MONTGOMERY – Thompson, Oxford and Arab high schools begin defense Friday of the AHSAA state wrestling championship each won in 2018.
All three schools will be among the favorites as the 2019 AHSAA State Wrestling Championships open with the North and South Super Sectional Championships at Birmingham and Montgomery, respectively, Friday with first matches beginning at 10 a.m. The top four wrestlers in each division’s weight class will advance to the 64th AHSAA State Championships at Huntsville’s Von Braun Center Feb. 14-16.
Class 7A Thompson, coached by Shawn Weltzin, will be competing in the South Super Sectional at Montgomery’s Garrett Coliseum. Defending Class champs Oxford and Class 1A/5A Arab will be competing at the North Super Sectional at the Birmingham CrossPlex Bill Harris Arena.
Weltzin’s Warriors won the AHSAA Class 7A duals’ title last month. A few days prior on Jan. 22, Thompson claimed the school’s 500th career dual match win with a 57-7 triumph over Hoover in the state duals semifinals. The Warriors feature a strong lineup of veteran wrestlers led by senior 138-pounder Gabe Hixenbaugh (38-3), who won the state title at 132 pounds last season for his fourth state crown overall. He was 53-3 in 2018. Thompson will be hoping to win its seventh state title in the last nine years.
Oxford, coached by Kristopher Routon, won the Class 6A duals title in January. The Yellow Jackets will be vying for their third straight 6A crown. Sophomore Jakob Chisolm (53-3), who won the 126-pound state title in 2018 with a 57-14 slate, has moved up to 132 pounds this season.
Arab, coached by Mike Pruitt, is anchored by 195-pounder Zac Pugh (61-12) and 138-pounder Garrett McClendon (58-7). McClendon finished second last season at 138 pounds.
One wrester worth watching closely is Alexandria senior Chris Knop, who finished 50-0 last season to win the Class 1A/5A title at 182 pounds to extend his unbeaten streak to 164 in a row. He will be coming into the Super Sectional at Birmingham with a 63-0 record in the same weight class and an AHSAA state-record 226-match winning streak. Mike Sutton of Weaver held the record (201) from 1999-2004. Knop is just the second wrestler in state history to win more than 200 straight matches in a row and if he can finish the season unbeaten, he will become the first wrestler in AHSAA history to win four straight titles with unbeaten records.
Another wrestler chasing an elusive AHSAA state record is Gabriel Warren, a freshman at Spanish Fort competing in the 120-pound weight class. His head coach J.T. Gosnell reports that Warren (67-6) has 64 wins by pin this season, which currently ranks tied for second in a single season with Brandon Womack, who set the NFHS nation record with 68 in 2014.
Classes 1A/5A and 6A kick off Friday’s wrestling at 10 a.m. Class 7A will have its first round of competition in the third session Friday set for the early afternoon.
The Super Sectional competition concludes Saturday with consolation round four at 9:30 a.m., followed by the consolation semifinals, then finals and consolation finals.
The NFHS Network is partnering with TrackWrestling will live-stream the event at both sites. Go to to www.nfhsnetwork.com for more details.
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