E.A. Sports Today

Cubs grapple with host duties

Alexandria stages wrestling tournament for first time

By Al Muskewitz
East Alabama Sports Today

In the development of every athletics program there are benchmarks that need to be reached to establish a presence in the game. There are things like a first competition, a first win, and, in some sports, hosting your first multi-team tournament.

The second-year Alexandria wrestling program takes the next big step in its development Monday when it hosts a tournament for the first time, the Valley Cub Invitational in the school’s main gym.

Eight schools will field nine teams in the all-day event that starts at 9 a.m.

“I guess I haven’t really thought about it as a building block,” Alexandria coach Frank Hartzog said. “It’s been more I can’t wait until we have our own home match, then it will build and we can have our own tournament.

“It will be, hopefully, a good recruiting tool and a chance for those kids to wrestle in that gym. It’ll be the only match they’ll be allowed to wrestle in that gym.”

The Valley Cubs have hosted a handful of matches in their young existence, but they have all been in the old gym. They beat Piedmont there in front of the student body earlier this month.

The first-time hosts will be joined in Monday’s field by county rivals Weaver, Ohatchee, Oxford and Saks, Madison County, Westminster Christian and two teams from Moody. Madison County is coached by former Wellborn coach Scott Peavey.

The event is expected to be so competitive, some bouts are likely to have a state or sectional semifinal or final feel to them.

“This tournament, although it’ll be smaller than several others we’ve been to, I think it’ll be just as tough,” Hartzog said. “I’d love for all our guys to place, but more important to me is I want them all to go out there and not give up. I hope they go out there and give it everything they can, especially in front of a big crowd. If they go out there and wrestle well, I’ll be happy.”

With the addition of the Valley Cub Invitational to the tournament schedule, virtually every wrestling program in the county now has or has had an event of their own. Hartzog is hopeful after a successful debut he can move the event to a weekend.

“I think it’s a very important element because it’s one of the major steps in showing that their program is established,” Weaver coach Andy Fulmer said. “If it’s something they can continue to do each year, it can continue to grow and become even more competitive every year.

“I don’t know it’s necessarily required, but I really do think it helps establish your program as being a consistent force.”

Because it’s the program’s inaugural tournament effort, Hartzog leaned on what he called the “brotherhood” of wrestling coaches and picked the brains of several in the county for direction. All were willing to share their insight and Hartzog said he appreciated their help.

Fulmer was one of the first coaches Hartzog called. They talk regularly as it is, but Hartzog said in this instance Fulmer texted right back and said, “You need anything, let me know.”

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