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TCHS sends nine wrestlers to state

NORTHPORT | Nine wrestlers who survived the rigors of Class 6A, Section 2 competition earned the right to represent Tuscaloosa County High School in the AHSAA tournament.

The Class 6A qualifiers start this afternoon at the Von Braun Center in Huntsville. Semifinal matches will be Friday, with finals set for Saturday.

Four wins are needed to earn a championship in the 16-man Class 6A bracket. Each wrestler is guaranteed two matches.

TCHS coach Jamie Griffin saw his team place third behind Vestavia Hills and Thompson in what he said was the toughest sectional in the state. Hoover was fourth. Thompson won Class 6A titles in 2011 and 2012. Hoover won in 2010 and 2005-06, and Vestavia Hills won in 2007-09.

"The very fact that they made it out of our section and managed to get to state is a pretty good indication that all nine of them have an opportunity to at the very least place (in the top six) at state," Griffin said. "I feel good about the fact that all those kids have an opportunity. Of the nine who are going, seven of them are seniors. Several of those seniors have been to state before. They know what they need to do in order for them to place."

Other teams might have more qualifiers, but Griffin wouldn’t rule out the possibility of contending for the team title. He said Grissom won in 2004 without having a single individual champion.

"I think they had 10 of their 12 kids place, so it’s definitely possible," Griffin said. "The numbers game is key going into state. The more kids that you can take, the better your chances of scoring team points and doing well. We’re at a little disadvantage as far as being able to win state because we’re only taking nine kids. These programs like Vestavia and Thompson have some outstanding wrestlers, but I think we’re very capable of placing at the very least in the top 10 and possibly in the top five."

TCHS senior Cole Horton won the sectional title at 152 pounds. Freshman Carlos Andres (106), senior KeEriqu Pruitt (132) and senior Christian Stewart (184) each placed second. Senior Harrison Turner (126) and freshman Josh Smith (170) were third. Senior Solomon Archibald (120), senior Brian Brown (220) and senior Elijah David (heavyweight) were fourth.

"It helps if you place first because (Horton’s) seeding at state will be pretty good," Griffin said. "Every match is tough, and then you never look ahead. If you start looking ahead and thinking, ‘I’m going to wrestle this guy,’ a lot of times what you’re planning in your head doesn’t work out because someone will get beat or there will be some kind of roadblock in the way. We just look at one match at a time. If you’ll do that and stay focused, you have a better chance of doing very well.

"We have gone out of our way to wrestle good people. We don’t dodge anybody. Judging by what we have seen, I think we’re very competitive."

Griffin said he started coaching Horton and Archibald when they were in junior high school.

"I’ve coached them the longest," Griffin said. "I’m looking forward to watching them wrestle. I’m just happy for all of them."