Alexandria senior wrestler Kaleb Mathews is having quite a week.
He won the 115-pound division at last week’s South Super Sectional, and he’s one of 11 Valley Cub wrestlers headed to this weekend’s state tournament in Huntsville.
He hopes to help Alexandria, third in the 1A-5A division in the state-coaches rankings, overcome Arab and Jasper at the Von Braun Center. Coach Frank Hartzog’s team wants to improve on the Valley Cubs’ best-ever team finish of third place.
The same rankings have Mathews, 46-4 on the season, tied with Piedmont’s Dylan Melendez for second in their weight class. Mathews won by pin at the Calhoun County meet on Jan. 3.
Motivated by having to miss most of his junior season with a knee injury, Mathews would like to make up for lost time by joining Christian Knop, Jaden New, Aaron Whittaker and Fletcher Swindall on the list of Alexandria wrestlers to win state titles. New, the only current Alexandria wrestler on that list and a reigning champion, is 48-0 on the year.
Mathews finished fifth as a freshman and sophomore. Now a sectional champion for the second time, his chance to make good at state starts today.
Before cranking up hard-rock music for his elliptical sweat fest then departing for Huntsville on Wednesday, he talked with Star Sports Writer Joe Medley for the weekly 10 questions feature.
Question: Coming off of a sectional victory, what’s your sense of how the team is performing, headed into state?
Answer: I feel good about it. My team has done really well this season. We’ve improved a lot throughout the season, and I’m really looking forward to seeing how my teammates do, and how we do as a team.
Q: Coach Hartzog said after sectional that you guys appear to be peaking at the right time. How do you see it?
A: They wrestled back really well, and some people did better than what I thought they would do. It surprised me, and I thought they did really good.
Q: How badly do you guys want to improve on that school-best, third-place finish?
A: Very badly. I really want to bring a ring home with my teammates. Hopefully, we can, but we’ll see how it goes.
Q: What about your chances, individually?
A: I feel really good. I’ve got some good competition, but I think I can win. I really do. I’ve been working my hardest this season, and we’re going to see if the hard work pays off.
Q: What happened with the knee injury that kept you from performing at state last year?
A: It was the second tournament of the year last year. It was the Weaver Gene Taylor Memorial Tournament, in the finals. Me and this guy were wrestling, and he put a lot of weight on me, and I lost my balance. I put my foot out pretty wide, and I fell back, and my knee popped out of place. They had to pop it back in, and I had to get MPFL (medial patellofemoral ligament) reconstruction surgery.
Q: How hard was it to miss the rest of the season, and how much of a motivating factor is that for you, headed into state?
A: It really devastated me, missing out on my junior year. Just thinking about it, it makes me want to work that much harder, because I got that opportunity of wrestling at state last year taken away from me. It’s my last year, and I’ve been working as hard as I possibly can to get better and improve my knee strength, and everything.
Q: What celebrity’s autograph would you like to have?
A: Nick Diaz, because he’s my favorite UFC fighter. He’s really hard-working and a good fighter.
Q: What are your plans beyond high school?
A: Right after I graduate, I’m probably going to work with the assistant coach, Coach (Justin) Ball, in flooring. While I’m doing that, I’m going to figure out a trade so I can go to technical school and learn a trade and get a job somewhere.
Q: What’s one movie you never get tired of watching?
A: Never Back Down. It’s a mixed martial arts movie. I want to be an MMA fighter. I want to try it. I’ve just always gotten into MMA, jiu-jitsu, wrestling. That stuff interests me.
Q: You’re about to wrestle your last, which means no more cutting weight. If you could just throw down, what’s your entree?
A: Steak. I’ve eaten two 22-ounces in one sitting before, at Longhorn. I get the porterhouse, and I get it medium rare.