Panther grapplers finish second in state


Ryals, Kitchens, Christopher win state titles 

By Gene Stanley/Sports Correspondent

Southside High wrestler Haydn Ryals scored a 4 – in gymnastics – on Saturday at the Class 5A state wrestling Tournament in Huntsville. 

After winning his fourth consecutive state championship, the 152-pound senior put on a gymnastics show of flips that most people can’t do – even other wrestlers.

“(Haydn) pulled off stuff I don’t feel comfortable trying,” said Kade Kitchens, a teammate of Ryals. “He did a complete back flip while I just did a normal one.”

Kitchens, at 170 pounds, said that gymnastics aren’t allowed if the team is still in contention for a state championship, but since Arab had pulled away Saturday, the couple of team points didn’t matter.

In all the glorious history of Southside wrestling, no one had ever won four state crowns before Ryals.

“It’s a great feeling,” he said. “Anyone wants to hold a record for something at your school. Winning the fourth one is something I wanted to accomplish, and now I can say I did it.”

Ryals defeated defending state champion Brett Clark of Scottsboro, 12-2.

“Clark only scored two because Haydn let him up twice,” Panthers coach Kyle Routon said. “Haydn wanted the points for a takedown so he let him up. Haydn, this season, was able to take his opponent down at any time he wanted. And no one could take him down.”

Not only did he win the state title, Ryals dominated this season, going 51-0.

In the eighth grade, Ryals won a state runner-up trophy.

Kitchens won his title on a technical pin, beating Benjamin Russell’s Deon Maxwell to finish the year at 48-1.

“I didn’t lose to anyone in the state,” Kitchens said. “My loss was to a ‘stud’ in Georgia. I wasn’t really nervous about any match this season except against him.

Kitchens, a junior, won his second straight title as well.

Also, Zach Christopher defeated Joseph Green of Muscle Shoals, 11-8, in the 113-pound weight class. Christopher finished 15-2 on the season.

Two Panthers finished as state runner-up – Landon Thompson in the 120-pound class and Noah Bradford at 138. Jacob Smith took fourth place in the 106-pound class.

Thompson lost in sudden death overtime, 3-2. After finishing the round tied, “Sugarplum” Thompson and Arab’s Isaiah Hayes, the defending state champ, went through three overtime periods before losing in the sudden death.

This was voted the best match of the tournament.

The Panthers finished second to Arab, by a score of 148.5 to 109.5.

Southside had nine qualifiers, six athletes to place, five finalists and three state champions.

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