E.A. Sports Today

Back in the saddle

State champion Knop returns to mat after 1A-5A title; four other county wrestlers bounce back from Huntsville with state club titles

Reed Hill, an eighth-grader on the Ohatchee varsity, dominated three opponents Saturday in winning a State 14U 103 title for the East Alabama Wrestling Club.

Reed Hill, an eighth-grader on the Ohatchee varsity, dominated three opponents Saturday in winning a State 14U 103 title for the East Alabama Wrestling Club.

By Al Muskewitz
East Alabama Sports Today

OXFORD – Christian Knop walked into the Oxford Sports Arena Saturday just like he had for this tournament a year ago, but this time there was something different.

A year ago the Alexandria wrestler entered the building for the Alabama 14U and Cadet State Championship looking to get back on the horse after a fourth-place finish in the high school state championships. On Saturday, he was one week removed from being crowned a State Champion – as a freshman — and the feeling from both sides of the walk was different.

The crowd parted as he made his way to the mat and he heard the whispers that follow celebrity in his wake. People he had never seen or talked to before were approaching him with a pat on the back and a smile.

“It feels great,” he said. “I went into this tournament last year having fourth place and knew I was pretty good, but this year being a state champ it’s like a whole different persona.

“People aren’t going to know who a fourth-place guy is unless they’re around them all the time, but as soon as they hear ‘State Champ,’ they’re like, ‘Oh, that’s him.’ Being a state champ is a whole different atmosphere. Being recognized everywhere is just pretty cool.”

It was only a week ago he was jumping into an assistant coach’s arms after taking down Dora senior Caleb Lauderdale in an epic battle of unbeatens to become Alexandria’s first state champion in the sport. His back-and-forth 16-10 victory for the 170-pound title was voted the match of the day in the Class 1A-5A.

The fame hasn’t changed him. He was his usual approachable self between matches and even spent time mucking around with Hayden Hartzog, the son of Valley Cubs’ coach Frank Hartzog.

“I think Christian is staying very humble through all of it, but definitely carrying himself with more confidence on and off the mat,” said Eric Lee, his coach at the East Alabama Wrestling Club coach and an Ohatchee High assistant. “I think a freshman winning a state title is an exceptional achievement and I think he realizes that. Considering there are three classifications (in the state) and 14 weight classes and only three freshman champions, I wouldn’t say it’s unheard of, but it is fairly uncommon. It definitely puts you in a class of your own especially when you’ve done it at the 170 weight class.”

The anticipated highlight of his day was supposed to be a match against Carlos-Miguel Figueroa-Orduno, the Class 6A runnerup from Homewood in Cadet 180, but Figueroa didn’t make weight and wrestled at 200.

They met in an exhibition after both won their respective weight classes and Knop pinned him in the first minute of the second period.

“It’s just been a great week, being able to go to school saying I’m an undefeated state champion as a freshman,” Knop said.

Knop was one of five Calhoun County wrestlers from the East Alabama Wrestling Club to win titles in their weight classes. Oxford’s Landon Burrage (113), Wesley Slick (132) and Clay Webb (285) all won Cadet division crowns and Ohatchee’s Reed Hill (103) won the 14U division.

All four were looking to get back on the winning track after their finishes at the state meet last week.

Webb finished third in Class 6A in Huntsville. He won all three of his matches Saturday by fall, pinning Kyree Brown of Alabama Takedown Academy for the title in 1:29. Webb ran about 30 minutes before the tournament started to drop three pounds to make weight, waited out the schedule for his first match, then won twice in about 15 minutes coming out of the lunch break.

“I couldn’t wait (for this),” he said. “After the state tournament I was ready to go to practice every single day, get better, get stronger, get faster. It’s a good little achievement I got, but I need to keep on striving to get first in the state.”

Slick won two tight decisions, beating Jakob Haessly of Victory Wrestling Club 12-7 in his title match. He finished fifth last week in Class 6A 120.

“That’s not how I wanted to go at the state,” Slick said. “I wrestled better than I did last weekend.”

Hill, an eighth-grader, dominated his three opponents Saturday, winning by pin, technical fall and major decision. He beat Dakota Leon of Smiths Station 9-0 for the championship.

“As soon as I got out of the last state tournament I was ready for this one,” he said. “I was ready to come in here and win.”

Burrage won his first match in Huntsville, then lost his next two. On Saturday, he won two decisions, beating Carlos Chavez of Jasper 6-1 in his final.


Top 10 teams:
Alabama Takedown Academy 112, East Alabama Wrestling Club 78, Ironclad Wrestling Club 49, Victory Wrestling Club 27, Homewood Park Youth Wrestling 17.5, Skull & Crossbones 14, Rainbow City 13, Panther Paws 12, Vicious Wrestling Academy 12, Jasper 11, Pelham 11.

Individual champions
106 – Zaevian Toney, Ala. Takedown Academy
113 – Landon Burrage, East Alabama WC
126 – Cooper Kirkland, Victory WC
132 – Wesley Slick, East Alabama WC
138 – Daniel Vazquez, Ironclad WC
145 – Zachary Betancourt, Ala. Takedown Academy
152 – Gabriel Pittman, Ala. Takedown Academy
165 – Stephen White, Ala. Takedown Academy
180 – Christian Knop, East Alabama WC
200 – Carlos-Miguel Figueroa-Orduno, Homewood Park
HWT – Clay Webb, East Alabama WC

Top 10 teams:
Alabama Wrestling Club 98.5, East Alabama Wrestling Club 73.5, Ironclad Wrestling Club 65, Alabama Takedown Academy 57.5, Central Alabama Wrestling Club 26, Vicious Wrestling Club 24, Victory Wrestling Club 21, Blue Devil Wrestling Club 19, Panther Paws Youth Wrestling Club 10.5, Smiths Station Junior High 9.

Individual champions
85 – Will Miller, Alabama WC
95 – Parker Dodd, Ironclad WC
103 – Reed Hill, East Alabama WC
112 – Samuel Jaggears, East Alabama WC
119 – Warren Hoyt, Ala. Takedown Academy
130 – Zeke Smotherman, Ala. Takedown Academy
135 – Jack Burt, Alabama WC
145 – John-Mark Crocker, unattached
155 – Riely Zepp, unattached
175 – Christian Seale, Victory WC
210 – Jaxon Bast, Alabama WC

Alexandria freshman Christian Knop, the school's first wrestling state champion, has some fun with Hayden Hartzog, the son of Valley Cubs coach Frank Hartzog, at the State 14U and Cadet Championship Saturday.

Alexandria freshman Christian Knop, the school’s first wrestling state champion, has some fun with Hayden Hartzog, the son of Valley Cubs coach Frank Hartzog, at the State 14U and Cadet Championship Saturday.

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