From 1993 to 2004, the Bearcats won nine Alabama High School Athletic Association Class 1A-4A state titles under hall-of-fame coach Gene Taylor.
The Bearcats haven’t won one since.
In the seven years since Taylor’s departure, Calhoun County teams have accounted for five state titles, with Wellborn winning four and Piedmont taking one in 2009.
Three weeks before the state tournament at the Von Braun Center in Huntsville, the Bearcats will begin this year’s run at a return to their previous glory when they host the annual Calhoun County tournament tonight at 5 p.m.
“I told mine, ‘Every tournament we enter it doesn’t matter if it’s 5A, 6A majority if it’s 1A-4A, county, section, state or if it’s the tournament I host, our goal is always to finish first’,” Weaver coach Andy Fulmer said.
At 27-2 this season, the Bearcats have already tasted a bit of success with first-place finishes in the Matt Tice Memorial Classic and the Wellborn “Panthers Duals” tournament.
Weaver finished as runner-up at last year’s tournament. It finished behind champion Oxford, host Wellborn and Saks.
“I think if our guys will stay focused mentally, I think we’ve got a very good chance,” Fulmer said. “But there are several good teams in 1A-4A that are just as good as us.”
Fulmer said his team has to figure out a way to reenergize his squad, having reached the point of the season where teams hit a wall.
“I have to get some more excitement back into mine,” he said. ‘We’ve reached that part of the season where we’ve kind of plateaued out. This part of the season is a grind. Once we get to past the county, ours usually pick it up pretty good.”
Then comes the light at the end of the tunnel with sectional tournaments coming on Feb. 11. The top four finishers in each weight division at sectionals advance to the state tournament.
“If they don’t win then,” Fulmer said, “they’re done.”
At practice Thursday afternoon, the Bearcats looked poised to finish strong, putting in the mat work which is a must for any team with championship aspirations.
Players lined up by weight class along a wall facing the mats while two stepped into the circle to do battle. The rules were simple. Win and you stay in. Lose and you move on to meet the loser of the previous match until there’s only one victor remaining.
“It helps them with their technique,” Fulmer said. “As you get to the end the winner gets tired. The fatigue sets in and he’s got to overcome it.”
The Bearcats will have nearly a full stable of wrestlers tonight with participants in 13 of the 14 weight classifications. It’s an advantage not everyone has. The fairly consistent numbers can be attributed to the literal scores of trophies that fill the cases in the Bearcats’ gym and nearly spill over the rack that lines the wall in their practice facility.
“With success with anything, you’re going to have people that show more interest in it,” Fulmer said.
Nick Birdsong covers prep sports for The Star. He can be reached at 256-235-3575. Follow him on Twitter @birds_word.