Back on top: Thompson reclaims throne, wins 4th wrestling title in 5 years
Published 10:49 pm Saturday, February 19, 2022
By ALEC ETHEREDGE | Managing Editor
HUNTSVILLE – Following a tightly-contested 13-11 decision win, Thompson 120-pound wrestler Cory Jones reacted in a way that would have made you thought he lost the match.
There was no emphatic hand raise, no fist pump, no jumping around. Instead, he walked over to a seat on the side, overcome with emotion, and just let it sink in.
Jones couldn’t believe he had just won after fourth-place finishes previously at the state tournament, which led to tears of joy after winning the championship in his final attempt as a senior.
That was just one of many storylines for the Thompson Warriors, who entered this season with the sole goal of reclaiming their spot atop Alabama’s wrestling throne.
After losing last year’s championship to Vestavia Hills, the Warriors had a three-year trek as champions come to an end.
This season, they entered determined to avenge that heartbreak from a year ago, and Jones was just one example of many who put together special performances to make it happen.
With that determination, Thompson had 11 wrestlers place on the podium inside the top four at the event out of 14 weight classes, while eight of those wrestlers competed in championship matches.
Of the eight to compete for championships, Thompson walked away with six individual state champions.
That dominance at the event helped Thompson total 194.5 to claim the 2022 State Championship by 76 over Vestavia Hills in second with 118.5 points.
The Warriors have now won nine of the last 12 state championships in the state’s highest classification.
Jones was one of those six to win an individual championship in the 120-pound weight class, winning three consecutive matches.
He opened with a pin against Jack Shaver of Bob Jones, followed by a semifinal 9-4 decision win against Hoover’s Ty Sisson to earn a spot in the state championship.
Then, in the championship match, Jones grabbed one final decision win in his career by a score of 13-11 to claim the championship.
That was part of a strong championship Saturday for the Warriors, as Thomas Giere actually won the first title for the Warriors in the 106-pound weight class.
Giere used a pin and major decision to earn a spot in the championship round, which pitted him against Vestavia Hills rival Stone Phillips.
Giere didn’t fall under the pressure, instead, he put together an impressive 8-3 decision win in the title match to put Thompson’s first championship on the board.
Yanni Vines then followed Jones in the 126-pound weight class and had a one of the best stretches of the tournament. He put together back-to-back pins in the quarterfinal and semifinal rounds to earn a spot in the championship against Spain Park’s Bradley Williams.
He was unable to grab a third pin, but Vines didn’t need it as he put together a strong 9-3 decision victory to claim his third individual championship for the Warriors.
The most dominant win of the state tournament for Thompson, however, came from none other than James Latona.
The senior dominated all the way to the finish line, picking up pins in his first two matches to earn a spot in the championship against Hewitt-Trussville’s Logan Reaves.
Latona didn’t finish the tournament off with a pin, but the Navy commit grabbed a dominant major decision victory of 15-4 to claim the championship in the 152-pound weight class and win his third state title in a row.
Not too far behind Latona was Will Garrett, who had a rollercoaster of a season.
The senior wrestler for the Warriors was injured for much of the season before coming back for the duals state tournament.
He ended up falling to Vestavia Hills’ Harris Mitchell by a score of 8-7.
Garrett kept a picture of that loss with Mitchell’s hand being raised and hung it all over the place, using it as determination to finish the season strong.
Not only did he battle his way to the state tournament, but took down his first two opponents with a pin and 3-0 decision to earn a rematch against Mitchell in the championship.
This time around, Garrett used the previous matchup between the two as fuel to drive him, and it paid off. He was able to grab an 8-3 decision victory to claim the 160-pound championship and become a two-time state champion.
After that, the Warriors were able to close out one more state championship from Carson Freeman in the 170-pound weight class.
Freeman had one of the more thrilling paths to the championship, winning his quarterfinal match with a major decision victory of 14-3 and his semifinal match with an 11-5 decision win.
Then, in the championship match against John Edwards of Vestavia Hills, it took a 3-1 sudden victory to bring home the final championship of the event for the Warriors.
Outside of the championship wins, Thompson also wrestled for the title in two other championships.
Kiowa Vines wrestled for it in the 113-pound weight class and finished second, while Nick Demspey did the same in the 132-pound weight class.
Vines won via major decision and pin in his first two matchups before falling in an 8-3 decision in the championship.
Dempsey won his first two in similar fashion with a major decision victory and a tech fall, before then falling in a very tight 4-2 decision win against Oak Mountain’s Austin Buird in the title.
Beyond that, Thompson got a finish of third from Jeffery Tubbs, while Paxton Miller and Nathan Black finished in fourth.
Miller went 2-2 at the event in the 152-pound weight class, winning his opener, losing his second match and winning his consolation semifinal matchup before falling to Clay Johnston of Vestavia Hills in the third-place match.
Wrestling in the 182-pound classification, Black dropped his opener, but won back-to-back matches to earn a spot in the third place match where he ultimately fell in a 6-3 decision to Spain Park’s William Conlon.
Tubbs had a strong showing in the 195-pound classification, winning his opening matchup against Vestavia’s Riggs Manown. He fell in the semifinals, but went on to win via pin and major decision to claim third in the weight class.
Thompson closed the season with both the duals state championship and the overall state championship.