Panther grapplers finish third in state meet

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By Gene Stanley/Sports Correspondent

Kyle Routon had a successful first year as a head coach, bringing his Southside High wrestling team to a third place finish in the Class 5A state meet on Feb. 15-16 in Huntsville.

He hoped for a bit better, though.

“It was pretty evident all season long that it was us, Arab and Scottsboro. Arab showed up more that day than we did.”

Only Arab and Scottsboro finished ahead of the Panthers. Those three teams have won the past four 5A team titles. They were also the only three 5A squads to break 100 in team points this year.

Even with Devin Hester, Haydn Ryals and Austin Snyder all missing large chunks of the season with injury, Southside was competitive with the other two powers.

“That’s three good components of our team out,” Routon said. “And we were still competitive.”

Ryals (145 pounds) and Kade Kitchens (170 pounds) each won an individual state championship.

Ryals is now a three-time state champion, while Kitchens won his first after finishing second a year ago.

There are some similarities about Kitchens’ season.

Kade is the younger brother of Garrett Kitchens, who won three state championships at Southside. He won his first as a sophomore. Kade is a sophomore this year.

Kade lost three matches this season, the same number as Garrett had as a sophomore. And in the victory match of their sophomore campaigns, both won by scores of 12-4.

“They basically had identical sophomore seasons,” Routon said. “Hopefully, that will continue for at least a couple of years (for Kade).”

The final between Ryals and Benjamin Russell’s Devante Stamps was voted the best match of the 5A tournament. It went to triple overtime before Ryals was able to take the victory in sudden death.

“That was the best high school match I’ve ever seen, hands down,” Routon said.

According to Alabama High School Athletic Association rules for the sport, by the time a match gets to its third overtime, the competitors grappled for one point.

As the winner of that point, Ryals got to pick the up or down starting position. He took his case to the mat, being down for the championship. All he had to do was escape one time. If the 30-second round had ended without an escape, Stamps would’ve won.

Devin Hester (132 pounds) and Austin Snyder (heavyweight) followed with runner-up finishes, while Lee Edge (182 pounds) and Landon Thompson (113 pounds) both got on the podium for third-place trophies.

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