E.A. Sports Today

County prep notebook

Weaver to face ambitious wrestling schedule; Piedmont’s Blanchard in baseball groove

By Al Muskewitz
East Alabama Sports Today

Weaver wrestling coach Andy Fulmer didn’t waste any time putting together his schedule for the 2015-16 season and it wasn’t something he just slapped together for the sake of getting it out of the way.

Fulmer has assembled the most ambitious schedule in his tenure for last year’s third-place state finishers. If his team works as hard competing against it as he did putting together it should be a banner year.

The gauntlet features a growing field for the Gene Taylor Memorial Classic and several dates with some of the top teams in the state regardless of classification.

“This is probably the most competitive, toughest schedule I’ve made up since I took over,” Fulmer said. “It was always tough when I wrestled. My goal was to make it so tough that when we get to section and state it seems easier. I wanted to schedule as difficult as possible, but keep it realistic.

“I’ve got a really good group of kids coming back. It’s going to push my really advanced kids. They’re going to get some really good matches.”

Among the highlights are a Dec. 3 home date with Southside and Oxford – the Nos. 2 and 3 teams in last year’s 6A state championships – a Dec. 22 date at defending state champion Leeds, the Battlefield Duals in Huntsville on New Year’s Eve, Leeds Duals Jan. 9, Homewood Patriot Duals Jan. 15-16 and, of course, the Calhoun County Tournament Jan. 12 and Gene Taylor Dec. 11-12.

Fulmer has 19 teams presently committed to the Gene Taylor with the hopes of drawing between 22 and 26 for a 32-man bracket. He said he has the support of principal Mike Allison, a former wrestling coach, to “make it as big as you want.”

The current commit list includes the Bearcats, Alexandria, Ohatchee, Piedmont, Saks, ASD, Ashville, Cedartown (Ga), Cleburne County, Elmore County, Mt. Zion (Ga.), Prattville Christian, Ranburne, St. James, Susan Moore, Tallassee and, depending on how involved they are in the state football playoffs, Deshler, Leeds and Madison County.

“I think some of it is because of the things Coach Taylor did,” Fulmer said explaining the draw. “Frank (Hartzog, Alexandria’s coach) made the remark when they came for the first time our tournament was one of the tougher or the toughest tournament and he wanted the kids to get an idea what the section tournament would be like.

“The combination of Coach Taylor and the competition – and the fact some of those southern teams we don’t see until the section tournament come to us – all plays into it.”

Here is the complete slate:


November – 24: vs. Lincoln.

December – 1: vs. Ohatchee, Ranburne; 3: vs. Oxford, Southside; 4: at Lincoln; 5: at Tallassee Duals; 8: at Cleburne County (with Ranburne); 11-12: Gene Taylor Memorial; 15: at Ranburne (with Alexandria, Pell City); 17: at Piedmont (with Darlington (Ga.), Oxford); 19: at Fort Payne Duals; 22: at Leeds (with Fultondale, Deshler); 31: at Battlefield Duals, Huntsville.

January – 2: at Rumble in the Jungle, Heflin; 7: vs. Saks, Moody; 9: at Leeds Duals; 12 – Calhoun County Tournament; 14: at Oak Grove; 15-16: at Homewood Patriot Duals; 19: vs. Alexandria, Cleburne County; 21: vs. Piedmont, Fultondale; 23: at Deshler Invitational; 26: vs. Calera, Ashville; 28: at Saks.

MORE WRESTLING: Three Calhoun County wrestlers are vying for national honors this weekend at the Virginia Beach Nationals.

Alexandria’s Christian Knop (160) and Ohatchee state runner-ups Jimmy Wilson (106) and Hunter Barclay (285) are all in the event. Knop and Wilson, eighth graders, are competing in the middle school division, while Barclay is in the senior division.

The top eight finishers in each weight class are considered All-Americans.

ON A ROLL: Bayley Blanchard appears to have found his baseball legs after a long basketball season and that can be nothing but a good thing for the Piedmont Bulldogs.

Blanchard threw some very effective long relief during the Bulldogs’ trip to Gulf Shores this week, but what excites them more is he was en fuego with the fungo as well.

Even Piedmont coach James Blanchard said Bayley “really stepped up for us down here.” He said his son and Tyler Lusk are pitching about as well as aces Peyton Whitten and Taylor Hayes, too.

“We’ve been working on it,” Bayley said of his recent success at the plate. “I haven’t been doing too well before we came down here. Coach told me you’ll never get out if you do it the way I tell you. Once I got that first hit against Montgomery Academy it clicked.

“He kind of changed my approach to the ball. I was twisting my front foot and he told me to get loaded and bring my hands to the ball. I haven’t been relaxing, but now I’m getting back into the baseball swing and it feels good.”

The Bulldogs’ lineup should be even more effective once Payton Young gets back from the hamstring injury that’s had him on the shelf.

Spring sports coaches, to report your results or suggest story ideas to the staff of East Alabama Sports Today, text 256-239-6715 or email musky@wrightmediacorp.com. East Alabama Sports Today is a free website dedicated to covering sports in and around Calhoun County. Follow and like us on Facebook and Twitter.

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