Ashville wrestlers finish runner-up at state

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Photo: Ashville’s Brady Thrash (pictured at top) defeated Deshler’s Ross Mills in a 2-1 decision to win the at 190 pound state title during the Class 1A-4A state wrestling tournament on Saturday, Feb. 17 at the Von Braun Center in Huntsville. (Courtesy of Becky Staples Photography)

By Chris McCarthy, Publisher/Editor

Helped by three wins in the championship round, Ashville placed second at the Class 1A-4A state wrestling tournament on Saturday, Feb. 17 at the Von Braun Center in Huntsville.
The Bulldogs’ point total of 124 was only three points shy of state champion Weaver. Ashville came into the championship round down 17 points to the Bearcats.
“That was a huge accomplishment considering Weaver had 13 wrestlers qualify for state and we only had seven,” said Ashville head coach Jim Browning. “But we knew our seven wrestlers all had a great shot at placing in the tournament. We also knew that in order to win state, we needed a few things to happen.”
First and foremost, the Bulldogs needed Weaver Cael to lose in the 106-pound final in the first match in the championship round. Deulmer, who was the only wrestler the Bearcats had in the finals, lost a 2-1 decision to Ranburne’s Carter Driver.
After that, it came down to points for Ashville. Under AHSAA rules, each team receives the placement points for second place to when a wrestler wins in the championship semifinals. The only remaining points to be scored are the fourth additional points a team receives for first place if a team wins as well as result points, in which a wrestler receives an additional point if he wins by a major decision (eight to 14 points), 1.5 points if he wins by a tech fall (winning a match by more than 15 points without a pin) and two additional points for a pin.
The long and short of it was that the Bulldogs needed at least two pins, a major decision, a tech fall or a pin in one of the three championship matches to capture the blue plaque.
“With three kids in the finals, we had an opportunity to win the state title,” said Browning. “We honestly did not have to have three pins, but we had to have the rest, which would have given us at least the 17 points required to win a championship.”
Prior to the finals, Browning and assistant coach Shaun Carter advised Nick Williamson, Tyler Ebner and Brady Thrash to get a pin if the opportunity presented itself, but more importantly, to win by any means at their disposal.
“We didn’t want them to sacrifice their chance at an individual state championship and to try and sell out to get a pin and lose the match,” said Browning. “Wrestling is both an individual sport and a team sport, and the opportunity to win a state title was something they earned as individuals. It’s also really difficult to win by pin in the state finals.”
Williamson (62-2) pinned Escambia County’s Elijah Thomas at 3:45 in the 157-pound weight class; Ebner (45-4) defeated Dora’s Aiden Richardson in a 9-2 decision at 165 pounds; and Thrash (55-11) beat Deshler’s Ross Mills in a 2-1 decision at 190 pounds. Williamson and Thrash both finished with 28 points, while Ebner accumulated 26.
Williamson and Ebner are the only wrestlers on the current team that were state qualifiers for the Bulldogs’ Class 1A-4A state championship team in 2021. Prior to this season, Ashville had only had two individual state wrestling champions in school history in Richie Boly and Layden Olsen.
“As coaches, we’re very proud of these young men for winning a state title and watching their hard work and dedication to their team and the sport pay off in a huge way,” said Browning. “Coming home to Ashville with three state champions and a team state runner up trophy was an awesome experience, and to more than double our number of state winners in just one year is pretty impressive.”
After receiving a bye in the first round, Williamson pinned Oak Grove’s Brooks Covin at 3:09 in the quarterfinals, then won by fall 58 seconds into his semifinal match against Prattville Christian’s Spencer Perkins.
“Nick was our only senior who qualified for state this year, and he was vital to the success of our program,” said Browning. “He is a hard worker and demonstrates great leadership in the wrestling room. Nick works hard and encourages the other wrestlers to do the same. He’s been a huge asset to our program for six years, and we’ll miss him big-time.”
Ebner received a bye in the first round. He pinned Fultondale’s Torrance Goins 17 seconds into his quarterfinal match, then pinned Montevallo’s Drew Adams 49 seconds into the semifinals.
“Tyler has been battling an injury for most of January, and he showed a lot of guts and perseverance to go out there and win a state championship,” said Browning. “He’s another kid that works hard and is very talented. Tyler lost in the finals his freshman season and had to leave the [state] tournament with an illness last year, so to see him pull off a state title this year was really special. The good news for both us and Tyler is that he’ll be back next year to compete for another state championship.”
