E.A. Sports Today

Poignant victory

Alexandria ends title drought by winning Gene Taylor Memorial; Weaver’s Allison named most valuable wrestler

Weaver 220 Caleb Allison was named most valuable wrestler in the Gene Taylor Memorial Tournament Saturday. On the cover, Alexandria’s tournament-winning coach Frank Hartzog takes in some of the action.

By East Alabama Sports Today

It had been a while since Alexandria won a tournament team title, but if the Valley Cubs were going to end the drought they couldn’t have picked a better event to do it.

The Valley Cubs won Weaver’s Gene Taylor Memorial Tournament Saturday for the first time, scoring three individual champions and a whopping 608 points.

Making it even more significant for the Cubs is it came in the most revered tournament in the county outside of the County Championship and honors the memory of the man Alexandria coach Frank Hartzog wrestled for in the early ’90s.

Alexandria’s Christian Knop (R) visits Saturday with six-time state champion Michael Sutton, whose consecutive victories record Knop is chasing. (Photo by Caleb Allison)

“Right when he passed away that tournament took on a whole new meaning, especially with the naming of it,” Hartzog said. “Just wanting to win it and wishing he was still alive to just be there to talk about it.

“It was nice. If we’re going to win one here and it’s been a little while (since the last one), it was nice for it to be that one.”

As best as Hartzog can remember the Valley Cubs’ last tournament title came in the ASB Tournament two years ago. They were third in last week’s Golden Bear Classic at Lincoln.

They won this week by scoring three individual champions, having six others reach the main draw semifinals and following one unique piece of advice from the coaching staff.

“This might sound crazy but I told them to stay off Track,” Hartzog said, referring to the wrestling tracking site Trackwrestling.com. “They get so focused on looking at where we’re at, what team is where, who they’re facing, what this kid’s record is, what he did last week. I think there’s a couple negative things from that.

“I tried to tell them (1) we sometimes get complacent if we are happening to do well at that moment you look or (2) they’re so far ahead how do you catch them instead of focus on going out there and winning a match. Obviously they wrestled well (Saturday). As I look back on it, they weren’t focused on what the score was, it was ‘Hey, I’ve gotta win that match.’”

Fletcher Swindall (132), Jaden New (138) and Christian Knop (195) all won their weight classes for the Valley Cubs. Kaleb Mathews was an injured runner-up at 120.

Knop won all five of his matches by pin with the fastest accumulated time (4:22) among the four with five pins. He extended his winning streak to 182 matches; he needs 20 to break Weaver six-time state champion Michael Sutton’s state record for consecutive victories and nine to break the county wins record held by Oxford’s Jordan Simpson.

Alexandria’s Fletcher Swindall tries to bring Weaver’s Cody Souder to the mat in their 132 final.

Sutton came up from Tampa to watch the tournament and got to spend some time with Knop between rounds.

Weaver  senior Caleb Allison was named the tournament’s most outstanding wrestler. He went 5-0 with three pins in a cumulative time of 1:36 and two of the fastest pins in the division.

“I’m not sure how many it is for me, but to win the Gene Taylor MVP is as good as it gets,” Allison said. “I knew Coach Taylor on a personal level and respected him a lot and to win it at his memorial tournament means so much to me.

“As far as getting here to win, it was nothing too extreme. Just consistent hard work throughout the week and a good mindset throughout the tournament set me up great to be a contender for MVW and it just so happened that they coaches noticed my hard work.”

The 160 final in which Ranburne’s Spencer Jordan edged Cleburne County’s Zachary Williamson 8-6 was voted best match of the tournament.

In another note, Bob Jones’ Jim Wilson, formerly of Ohatchee and Alexandria, scored his 200th career victory during the tournament.

Team scores:
Alexandria 608, Bob Jones 553.5, Ashville 483, Cleburne County 445, Southside-Gadsden 404, Weaver 392, Ranburne 378.5, Lincoln 297.5, Wellborn 234, Prattville Christian 233.5, Piedmont 224, ASB 136.5, Saks 61.5.

Championship matches
106 – Anthony Champion, Cleburne County, 12-1, pinned Landon Hilburn, Piedmont, 8-2 (1:24).
113 – Dawson Stanford, Lincoln, 12-6, pinned Brady Denham, Wellborn, 7-1 (4:42).
120 – Jacob Dease, Southside-Gadsden, 13-1, def. Kaleb Matthews, Alexandria, 8-1 (inj.).
126 – Jim Wilson, Bob Jones, 13-2, pinned Joshua Johansson, Weaver, 14-5 (0:49).
132 – Fletcher Swindall, Alexandria, 9-0, def. Cody Souder, Weaver, 16-2 (6-3).
138 – Jaden New, Alexandria, 13-0, pinned Benjamin Sanders, Southside-Gadsden, 11-6 (2:35).
145 – Shane Beason, Cleburne County, 12-1, pinned Dalton McKay, Ashville, 12-2 (5:15)
152 – Mathew Williamson, Cleburne County, 11-1, pinned Solomon Doss, Piedmont, 7-3 (0:25).
160 – Spencer Jordan, Ranburne, 12-2, def. Zachary Williamson, Cleburne County, 10-1 (8-6).
170 – Carnel Davis, Southside-Gadsden, 5-0 pinned Kurt Reichert, Prattville Christian, 7-3 (5:40).
182 – Evan Pippin, Bob Jones, 15-2, pinned Cameron Tillman, Ashville, 11-3 (2:42).
195 – Christian Knop, Alexandria, 18-0, pinned Christian Smith, Ranburne, 12-2 (3:04).
220 – Caleb Allison, Weaver, 16-1, def. Jordan Aycock, Bob Jones, 12-2 (7-3).
285 – Mikey Lucente, Bob Jones, 11-2, def. Drew Lawson, Bob Jones, 10-4 (UTB 3-2).



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