E.A. Sports Today

A good start

Cleburne County wins team title at Golden Bear Classic, Alexandria’s Knop named most outstanding wrestler

Alexandria junior Christian Knop (R) is all smiles after receiving the Golden Bear Classic most valuable wrestle award from Lincoln coach Skylar Mansfield.

By Al Muskewitz
East Alabama Sports Today

LINCOLN – Alexandria junior Christian Knop and Cleburne County coach Rusty Mayfield both have high expectations this year and got their seasons off to good starts Saturday when they all grabbed headlines at the Lincoln Golden Bear Classic.

Knop, a two-time reigning state champion who hasn’t lost a high school match since the 2015 state championship tournament, won the 195 title and was voted the tournament’s Most Valuable Wrestler. Cleburne County won the team title with 260.5 points. Alexandria was second with 233 points.

The Tigers and Valley Cubs both won five weight divisions. They swapped the lead throughout the day and the Tigers finally started pulling away midway through the semifinal round. They led the Cubs by 30 points at the completion of the winner’s bracket semifinals and by 24 before the start of the championship session.

“I look at this as a starting point,” Cleburne County coach Rusty Mayfield said. “I don’t count my chickens before they hatch.

“I always have high expectations. I’ve had high expectations in years where we only qualified one guy (for state), but that’s just always my expectation and, really, those don’t matter. It’s the kids’ expectations that matter.”

The Tigers and Valley Cubs collected all the individual titles between 120 and 195. Cleburne County’s winners were Preston Jarrell (138), Zachary Williamson (145), Shane Beason (152), Jason Higgins (170) and Cade Smith (182). Alexandria’s winners were Jaden New (120), Kaleb Mathews (126), Fletcher Swindall (132), Aaron Whittaker (160) and Knop (195).

The four other gold-medal winners were Wellborn’s Brady Denham (106), Lincoln’s Austin Creamer (113), Ashville’s Gaje Hull (220) and Pleasant Valley’s Wesley Harrell (285). Harrell, who transferred to PV after his father Shane left Wellborn to take over White Plains’ startup program, became the first tournament champion for the Raiders’ first-year program.

Knop won all four of his matches by fall in the first period to extend his AHSAA high school-season winning streak to 118 matches.

With back-to-back state titles, several scholarship offers in his pocket and a trunkful of offseason All-American and tournament awards, you might not think there’s much to motivate him these days.

You would be wrong. He’s still chasing some lofty goals.

“This is (about) proving to myself that I can be one of the best wrestlers to ever come out of the state of Alabama, not only statewide but nationally,” he said. “I want to be the kid who walks into a tournament and everybody knows who I am.

“I came out here today on a mission. I just wanted to prove to everybody there’s no off-season rust.”

His pin times Saturday were 1:18, 0:48, 1:22 and 1:16.

The outstanding match was the tournament was the 126 final between Alexandria sophomore Mathews and Lincoln junior Dazhone Finley. Mathews took a 7-5 decision, scoring a decisive reversal in the final 20 seconds. Finley hung in there all the way to the end despite a hard fall on his shoulder that caused a temporary pause in the match.

“That’s the toughest match I’ve had in a very long time == the closest match, too,” Mathews said. “It was a real good match.”

Alexandria and Cleburne County are expected to go toe-to-toe in Class 1A-5A all season and challenge each other in the region duals, super sectionals and the state championship in Huntsville. That being the case, Valley Cubs coach Frank Hartzog wasn’t displeased with finishing second to the Tigers on this day.

“I like being the underdog,” he said. “If we had to come out on the short end of the stick I’m glad it happened at the beginning. That gives us something to focus on and it makes them believe you can’t be too much of an underdog; you’ve got to realize I do have a shot.

“I really think we have a shot at doing something special this season. This was good for us because we have some who weren’t working hard, weren’t pushing themselves like they should have, and I really think that’s why they lost today. Maybe this will be an eye-opener before it’s too late.”

