E.A. Sports Today

Inflicting Payne

Alexandria junior finally takes his shot, scores a pin, hands Valley Cubs victory over Southside-Gadsden

Alexandria heavyweight Skyler Payne (R) works to take down Southside’s Luke Chappell in the run-up to pinning him in their decisive match. (Photo by Angela Trapp)

By Al Muskewitz
East Alabama Sports Today

After two years of coaxing and prodding the light bulb finally went on for Skyler Payne and all of a sudden the future around Alexandria’s wrestling program looks brighter.

Payne had been reluctant to take his shot as he feels his way through a new sport despite his coaches’ best efforts to get the junior heavyweight to come out of his shell.

Well, he finally took the initiative Wednesday at a most opportune time and it paid off in a third-period pin that gave the Valley Cubs a 36-32 win over 2017 Class 6A state runnerup and future region rival Southside.

“We cut that a little close,” Alexandria coach Frank Hartzog said. “It came down to our heavyweight, which years ago would have scared me, but this year I felt confident.

“Skyler hasn’t been pulling the trigger on his shot. He finally did it today and it paid off pretty big. All he needed was a little confidence. He’s got the ability, he just didn’t have the confidence, so him getting that could be the difference in us doing anything the rest of the season.

“Without that, it’d been hard. So, him pulling that trigger today, getting a little more confident, gives me a little more hope about what we can do as a team.”

Payne was reluctant to make the move because he was a small heavyweight – 235 pounds – and regularly would be going against much bigger wrestlers. As it was, he gave up some 50 pounds to Southside’s Luke Chappell in their decisive match Wednesday.

“I tried it before, but it didn’t really work really well,” he said.

It couldn’t have worked out better this time.

Payne’s pin was the last – and most critical – of three straight in the final weight classes that brought the Cubs from a 32-18 deficit to victory. The Cubs are now 3-0 in dual matches for the first time, affirming Hartzog’s assessment that his fifth-year team this year is “more of a duals team than we’ve ever had.”

Two-time reigning state champion Christian Knop got the comeback started at 190 with his sixth first-period pin of the season, 50 seconds over Devin Hull. Peyton Thrasher followed with a 24-second pin of Teador Nygren at 220.

For Knop, the win was his seventh of the season, 207th of his high school career, 161st pin and extended his high school winning streak to 121 matches.

With the first two pins in the comeback in place all Payne had to do now was just win his match. He was on the way to a decision that would have given the Cubs a one-point win in the third period, but then got Chappell on his back and closed the deal.

Payne said he wasn’t aware of the magnitude his match had, but that was probably a good thing. “It probably would’ve put a little bit of pressure on me,” he said. “But you’ve just got to do your job and get the win.”

Payne is now 5-2 on the season with four pins. He finished third in last week’s Golden Bear Classic at Lincoln and split two matches Tuesday in a tri-match at Ranburne. He was 19-34 last year, finally jumping into the sport because good friend Fletcher Swindall, the Valley Cubs’ 132 standout, kept telling him it would be good for him football career.

“I looked at it before but Dad never would let me,” Payne said, “because you’ll be wrestling juniors and seniors and I was only an eighth or ninth-grader then, but now I think he’s enjoying it more than I am.”

ALEXANDRIA 36, SOUTHSIDE 32
106 – Carson Bagley (S) won by forfeit.
113 – Aden Whittaker (A) dec. C.J. Butler, 7-2.
120 – Jaden New (A) won by forfeit.
126 – Jacob Dease (S) dec. Kaleb Matthews, 19-7.
132 – Fletcher Swindall (A) dec. Dakota Roddick, 9-1.
138 – Colin Edwards (S) dec. Dakota Medders, 15-2.
145 – Justus Vinn (S) dec. Donavon Lomax, 19-4.
150 – Carnel Davis (S) dec. Scottie Poore, 12-4.
160 – Aaron Whittaker (A) dec. Daniel Loudermilk, 17-2.
170 – Jacob Hollingsworth (S) dec. Otis Weatherly, 7-4.
182 – Ethan Stevenson (S) won by forfeit.
195 – Christian Knop (A) pinned Devin Hull, 0:50
220 – Peyton Thrasher (A) pinned Teador Nygren, 0:24
HWT – Skyler Payne (A) pinned Luke Chappell, 4:51.

Call it the “Knop Drop.” Alexandria’s Christian Knop upends Southside’s Devin Hull on the way to his sixth first-period pin of the season in their 190 pound match. (Photo by Angela Trapp)

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