By Chris McCarthy/Editor
Haden Ryals recently te-sted his wrestling skills on the national level.
The Southside High School senior took fifth place in the National High School Coaches Association Tournament on Mar. 28-30 at Virginia Beach, Va.
Ryals, who won a fourth straight Alabama High School Athletic Association championship in February, competed in a field of 51 top wrestlers from across the U.S. in the senior 145-pound division.
Following a first-round bye, Ryals posted a 10-6 decision over Nick Vines of New York. Ryals then defeated Florida’s Jake Spengler, 7-5, before pinning Delaware’s Willie Davis.
In the semifinal round of his bracket, Ryals lost to eventual tournament runner-up Niko Villarreal of California, 13-5. Ryals finished out the tournament with a 4-3 loss to Spengler in the semifinals of the consolation round.
The Senior Division fea-tured 10 four-time state champions, 19 three-time championss and 72 two-time state champions with 494 state place winners. In total, 3,367 wrestlers from 47 states and Germany competed in the 25-year old event.
In February, Ryals was named the Class 5A, Region 5 winner of the 2014 Bryant-Jordan Scholarship Award for Student Ach-eivement. He is eligible for the overall student acheivement award to be given out on Apr. 14 in Birmingham.
Ryals, who went 51-0 this year, is the first SHS wrestler to win four straight championships (2010 SHS graduate Garrett Kitchens won three in a row). Ryals is one of 12 wrestlers in state history to win four titles.
“It was definitely all worth it,” said Ryals. “I think everybody wants to leave something behind at their school and set a record. It feels pretty good.”