TALLASSEE DUALS: Weaver went 2-2. The Bearcats beat Northview and Holtville and lost to St. James and Prattville Christian. Cody Souder, Caleb Allison and Caleb Russell all went 4-0 for the Bearcats.

Team scores:
Cleburne County 260.5, Alexandria 233, Ranburne 158, Ashville 148, Wellborn 112, Leeds 99, Lincoln 73, St. Clair County 59, Talladega 43, Pleasant Valley 36, White Plains 34, Ohatchee 7.

106 – Brady Denham, Wellborn
113 – Austin Creamer, Lincoln
120 – Jaden New, Alexandria
126 – Kaleb Mathews, Alexandria
132 – Fletcher Swindall, Alexandria
138 – Preston Jarrell, Cleburne County
145 – Zachary Williamson, Cleburne County
152 – Shane Beason, Cleburne County
160 – Aaron Whittaker, Alexandria
170 – Jason Higgins, Cleburne County
182 – Cade Smith, Cleburne County
195 – Christian Knop, Alexandria
220 – Gaje Hull, Ashville
285 – Wesley Harrell, Pleasant Valley

106 Results – Brady Denham, Wellborn; Anthony Champion, Cleburne County; Michael Oden, Leeds; Austin Carter, Leeds.
Championship Match: Brady Denham (Wellborn) 4-0, Fr. pinned Anthony Champion (Cleburne County) 2-1, Fr. (2:13).
Consolation Match: Michael Oden (Leeds) 4-1 pinned Austin Carter (Leeds) 2-2, Fr. (1:06).

113 Results – Austin Creamer, Lincoln; Aden Whittaker, Alexandria; Nick Spears, Ashville; Beau Neely, Wellborn.
Championship Match: Austin Creamer (Lincoln) 3-0, So. dec. Aden Whittaker (Alexandria) 3-1, Fr. (10-7).
Consolation Match: Nick Spears (Ashville) 4-1, Fr. pinned Beau Neely (Wellborn) 3-2, 8th. (2:41).

120 Results – Jaden New, Alexandria; Will Jefcoat, Leeds; Dylan Turner, Cleburne County; Bailey Henry, Ranburne.
Championship Match: Jaden New (Alexandria) 3-0, 8th. pinned Will Jefcoat (Leeds) 3-1, Jr. (3:25).
Consolation Match: Dylan Turner (Cleburne County) 3-1, Sr. pinned Bailey Henry (Ranburne) 2-2, Jr. (1:00).

126 Results – Kaleb Mathews, Alexandria; Dazhone Finley, Lincoln; Jack Pitts, Leeds; Namath Pitts, Wellborn.
Championship Match: Kaleb Mathews (Alexandria) 3-0, So. dec. Dazhone Finley (Lincoln) 2-1, Jr. (7-5).
Consolation Match: Jack Pitts (Leeds) 3-1, So. pinned Namath Pitts (Wellborn) 2-2, Jr. (2:33).

132 Results – Fletcher Swindall, Alexandria; Mattew Williamson, Cleburne County; Jordan Vargas, Ashville; Koby Edge, Ashville
Championship Match: Fletcher Swindall (Alexandria) 3-0, Jr. pinned Mattew Williamson (Cleburne County) 2-1, Fr. (2:57).
Consolation Match: Jordan Vargas (Ashville) 3-1, Fr. over Koby Edge (Ashville) 2-2, Sr. (M. For.).

138 Results – Preston Jarrell, Cleburne County; Dakota Medders, Alexandria; Hunter Hollis, Ranburne; Dalton McKay, Ashville.
Championship Match: Preston Jarrell (Cleburne County) 4-0, Sr. pinned Dakota Medders (Alexandria) 3-1, So. (5:27).
Consolation Match: Hunter Hollis (Ranburne) 4-1, So. over Dalton McKay (Ashville) 4-2, Jr. (For.).

