E.A. Sports Today

Winter alignments

AHSAA releases area and section assignments for the 2020-22 winter sports seasons today; wrestling coaches surprised by outcome

By Al Muskewitz
East Alabama Sports Today

MONTGOMERY — The Alabama High School Athletic Association Central Board approved some major changes for winter sports alignments for the upcoming 2020-21 and 2021-22 classification period. Some are happy with it, some are not.
In wrestling, to create balance based on number of schools participating, the Central Board approved reorganizing the three divisions for championship play – from 1A-5A, 6A and 7A to Class 1A-4A, 5A-6A and 7A. Locally, that puts Alexandria and Oxford in the same section and will include state powers Arab, Jasper and Gardendale.
Bowling expanded from one division to two while basketball class area alignments and indoor track division alignments remained the same.

The changes in bowling and wrestling were established due to more schools competing overall and to help grow both sports in the smaller classes.
“We thank the Central Board for its commitment to fair play,” AHSAA executive director Steve Savarese said, “and we also thank the AHSAA executive staff for their many hours of hard work and research.”

Wrestling has seen significant growth in the last four years – especially in southern Alabama. The larger schools have dominated the sport in the previous 1A-5A division. In 2020, eight of the top 10 teams at the 2020 State Championships were Class 5A schools and 11 of 14 individual weight divisions were won by wrestlers from Class 5A schools. Twenty-one of the 28 wrestlers in the championship matches represented 5A schools.
Twenty state champions are returning in the new 5A-6A alignment. There were going to be 16 champions and 31 state finalists returning in the former 6A alone.
There are 40 teams in Class 1A-4A, 71 schools in 5A-6A and 26 in 7A. The two sections in 5A-6A are larger than the entire 7A group and almost as large as the entire 1A-4A classification.

“I never thought they’d do a 5A-6A together,” Oxford coach Kyle Routon said. “I’d say it’s going to be tough. You’re adding a few more competitive teams to the mix … My kids are still going to do what they’re going to do.”
Whenever realignment takes place some are going to be happy and some are not. Count Weaver coach Andy Fulmer among those who feel good about the future now that his Bearcats are away from the 5A schools that used to dominate the division. Ranburne and Ashville were the only 1A-4A schools that finished ahead of the Bearcats in this year’s state tournament.
“All the people I talked to about it from the small schools are excited,” Fulmer said. “I’m for the sport growing and if it benefits my kids I’m for that as well. It’ll benefit us if my kids do what they’re supposed to do in the offseason and workouts.”
Now, he’ll be “curious” to see how the regions within the sections will be divided.

Alexandria coach Frank Hartzog, meanwhile, isn’t pleased and he’s on the wrestling committee – not so much for what the change does specifically for his program, now the eighth-smallest wrestling school in the classification (21 above the cutoff), but for the general growth of the sport. The realignment was announced two days before the next wrestling committee meeting, giving members the impression they had no impact on the decisions that impact their sport the most.
There apparently were three options – keep the classifications as they were, put 5A-6A together or go with two classifications (1A-5A and 6A-7A). When Hartzog advocated for the change he wasn’t pushing to keep his team with the 4As – he knew it had to move to grow the sport – but this result wasn’t expected. Under this new alignment, he said, 5A-6A is going to be tougher than 7A.
“The last two (options) made no sense to me, and staying the same is not going to help us grow,” said Hartzog, who started the Alexandria program and had it among the state contenders the last couple years. “(Class) 4A is gonna grow, but 5A is liable to lose a couple programs; I’ve had a coach tell me he’s already putting his resume together.
“It’s the most unfair thing I’ve seen since I’ve been involved in wrestling. It’s the most fair thing for the smaller schools, but they forgot about the middle-of-the-road 5As. They needed to do the 1A-4A thing, but 5A won’t grow. We’ll never have the number to stand on our own. There will be no team started after next season in 5A; I would be shocked … The way I look at it, the state, I feel, they should be working for us, helping, but it’s not.” 

