E.A. Sports Today

Oxford, King rule county

Senior wins his third straight most valuable wrestler award, leading Yellow Jackets to fourth straight team title

Oxford’s Matt King toys with Wellborn’s Matthew Lindsey in the 162-pound final on his way to a fifth straight Calhoun County title and third straight tournament most valuable wrestler award. (Photo by B.J. Franklin/GungHo Photos)

By Al Muskewitz
East Alabama Sports Today

OXFORD – Most kids are discouraged at a young age from playing with their food. Matt King learned that, too, but over the last couple weeks on the wrestling mat at least he’s been encouraged to disregard that.

The Oxford senior could have quickly disposed of all three of his opponents Tuesday in winning a third straight most valuable wrestler award and helping his team win its fourth straight Calhoun County Tournament title, but he spent extra time working on moves before vanquishing them all with a pin.

Oxford coach Matt Hicks says King working his opponents this year is “by design” as the Yellow Jackets want their star 162-pounder to be prepared to go the distance late in the season when more competitive matches tend to go longer.

Oxford’s Matt King was voted the Calhoun County Tournament most valuable wrestler for the third straight year Tuesday after winning his fifth straight county title. (Photo by B.J. Franklin/GungHo Photos)

King pinned Pleasant Valley’s Ashton King in 2:26, White Plains’ Austin Farley in 2:21 and Wellborn’s Matthew Lindsey in 2:23. In all three matches he regularly released his opponent in order to try another move.

“I could probably pin them in the first 30 seconds, but I did that all last year and I got to a match that was really serious and I was way out of shape,” King said. “This year I’ve actually been wrestling. I’ll do stuff I need to work on or stuff I feel like I should be doing and then after so long I’ll pin them for the team points.”

One of his more spectacular moves came during the second period of his second match when he got Farley in a front headlock, then did a full body somersault over the entire length of the Wildcat senior’s body. It’s a move he had done “a bunch of times” the last three years in practice, but Tuesday was the first time he felt brave enough to pull it off in a match.

“I was up by 12, I think, so I knew I could only get one more takedown, so I went neutral and I did it,” he said.

He has now won five straight county titles – missing only as a ninth grader when the tournament was canceled due to weather – and the only points he’d given up came when he allowed his opponent to get away.

“One of my coaches used to say when he was in the finals when people win state they don’t get scored on,” King said. “If you win, you’re probably not going to get scored on that much. When he won I think he had one point scored and he let that guy up, so unless you’re trying to go back to your feet and work more you shouldn’t let them have points.”

Chase Hicks (115), Reed Hill (140), Drake Boyles (172) and Clay Webb (287) also won individual titles for Oxford. Hill is in his first year with the Yellow Jackets after starting his career in the lower weights at Ohatchee. His season was cut short last year when he broke his shoulder after seven matches.

“This was very satisfying,” Reed said.

Alexandria also crowned five individual champions – Kaleb Matthews (122), Jaden New (128), Fletcher Swindall (134), Aaron Whittaker (154) and Christian Knop (184). Knop’s title was his third straight and 137th consecutive victory.

Swindall was in contention for the MVW after defeating Oxford’s Wesley Slick 9-7 in the 134 final for his third straight county title. It would have been his second straight MVW, after he captured the big fish at the Coosa River Clash after Christmas.

It was Swindall’s third championship round win over Slick. He beat him for his first county title as a freshman and last week at the Coosa River event. He jumped out to a 6-1 lead in the first period Tuesday and led 8-4 early in the third before Slick closed to within a point in the closing seconds.

“I don’t like starting things late, being behind,” Swindall said of his quick start. “Some of my problems in the past I realized was I was always having to wrestle from behind; I didn’t start off too fast. I know this year I just have to change that.”

Weaver – Cody Souder (108) and Caleb Allison (222) – and Piedmont – Christian Doss (147) and Logan Smith (197) each had two winners.

On the team side, the Yellow Jackets won their fourth straight county title. They scored 243.5 points with Alexandria (173.5), Weaver (113), Piedmont (112.5) and Wellborn (107.5) rounding out the top five.

In the grand scheme of things, winning the county championship is about fourth on the Yellow Jackets’ priorities to win – after the State Duals, sectionals and state championship – but the pressure to win it is enormous.

“I think I said this last year and I’ll say it again,” Hicks said. “There’s a lot more pressure I think on Oxford than there is on anybody else in this county tournament because everybody goes into the County expecting Oxford to win it because they’re the biggest school in the county.

“It’s one of those things where it’s almost a relief to win it moreso than it is a pleasure because you’re not going to have to hear ‘How did you let that 5A school or whatever beat you,’ so it’s more of a relief. I try very hard not to emphasize it too much … and the teams here are getting better and better.”

King pinned all three of his opponents to win the 162 title. The only year he didn’t win county in his career was as a ninth grader – and the tournament was canceled due to weather. And the only points he gave up throughout the run were the ones he gave up to his opponent in order to set up another move.

Alexandria’s Frank Hartzog was voted by the coaches as the county Coach of the Year, and Hicks said “they got it right.”

“Alexandria made some good nice moves; that was awesome by Frank Hartzog,” Hicks said. “He did an outstanding job. He was the Coach of the Year, there was no doubt about it. The coaches voted; they got it right. I told them two weeks ago he was Coach of the Year and I’m glad everybody else saw it the same way I did. … I’m telling you right now they will be a tough out next year in the county.”

To see a gallery of photos from the championship round, visit www.bjfranklin.smugmug.com

Alexandria’s Aaron Whittaker works to escape the grip of Wellborn’s Kristian Robinson in winning the 154 county title. (Photo by B.J. Franklin/GungHo Photos)

At Oxford High School

Team scores: Oxford 243.5, Alexandria 173.5, Weaver 113, Piedmont 112.5, Wellborn 107.5, White Plains 59, Saks 37, Pleasant Valley 19, Ohatchee 3.

Individual champions
108 – Cody Souder, Weaver pinned Brady Denham, Wellborn, 0:34.
115 – Chase Hicks, Oxford pinned Aden Whittaker, Alexandria, 0:52.
122 – Kaleb Matthews, Alexandria dec. Landon Burrage, Oxford, 4-3.
128 – Jaden New, Alexandria dec. Jakob Chisolm, Oxford, 10-4.
134 – Fletcher Swindall, Alexandria dec. Wesley Slick, Oxford, 9-7.
140 – Reed Hill, Oxford TF dec. Thomas Brown, Saks, 16-0.
147 – Christian Doss, Piedmont TF dec. Brandon Roberts, Weaver, 15-0.
154 – Aaron Whittaker, Alexandria TF Kristian Robinson, Wellborn, 16-1.
162 – Matt King, Oxford pinned Matthew Lindsey, Wellborn, 2:23.
172 – Drake Boyles, Oxford pinned David McClure, White Plains, 3:55.
184 – Christian Knop, Alexandria pinned Riley Dothard, White Plains, 0:51.
197 – Logan Smith, Piedmont pinned Octavius Adair, Oxford, 2:41.
222 – Caleb Allison, Weaver pinned Evan Cooper, Piedmont, 1:32.
287 – Clay Webb, Oxford pinned Wesley Harrell, Pleasant Valley 4:19.

Alexandria’s Fletcher Swindall (L) holds off a move by Oxford’s Wesley Slick in their tight 134 title match. (Photo by B.J. Franklin/GungHo Photos)

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