Smiths Station qualified eight wrestlers for the state tournament being held Friday and Saturday in Huntsville, Ala. Only seven of those eight will actually participate after one sustained a concussion in the sectionals.
That is four fewer wrestlers competing for the Panthers than they had at state a year ago. Despite the drop in participation, though, coach Tommy Sanders thinks a similar finish is within the realm of possibility.
“I think all seven have a chance to place,” he said. “I think I’ve got five or six who have a really good chance.”
Five placers would match the total from 2013, where Smiths Station finished ninth overall.
Never miss a local story.
Josh Jamieson (126) won the South Super Sectional title for the Panthers and is one wrestler who should be considered a favorite to contend for a state title. In the sectional, he defeated the No. 2 wrestler in the state. He is a two-time state placer already.
The Panthers also send Maxwell Kauffman (106), Jacobb Goodwin (113), Logan Beyer (120), Marcus Ruffin (132), Jelani Gooden (152), Coleman Rose (182) and Austin Phillips (195). Phillips will not participate due to a concussion.
Kauffman, a returning state placer, is only in seventh grade, but Sanders said he liked his chances at state. He beat the state’s No. 4 wrestler in his class last week. Kauffman is the son of Mike Kauffman, a former Central High head coach and current club coach.
The key for his wrestlers, Sanders said, is to avoid letting nerves get the best of them.
“The thing you can’t measure is how nerves will affect them,” he said. “Some kids handle pressure well. Some don’t. You just don’t know until you get there.”
Five out of the seven wrestlers competing this weekend have already made a state trip in the past.
“The biggest expectation is for each individual to do the best he can and achieve what their talent lets them do,” Sander said.
Central High also sent eight wrestlers to state: Jarrett Marshall (126), Dakota Pittman (132), Jonboy Storey (138), Evan Baber (145), Josh Parker (160), Ethan Baber (182), Matt Gittens (195) and Jeruel Hunter (220). Of those, Ethan Baber and Marshall had the highest finishes in the sectional at second place. Marshall lost to Jamieson in the semifinals.
Jacob Brooks (106) and Joshua Oakes (152) will wrestle at state in Class 5A for Russell County. Oakes won his weight class in the South Super Sectional.
The tournament was originally supposed to begin on Thursday, but was bumped a day due to inclement weather conditions. The schedule now calls for weigh-ins Friday morning with preliminary matches beginning at 10 a.m. Weigh-ins will be held at 8 a.m. on Saturday with semifinal matches beginning at 9 a.m.
State placers should be decided by 11, when final matches are scheduled to begin.
Follow David on Twitter @leprepsports or on Facebook at www.facebook.com/ledgerenquirersports.