Basketball alignments will remain 16 areas in Classes 1A through 6A and eight areas in Class 7A. The Competitive Balance factor, which was instituted for member private schools in 2018-19, did affect two private school teams. St. Luke’s Episcopal, currently in 1A, earned enough points to move to Class 2A; and Madison Academy’s teams, playing basketball in 5A, will move to Class 6A.
Significantly locally, Oxford will be playing in a four-team Class 6A area, White Plains and Jacksonville will be in different 4A areas (with Anniston joining White Plains) and the 2A area got appreciably more challenging for Sacred Heart’s girls with the addition of recently crowned 1A state champion Spring Garden and Sand Rock.

White Plains’ former basketball area was gutted, with the Wildcats moving to Area 9 with Anniston, Cleburne County, Handley and Munford; Jacksonville and Cherokee County remaining in Area 10 (adding Ashville and Etowah); and Hokes Bluff moving out altogether into Class 3A.

Divisions will remain the same for Indoor Track with Competitive Balance affecting four private schools. Whitesburg Christian, Bayside Academy and Saint James will move from 1A-3A to 4A-5A, and UMS-Wright, which moved to 6A in the current alignment, will drop back to 4A-5A in 2020-21. No teams were affected by the competitive balance factor in bowling or wrestling.
Reclassification for the upcoming 2020-21 and 2021-22 school years was announced last November, and fall sports alignments were announced at the conclusion of the fall sports’ season last December. Spring sports alignments for the upcoming classification period will be released in May after the conclusion of the 2020 spring sports championships.

The Alabama High School Athletics Association provided information for this story.

This story will be updated.


Area 8:
TCC, Wadley, Winterboro, Woodland
Area 10: Coosa Christian, Donoho, Faith Christian, JCA, Ragland
Area 7:
Horseshoe Bend, LaFayette, Lannett, Ranburne, Randolph County
Area 12: Gaston, Sacred Heart, Sand Rock, Spring Garden, Westbrook Christian
Area 9:
Childersburg, Saks, Wellborn
Area 11: Ohatchee, Piedmont, Pleasant Valley, Weaver
Area 12: Collinsville, Geraldine, Glencoe, Hokes Bluff
Area 9:
Anniston, Cleburne County, Handley, Munford, White Plains
Area 10: Ashville, Cherokee County, Etowah, Jacksonville
Area 8:
Clay Central, Shelby County, Sylacauga, Talladega
Area 11: Alexandria, Lincoln, Moody, St. Clair County
Area 13:
Oxford, Pell City, Southside-Gadsden, Springville


Section 1: ASB, Bayshore Christian, Beulah, Cleburne County, Fayettville, Houston Academy, T.R. Miller, Montevallo, Montgomery Catholic, W.S. Neal, Orange Beach, Prattville Christian, Ranburne, Reeltown, St. James, Saks, Thomasville, Wellborn, Weaver, White Plains. 

Section 2: American Christian, Ashville, Cherokee County, Curry, Deshler, Dora, Fultondale, Ider, Madison Academy, Madison County, New Hope, Oak Grove, Ohatchee, Piedmont, Pleasant Valley, Randolph, St. John Paul II, Susan Moore, Westminster Christian, Wilson.
Section 2:
Alexandria, Arab, Athens, Buckhorn, Carver-Bham, Center Point, Clay-Chalkville, Columbia, Comer, Decatur, East Limestone, Fort Payne, Gardendale, Hartselle, Hayden, Hazel Green, Huffman;

Jasper, Leeds, Lee-Huntsville, Lincoln, Mae Jemison, Minor, Moody, Mortimer Jordan, Muscle Shoals, Oxford, Jackson-Olin, Pell City, Pinson Valley, Ramsaay, St. Clair County, Scottsboro, Shads Valley, Southside-Gadsden, Springville.

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