Longtime Weaver coach Gene Taylor, who died in December, received a moment of recognition Friday afternoon, which gave current Weaver head coach and former wrestler Andy Fulmer a chance to reflect on his mentor.
Fulmer wrestled for three state-championship winning teams that Taylor coached.
“It was an awesome feeling because he’s such a great role model. He’s a great coach, but he was an even more awesome man,” Fulmer said during the first day of the two-day state high school wrestling championships.
“He taught you life lessons on how to be a man, successful and a winner. He wouldn’t quit on you. He was more than a teacher or coach.”
Fulmer, who has coached the Bearcats the last 10 years, could see another wrestler win a state title. Wil Mizic qualified for the 132-pound championship, which will be decided today.
In addition, Lincoln’s Jamario Howard (145), Wellborn’s Speed Pitts (145), Piedmont’s Exavyer Jackson (285), and Oxford’s Hunter Lee (195) and Matt King (126) have advanced to state finals in their respective weight classes.
As for Mizic, after finishing in third place a year ago, he won by fall in both matches Friday, defeating Fultondale’s Jamar Fields in the quarterfinals and Leeds’ Christian Simmons in the semfinals.
“He’s had a great season. He’s gotten better and he’s grown since his seventh grade year and worked really hard to get to this point,” Fulmer said. “Last year he was so close and just didn’t make it, but this year it seems like the tougher the competition the better he’s wrestling. I’m looking forward to seeing what he’s going to do.”
Mizic will face Tallassee’s Josh Epperson in today’s final, and he will not be the only Bearcat wrestling today.
Nick Souder (106), Jermaine Carmichael (170), Collin Allison (182), Chase Rodgers (195) will compete in the consolation semifinals this morning. Macklin Crook (285) was involved in the prelminary matches still were going on at press time.
Christian Pettus (120) and Jacob Howard (138) did not advance.
Two Yellow Jackets will have a chance to win a state championship today, one for the first time and the other for the second.
A year after Hunter Lee won the 152-pound Class 6A state championship, he’s back in the title match, but this year wrestling at 195. Matt King, who wrestled at 106 last year for Wellborn, advanced to the 126 state final, as well.
For King, it took a sudden-death victory over Auburn’s Jaitlin Pitts in the semifinals to make a return to the biggest match of the year. Oxford coach Matt Tanner is hoping King will have a different result in the state final this year against Smiths Station’s Joshua Jamieson.
“He made it to the state finals last year and couldn’t win the big match. He made it this year, so what’s he going to do?” Tanner asked. “He actually lost to the kid he beat in the semifinals and he hasn’t wrestled the kid from Smiths, but that kid’s only loss is to a kid that Matt’s beat twice. That doesn’t mean anything at this point, but he definitely has a shot. I definitely think he can win.”
Lee entered the semifinals with nerves running high, but handled the match with poise, defeating Auburn’s Randy Hooks in a 9-2 decision. Lee will face Hoover’s Alec Shunnarah in today’s final.
“I think at a stage like this, to do it the first time is one thing, but then having expectations to doing it the following year adds pressure,” Tanner said. “The first one is tough to get, but the second one is tougher because all eyes are on you. Some folks are going to want to see you get upset.”
Mason Blakely (120) will compete today in the consolation bracket. Jacob Shake (170) was still wrestling at press time.
Hayden Carpenter (106), Josh Sewell (152), Trevor Owens (220) and Clay Webb (285) did not advance to today’s rounds.
None of Alexandria’s trio of state qualifiers was able to advance to today’s matches, but what a ride it was for the first-year varsity program.
Valley Cubs coach Frank Hartzog preached being mentally and physically tough, and for Lane Trapp, Christian Knop and Antonio Dodd, it paid off and showed all year.
Although none of the three picked up a win Friday, making it to the state tournament after never having wrestled before this season spoke for itself.
Trapp (113) and Dodd lost by fall twice, while Knop (160) lost by fall in the consolation bracket and a 7-3 decision in the quarterfinals.
Ohatchee has gained experience at the state tournament, after beginning the varsity program last year.
The Indians had four wrestlers still competing at press time, all contending for a third-place finish in their respective weight classes.
Kevin Griffith (113) advanced to the second round of consolation bracket with a fall over Alexandria’s Lane Trapp. Josh Sexton (120) won a 9-5 decision over Weaver’s Christian Pettus to advance to the second round of the consolations, while Payton Entrekin (126) moved to the third round of the consolations after a loss in the semifinals, and Hunter Barclay (285) advanced to the second round of the consolations after a fall against Lincoln’s Austin Blanton.
In his first season as a varsity wrestler, Exavyer Jackson, advanced to the 1A-4A 285-pound state final.
Jackson won by fall against Lincoln’s Austin Blanton in the quarterfinals and scored a 7-2 decision against St. James Brad Murry in the semifinals. Jackson will face St. Clair County’s Robert Armstrong in the final today.
Stephen Snyder was the lone Wildcats to make it to Huntsville this year and things didn’t go as well as planned.
Snyder was unable to overcome Deshler’s Taylor Shirley in the quarterfinals or Madison County’s Seth Shelton in the consolation bracket, losing by fall to both. Snyder did not advance to today’s rounds.
Speed Pitts took care of business Friday afternoon, winning his two matches to clinch a spot in the 1A-4A 145-pound state championship match.
Pitts, who is Wellborn’s only state participant, pinned Madison County’s Seth Shelton in the quarterfinals and won a 13-7 decision over Deshler’s Taylor Shirley in the semifinals.
He will face Lincoln’s Jamario Howard in the championship match today.
Cleburne County had a trio of wrestlers still competing for survival late Friday night.
Corey Davis was still wrestling in the 1A-4A 138-pound consolation bracket when press time arrived. Davis won a forfeit over Weaver’s Jacob Howard in the first round of the consolations after falling to Dora’s Chase Warren in the quarterfinals.
Tyler Mayfield (132) was also still wrestling in the consolation bracket after falling by major decision to Tallassee’s Josh Epperson.
Alex Sandmann (220) fell in the semifinals to St. James’ Arthur Frawley and was preparing for the second round of the consolation finals when press time arrived.
Jamario Howard had plenty to celebrate Friday night, qualifying for the state championship match for the second straight year.
Howard defeated Fultondale’s Gerald Smith in the semifinals in a 9-2 decision to match up with Wellborn’s Speed Pitts for the 1A-4A 145-pound state final. Howard won a major decision over Westminster Christian’s Ethan Pippin in the quarterfinals.
Michah Gaston (220) was still wrestling at the time of press after defeating Dora’s Daylan Brasfield by fall in the first round of consolation matches. Casey King (126) and Austin Blanton (285) did not advance to today’s matches.
Dalton Wiggins was still scrambling his way into today’s matches when press time arrived. Wiggins, Ranburne’s long wrestler in the tournament, lost by major decision to B.J. Thomas of Tallassee in the semifinals after defeating Alexandria’s Christian Knop in a 7-3 decision in the quarterfinals.
Brandon Miller covers prep sports for The Star. He can be reached at 256-235-3575 or follow him on Twitter @bmiller_star.