145 Results – Zachary Williamson, Cleburne County; Mason Vann, Ashville; Brock Thrash, Wellborn; Jeffrey Williams, Leeds.
Championship Match: Zachary Williamson (Cleburne County) 4-0, So. pinned Mason Vann (Ashville) 3-1, So. (0:19).
Consolation Match: Brock Thrash (Wellborn) 4-1, 8th. pinned Jeffrey Williams (Leeds) 3-2, So. (3:28).

152 Results – Shane Beason, Cleburne County; Kristian Robinson, Walter Wellborn; Tyler Easter, St. Clair; Kendrick Tilley, Talladega.
Championship Match: Shane Beason (Cleburne County) 4-0, Jr. dec. Kristian Robinson (Wellborn) 3-1, Jr. (TF-1.5 5:59 (18-3)).
Consolation Match: Tyler Easter (St. Clair) 7-3, Fr. over Kendrick Tilley (Talladega) 4-2, So. (For.).

160 Results – Aaron Whittaker, Alexandria; Spencer Jordan, Ranburne; Christopher Higgins, Cleburne County; Matthew Lindsey, Wellborn.
Championship Match: Aaron Whittaker (Alexandria) 4-0, Sr. dec. Spencer Jordan (Ranburne) 3-1, So. (8-7).
Consolation Match: Christopher Higgins (Cleburne County) 4-1, Jr. pinned Matthew Lindsey (Wellborn) 3-2, Jr. (1:00).

170 Results – Jason Higgins, Cleburne County; Damon Calhoun, Ranburne; Cameron Tillman, Ashville; Otis Weatherly, Alexandria.
Championship Match: Jason Higgins (Cleburne County) 3-0, Sr. dec. Damon Calhoun (Ranburne) 2-1, So. (8-5).
Consolation Match: Cameron Tillman (Ashville) 3-1, So. pinned Otis Weatherly (Alexandria) 2-2, Sr. (3:23).

182 Results – Cade Smith, Cleburne County; Lawrence Harris, Leeds; Jeremiah McCord, Ranburne; Keion Tae Brooks, Talladega.
Championship Match: Cade Smith (Cleburne County) 4-0, Jr. dec. Lawrence Harris (Leeds) 2-1, Sr. (13-10).
Consolation Match: Jeremiah Mccord (Ranburne) 5-1, So. over Keion Tae Brooks (Talladega) 4-2, Fr. (For.).

195 Results – Christian Knop, Alexandria; Christian Seale, Cleburne County; Carson Hall, Ranburne; Trent Martin, Ashville.
Championship Match: Christian Knop (Alexandria) 4-0, Jr. pinned Christian Seale (Cleburne County) 3-1, So. (1:16).
Consolation Match: Carson Hall (Ranburne) 4-1, 7th. over Trent Martin (Ashville) 4-2, Fr. (For.).

220 Results – Gaje Hull, Ashville; Ryan Day, Cleburne County; Peighton Thrasher, Alexandria; Ben Buchanan, Ranburne.
Championship Match: Gaje Hull (Ashville) 4-0, Sr. pinned Ryan Day (Cleburne County) 3-1, Sr. (4:00).
Consolation Match: Peighton Thrasher (Alexandria) 4-1, So. dec. Ben Buchanan (Ranburne) 3-2, So. (9-4).

285 Results – Wesley Harrell, Pleasant Valley; Levi Ledbetter, Ranburne; Skylar Payne, Alexandria; Brandon Rogers, Cleburne County.
Championship Match: Wesley Harrell (Pleasant Valley) 4-0, Sr. pinned Levi Ledbetter (Ranburne) 3-1, Jr. (0:31).
Consolation Match: Skylar Payne (Alexandria) 3-1, Jr. dec. Brandon Rogers (Cleburne County) 3-2. (UTB 3-2).

Alexandria’s Kaleb Mathews (L) and Lincoln’s Dazhone Finley (R) battled down to the wire in their 126 final that was voted the best match of the tournament.

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