HUNTSVILLE -- With Thursday’s slate of Alabama High School Athletic Association Class 6A state wrestling tournament matches in the books, five of the seven Pell City qualifiers remain in contention for a spot on the podium in their respective weight classes.
Panthers sophomore Jackson Stocks (23-13) is the lone representative with a first-place finish within reach in the 132-pound weight class, while teammates Mason Shell, Lake Minor, Blayne Gunnels and Seth Kent each have an opportunity to finish as high as third place via consolation bracket matches.
“That’s one senior, a sophomore and two freshmen alive in the consolations,” Pell City head coach Dale Hufford said. “All of them wrestled great today, leaving everything on the mat and battling back after a first-round or second-round loss to actually put themselves in a position to take possibly third or fourth. But we also place fifth and sixth in 6A, so they all have a great chance to see the medal podium if they all go out tomorrow and take care of business like they’re supposed to.
“It would be unbelievable if we could finish out with four on the medal stand, plus Jackson being the fifth one. That would bring me to tears, to be honest with you, (with) the young team we have here.”
Stocks advanced to the semifinals with a 10-2 decision over Clay-Chalkville sophomore Jacob Williams (17-18) in the first round and a pinfall victory against Carver Birmingham freshman Deangilo Jenkins (11-11) in 2:21. Stocks will take on Southside-Gadsden junior Colin Edwards (53-10) on Friday.
Shell (31-14), a freshman wrestling at 113, defeated Helena sophomore Blake Breckenridge (42-25) in the opening round by pinfall in 2:34 before falling in a quarterfinal match to Southside-Gadsden eighth-grader Jacob Dease by decision, 13-3. Shell will open Friday’s matches against Wetumpka eighth-grader Connor Bailey (32-14).
“Coming in, Jackson and Mason had set themselves in their brackets to achieve some things,” Hufford said. “In the quarterfinals, Mason lost to Southside-Gadsden in a tough, hard-fought match, so he fell out of the championships into the consolation (bracket). Jackson, during his match, wrestled a kid from Carver-Birmingham and ended up pinning him in the second period. He was able to propel himself into the semifinals.
“Both of them had a good road to find their way to the medal stand. Jackson has taken advantage of it, not that Mason didn’t. Mason just ran into a tough quarterfinals match. The kid was a little bit older than him and a little bit more advanced in his wrestling, but Mason wrestled as hard as he could and left his all on the mat.”
At 120, Minor (21-27) fell to Clay-Chalkville junior Jacob Smith via pinfall in 38 seconds, but he advanced to the second round of the consolation bracket by scoring a pinfall on Chelsea junior Ben Byerman (36-27) in 2:47. Minor will battle Minor freshman Brandon Seawright on Friday.
Gunnels (24-24), competing at 160, bounced back from a pinfall loss to Gardendale junior Trevor Muncey (56-6) in 2:41 by pinning Athens freshman Holden Graves in 2:58 to advance to the second round of the consolation bracket. The victory sets up a matchup with Southside-Gadsden sophomore Ethan Stevenson (50-28).
Kent (32-17) was pinned by Homewood senior Ethan Sherman (18-7) in 4:51 in the first round at 285, but he made the most of his consolation bracket match by pinning Decatur junior Carson O’Connor (12-15) in 1:35. Kent wrestles Pinson Valley senior Taylor Rhodes (38-4) on Friday.
Pell City junior Sloan Harmon (23-21) lost to Pinson Valley junior Quenmarius Byrd by decision, 11-1, in the opening round at 126. Harmon’s tournament stay ended in a 6-0 loss to Walker senior Miguel Sanchez (33-14) during the opening round of the consolation bracket.
“Sloan wrestled hard tonight,” Hufford said. “His first loss was to a No. 1 seed, and he went all three periods with him, leaving it out there. His second match again was lost by decision. I talked to him afterwards and I told him, ‘I know you left everything on the mat. You’re going to be able to look yourself in the mirror and tell you could do no more than what you did tonight.’ That’s victory in itself. Sometimes there’s a lot more to this than just winning. It’s the lessons learned through the journey.”
Panthers freshman Tillman Patterson (25-23) suffered a pair of pinfall defeats at 138 -- first to Southside-Gadsden senior Sam Colvin (64-4) in the opening round in 45 seconds, then to Florence eighth-grader Carson Casteel (22-13) in 34 seconds.
“(Tillman) went out there and had a very tough opponent in the first round,” Hufford said. “At one point, he went to throw him. He slipped and he found his back. His next one, sometimes you like to say you can outwrestle strength and stuff like that, but at the same time, sometimes there are some physical battles when you’re facing a junior versus a freshman and things of that nature.”