Thrash began the championship round with three consecutive pins – at 1:29 against Prattville Christian’s Brysen Bowman, at 2:55 against Montgomery Catholic’s Charles Chappelle and at 3:47 against Beulah’s Bronson Dubose.
“Brady’s not only extremely talented, he’s the kid that keeps things light and fun in the wrestling room,” said Browning. “He has a great personality and gets along well with pretty much everyone. Last year as a freshman, he surprised a lot of people when he finished third in the state at the 182-pound weight class, but it was not really a surprise to our coaching staff. Brady is one of those kids that is a big-time competitor. He had two matches during his state title run this year during which he was down and things were not going well. He ended up winning both of those matches by pins. Brady just finds ways to win, and I attribute that to his overall skill as a wrestler and him being a fighter on the wrestling mat.”
Several other Ashville wrestlers earned key points to drive the Bulldogs’ runner-up showing. Gavin Crawford came in fourth at 113 pounds, Owen Burns placed fifth at 106 pounds, Owen Meads finished sixth at 120 pounds and Mika Smith placed sixth at 175 pounds.
After falling to St. John Paul II Catholic’s Benjamin Santy by a 10-0 decision in the first round and receiving a bye in the second, Crawford reeled off three straight wins in the consolation round – a 5-2 decision over Ranburne’s Hunter Hulsey, an 8-6 tiebreaker over Piedmont’s Hendrix Keener and a 5-4 decision over Alabama School of Cyber Technology and Engineering’s Samuel Kirk. Crawford then lost a 6-0 decision to American Christian’s Jack Galloway in the third-place match.
Burns opened with a tech fall at 4:28 over Wilson’s Max Hudson, followed by a tech fall at 5:42 over New Hope’s Asher Waugh. Burns then lost by an 8-6 decision to Ranburne’s Carter Driver in the semifinals and a 12-7 decision to Piedmont’s Myles Bailey in the consolation semifinals. Burns rebounded with a 14-6 major decision over St James’ Noah Rains in the fifth-place match.
After receiving a first-round bye, Meads lost in the quarterfinals to St. John Paul II Catholic’s Xavier Escorpizo by a fall at 2:35. Meads responded with two straight wins – a tech fall at 3:42 over West End’s Braison Howard and a 7-0 decision over Corner’s John Ryan Cruse. In the consolation semifinals, Meads suffered a tech fall loss to Weaver’s Haiden Hise at 2:52. Meads then fell to Escorpizo by an 11-2 major decision in the fifth-place match.
Smith opened with a 9-1 major decision over Perez-Garcia, then fell in the quarterfinals to Montgomery Catholic’s Ryan Parker via a 7-4 decision. Smith rebounded with a pin at 2:06 over Beulah’s Jason Hood and a pin at 4:34 over Cleburne County’s Brayden Beam to make the consolation semifinals, where he lost by pin at 2:37 to Ranburne’s Zack Buchanan. Smith then lost to Montevallo’s Shayr Perez-Garcia by pin at 5:10 in the fifth-place match.
“I feel like our team is one of the hardest working teams in the state,” said Browning. “Coach
Carter does a great job training our kids with the overall wrestling technique and instruction that they receive every day. We put them through rigorous training all throughout wrestling season leading up to the state wrestling tournament.”
Browning pointed out that record-wise, the 2023-24 Bulldogs wrestled as much if not more than any other Class 1A-4A team in the state.
“These kids grind every day; we do not take days off during the week. If we don’t have a match on a weekday, we are at practice, and with the exception of two or three Saturdays, we were at a tournament every weekend from the start until the end of the season. A lot of young men would complain about the amount of time spent preparing for the state tournament, but our wrestlers enjoy it and even ask for open mat days from time to time. They are truly a pleasure to be around and coach.”
Browning appreciated the support the program receives from the school and community.
“We have such a great support system at Ashville High School. Our administration has been very supportive of our program and athletes. It’s a blessing to have them in our corner, and they are always there to support us in whatever way they can. We have parents that go above and beyond to make sure our wrestlers are fed and are at matches on time and ready to compete. If there is anything we need, all we have to do is ask, and our parents are eager to step up and take care of us.”
A trio of Southside wrestlers finished runner-up in Class 5A. Thomas Norris (34-16) lost by pin to Arab’s Colby’s Silva at 113 pounds; Ephram Ormiston (43-8) lost to Scottsboro’s Steve Staton in a 5-1 decision at 126 pounds; and Peyton Adams (34-13) lost to Elmore County’s Tyler Payton in a 13-3 major decision at 150 pounds.

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