a sudden victory in the third place match.

Fourth place finishers included Cole Sykes of Shelby County, Jacob Goldfon of Oak Mountain and Preston Royster of Chelsea. Sykes and Royster each finished 3-2, while Goldfon finished 2-2.

Three other wrestlers from the county placed at the event. Chelsea’s Adam Byerman (126) and Elliot Gage (195) each finished in fifth, while teammate Robert Montgomery was able to claim a finish of sixth in the 220-pound weight class.