E.A. Sports Today

Jackets on ‘right track’

Oxford wrestling inspired by showing at Arab

By Al Muskewitz
East Alabama Sports Today

Cleaning out the notebook to start the new year fresh …

The Oxford wrestling team came within a whisker of ending Arab’s 103-match duals winning streak earlier this week, but even in defeat the Yellow Jackets left with a sense of being on the right track.

The Jackets fell to the Knights 42-32 in the finals of the defending state champions’ inaugural Dungeon Duals. How close was it? Had driven Speed Pitts won or drawn his 145-pound bout, the Jackets would have won the meet.

And Pitts was leading his bout 10-3 when it went horribly wrong and he got pinned. Had he stayed on track and won by major decision, the match would’ve ended in a tie with the Jackets holding the tiebreaker; if he had scored a fall the Jackets would have won outright.

“We are a much stronger traditional tournament team than a dual team so we had to find ways to squeeze out points to make sure we got to see (Arab) in the finals, and the kids made it happen,” Jackets coach Matt Tanner said. “At one point they pulled away, then we caught up, then they moved ahead. The outcome really could have been different if we win one more match.

“We are working for that state championship and we know we have to go through Arab to get it. Now the kids really believe.”

The Jackets went through Benjamin Russell, Homewood, Clay-Chalkville and Hartselle to get to Arab. They scored points in the title match via pins from Mason Blakeney (120), Matt King (152), Jacob Shake (170) and Hunter Lee (182), a decision from Hayden Carpenter (113) and a major decision from Quintez Pearson (132). Lee, Shake and King all went 5-0 in the event.

For Blakeney, the tournament served as another step forward from an early-season ankle injury that slowed the progress of the state’s preseason No. 1 at 120. He went 0-2 in his first event back and won the 120 title at the Valley Cub Invitational the day before the Dungeon Duals.

“You’ve got to go in with the mindset you’re going to outwork (your opponent) and do what you have to do to get the job done,” he said after the Alexandria event. “I’m getting to where I need to be. This was good to get ready for (Arab), to know we’re on the right path.”

The first weekend of the new year is a big one for local wrestlers. Oxford heads to a tournament at Hoover, Alexandria is in an event at Hayden and Ohatchee, Saks and Weaver are at Cleburne County’s Rumble in the Jungle.

SHARPEST SHOOTERS: January is a big month for shooting sports at the CMP Range in Anniston.

In successive weekends this month the facility will hold the Alabama State Air Rifle Championship (Jan. 10), Area 8 JROTC Championship (Jan. 17), Area 12 JROTC Championship (Jan. 24) and the Dixie Challenge (Jan. 31).

The facility also has regional championships for the JROTC Service Air Rifle Championship Feb. 13-15 (Army/Air Force) and 19-21 (USMC/Navy). Other regionals will be held in Phoenix and Camp Perry, Ohio. The shooters will be vying for spots in the National JROTC Championship at Camp Perry in March.

TOURNAMENT TOPICS: Piedmont’s girls basketball team, a presumptive seed in the upcoming Calhoun County Tournament, lost to Union County (Ga.), 62-35, in the consolation final of the Battle of the States Tournament in Hiawassee, Ga., Tuesday. Bre Green made the all-tournament team. Taylor Hayes and Baley Blanchard were all-tournament picks on the boys’ side.

PARTING SHOT: Can somebody explain to me how seeding six teams in the 15-team bracket of the upcoming Calhoun County Tournament and blind drawing the field makes good basketball sense?

There have been some good hoops played in the county this season, and under this year’s structure somebody pretty good is likely to go home early – with no opportunity to play again while the tournament continues (another hard pill to swallow for diehard hoop heads, but a debate for another time).

Six is better than four, I suppose, but it’s still not ideal. There are so many better ways to make it work.

Speaking of the County Tournament, don’t miss your chance to vote your choice for the No. 1 seeds in the respective brackets. The poll closes at 11:59 p.m. Friday.

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