E.A. Sports Today


Johannson comes through for third individual state title, clinches back-to-back Class 1A-4A state championships for Weaver

By Joe Medley
East Alabama Sports Today

HUNTSVILLE — Weaver walked out of the Von Braun Center having ended a state-championship drought in 2022.

The Bearcats walked out back-to-back state champions Saturday, with state coaches having voted their long-time coach state coach of the year for 2021-22. There’s a word for that … validation.

“As a team, we needed to win again just to confirm that our way of doing things is the right way,” senior J.D. Johannson said.

Johannson’s pin of New Hope’s Layton Pohl in the 170-pound championship final clinched Weaver’s 11th state title and second in as many years.

Weaver head coach Andy Fulmer poses with assistant Justin Brown and a certificate showing that coaches voted Fulmer as coach of the year for 2021-22, when Weaver won the first of its now two consecutive state championships. (Photo by Joe Medley)

State colleagues voted Andy Fulmer, now a two-time state championship coach in his 19th season as Weaver’s head man, the state’s coach of the year for 2021-22, a recognition of last year’s championship.

It wasn’t Saturday’s only glory for area wrestling. White Pains’ Tanner Jarrell flipped the script after three losses to Saks’ Trent Hopkins this season, winning their Class 1A-4A 113-pound final in an 8-2 decision.

Ohatchee’s Matthew King reversed the sting of a narrow loss in the 2022 finals, pinning Alabama School for the Blind’s Ny’Darian Jones at 5:44.

Like Johannson, Ranburne senior heavyweight Carson Hall plopped his shoes in the center of the 1A-4A mat as a three-time champion, having pinned Prattville Christian’s Aiden Cockrell at 1:50.

But the day belonged to Weaver and Fulmer. A year after rallying from behind on the last of the tournament’s three days to edge Ohatchee by one point and end an 18-year title drought, the Bearcats edged Dora 105-101.

Weaver, the 2023 Class 1A-4A Alabama state wresting champion, poses for pictures after the state tournament concluded Saturday in Huntsville’s Von Braun Center. (Photo by Joe Medley)

Ashville, the team that edged Weaver to win the North Super Sectional a week ago, was third with 98.5 points.

While the margin started close and stayed that way, Weaver led after all three days in Huntsville.  

Fulmer’s team walked out of the Von Braun Center with another Alabama High School Athletic Association “blue map” to add to the program’s extensive collection. 

He walked out with the respect of colleagues spelled out on a certificate. 

The program that the late Gene Taylor brought to prominence bridged to Fulmer a year ago, and that bridge just opened to traffic.

“This is nice, but the individual stuff don’t mean anything,” Fulmer said. ”It’s ultimately just about the program itself and us trying to finish things this weekend.

“I’ve got the best assistant coach (Justin Brown), the best kids and the best parents, and it makes my job real easy.”

Weaver entered Saturday’s consolation and championship finals with 97 points, leading Ashville (84.5) and Dora (82.5). Dora made its move, closing two within 99-95.5.

Jayden Rouse pinned White Plains’ Mason Hahm at the buzzer to win the 120 final, and 132 Damon Clayton took a 5-0 decision from Orange Beach’s Shayd Arboneaux.

All of this came after Dora 160 Delvin Taylor took a major decision over Weaver’s Caden Thornton in the consolation final.

Weaver still had Johannson to go in the 170 final and Anthony Usry in 182. 

Johannson entered his final just needing to win to clinch. He pinned Pohl at 3:06 to improve to 42-0 on the season.

Johannson said he never worried, even through a difficult first period. He knew he had time.

His mindset showed, just before the match, as he paced the mat. After looking at wrestlers preparing for 170 finals on the 7A, 6A and 5A mats, a confident grin broke over his face.

“Almost every finals in my weight class in the other classifications, I’ve wrestled one of those kids at some point in my career,” he said. “All throughout my career, I’ve wrestled the best guys in the state in my weight class.

“It was kind of a realization that, I have every right to be here. All of those guys are doing great things, and I’m right there with them.”

As soon as the official tapped the mat, Johannson popped up. He, Fulmer and Brown raised arms and pumped fists to the Weaver cheering section, seated on the Von Braun Center’s third level, west end.

As the tournament worked through the final four weight classes, Weaver’s team and fans basked. 

As if the day wasn’t complete, Johannson was voted 1A-4A most valuable wrestler.

“He’s been a dog for us,” Fulmer said. “He fits the culture. He fits our standard. … Just excellence. High-character kid. Just great family, high character, great work ethic, just the ultimate team guy and leader.”

Johannson was Weaver’s only individual champion, but Usry took second. Dalton Fink placed third in 106. Thornton was fourth.

Fulmer called winning back-to-back titles “surreal.”

“It’s not as emotional as last year, I guess, because of the drought, but we felt like we had a good chance this weekend,” Fulmer said. “Even though we didn’t have all the kids win matches and place, we had enough kids to wrestle back on the back side to help these guys that made it to the finals.

“It was pretty awesome.”

AHSAA executive director Alvin Briggs presents Weaver’s J.D.Johannson with the award for being the 2023 Class 1A-4A most outstanding wrestler Saturday in Huntsville. (Photo by Joe Medley)

Cover photo: Weaver’s J.D. Johannson and Weaver coach Andy Fulmer raise arms to Weaver’s cheering section after Johannson scored the pin that clinched the Bearcats’ second state wrestling title in as many years Saturday in Huntsville’s Von Braun Center.

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