Bulldogs coach Harley Lamey has coached state champions before, including the Bulldogs to a team title in 2009. In fact Jackson is the school’s 10th wrestler to win a state individual title, which he did with Saturday’s 10-4 victory over St. Clair County’s Robert Armstrong.
As Lamey pointed out, what’s the Roman numeral for 10?
Jackson wasn’t the only local wrestler to win a state championship. Lincoln’s Jamario Howard won a thrilling match over Wellborn’s Speed Pitts that came down to the final second. But Jackson’s result was less of a surprise than Howard’s.
Jackson is in his first year as a varsity wrestler, but he said he knew he would win the state championship after advancing past Friday’s semifinals.
“I was kind of disappointed earlier in the year after I got my first loss to (Brad) Murry from St. James, but I knew I would win it when I got ahold of him in the semifinals this year,” Jackson said. “When I beat him … I can’t explain the feeling.”
Murry was the only wrestler to beat Jackson this year. Jackson finished with a 17-1 record, despite splitting time between basketball and the mat, with basketball being his first priority.
Although Jackson did wrestle in elementary school, he was still at a little disbelief of winning the state title without much practice.
“I never thought I’d be here. ... It was just something I was doing that was fun,” Jackson said. “Coach Lamey told me I could win if I came out and wrestled, and I’m glad I did.”
Lamey was quick to thank Piedmont basketball coach Tommy Lewis , who allowed Jackson to participate in wrestling during hoops season. Lamey said he more or less took Jackson when he could get him.
Jackson looked like a veteran in match against Armstrong, though. It was a stalemate early before Jackson took a 2-0 lead after the second period. In the third, he took Armstrong to the ground several times to cruise to the win.
“My goal was to get off the ground and let him get off the ground. I knew the best man was going to win because it’d be whoever got the takedown,” Jackson said. “He came at me and he didn’t know I could counter-punch back, and I did.”
Saturday’s state championship marks Jackson’s third, having also participated on Piedmont’s 2009 Class 3A state champion football team and 2013 track and field team. Jackson said this championship has him looking forward to his senior season of track and field even more.
“I’m getting another ring. I want it,” Jackson said. “I’m going to step up and get one as an individual.”
Jackson was Piedmont’s lone wrestler to qualify for the state tournament, and with his results, the Bulldogs finished in 17th in the 1A-4A division. Tallassee won the state championship, while Weaver’s seventh-place finish was the highest of any area school. Ohatchee finished 13th, Lincoln 15th, Wellborn 19th and Ranburne 22nd. Alexandria and Saks tied for 26th.
Oxford finished seventh in Class 6A. Thompson won the state championship, while Vestavia Hills and Auburn rounded out the top three, respectively.
The Yellow Jackets suffered two heart-breaking losses in the Class 6A finals Saturday.
Matt King wasn’t able to get past Smith Station’s Joshua Jamieson in the 126-pound final and Hunter Lee ran out of time in a comeback against Hoover’s Alec Shunnarah in the 195 finals.
Lee and Shunnarah went to the third period scoreless before Shunnarah took a 3-0 lead. Lee was able to get a point from an escape, but was shaken up with the move. He was unable to score again.
In the consolation finals, Jacob Shake (170) finished third because of a final-second win. Shake was able to take down Vestavia Hills’ Kyle Meding with three seconds on the clock to win the 9-5 decision.
In the fifth-place match, Mason Blakeney (120) came up short against Smith Station’s William Beyer, who won a 9-4 decision.
Wil Mizic finished his high-school career as the runner-up in the Class 1A-4A 132-pound state tournament.
Mizic led Tallassee’s Tony Epperson much of the match, including by as many as seven points. Epperson cut the lead to a point in the third period and quickly pinned Mizic afterward. The fall came at 4:40.
In the consolation finals, Nick Souder (106) lost to Fultondale’s Timothy Murphee in the third-place match by an 11-2 major decision. Chase Rodges (195) wasn’t able to top Mitchell Holcomb of Fultondale in the third-place match, losing by fall.
Jermaine Carmichael (170), Collin Allison (182) and Macklin Crook (285) were eliminated from the tournament in the consolation semifinals.
Speed Pitts’ return to the mat ended with him as the runner-up in the Class 1A-4A 145-pound weight class.
In the finals, Pitts led after the first period and later late in the match before Lincoln’s Jamario Howard recorded a takedown in the closing seconds to win 4-3.
Jamario Howard waited nearly the entire six-minute match before he made his move against Wellborn’s Pitts, but Howard recorded a takedown just in time.
Down by a point in the closing seconds of the 145-pound final, Howard recorded a takedown to take a 4-3 lead just as time expired.
“He was beating me the whole match and at the last second I threw a move on him and got my two (points) to win. It’s amazing,” Howard said. “He kind of gave it to me, so I took it.”
Howard won a state championship two years ago as a sophomore before finishing as a runner-up last year, losing the state championship match in overtime.
“I worked all year for this, I wasn’t going to let it slip away this time,” Howard said. “There were 365 days I thought about it. I told myself I’d never feel that way again.”
Also for Lincoln, Michah Gaston (220) advanced to Saturday’s competition, but he was eliminated in the consolation semifinals.
Ohatchee had four wrestlers battle late Friday night, all advancing to Saturday’s 1A-4A consolation semifinals.
In the consolation bracket, Payton Entrekin (126) forfeited the third-place match to St. Clair County’s Zack Clough because of injury. Hunter Barclay (285) gave St. James’ Murry a tough match, but was unable to top his opponent, losing a 6-1 decision to finish fourth.
Kevin Griffith (113) and Josh Sexton (120) were eliminated from the tournament in the consolation semifinals.
Alex Sandmann placed for the Tigers after falling in the 1A-4A 220-pound semifinals Friday night.
Sandmann defeated Ashville’s Blake Williams in the consolation finals with a takedown in sudden death. Sandmann’s 3-1 decision win gave him a third-place finish.
Tyler Mayfield (132) was unable to defeat Leeds’ Christian Simmons, who won a 12-5 decision. Mayfield finished third in his weight class.
Corey Davis (138) was eliminated Saturday in the consolation semifinals.
Dalton Wiggins made the most of Saturday’s 1A-4A consolation finals.
Wiggins advanced through the 160-pound bracket and defeated Ashville’s Kenny Brady in a 6-4 decision in the consolation final to finish third.
Brandon Miller covers prep sports for The Star. He can be reached at 256-235-3575 or follow him on Twitter @bmiller_star.