Wrestling meet annually one of state’s best events

Published 4:26 pm Thursday, February 5, 2009

Today begins one of my favorite events in covering high school sports, and two guys from Chilton County High School are going to get to participate in it. The event is the Alabama High School Athletic Association State Wrestling Tournament.

The event actually began yesterday with Class 6A action. That classification’s bracket is much larger than that of Classes 1A-4A and 5A, but all of them are exciting to me.

The two CCHS grapplers headed to the Von Braun Center in Huntsville are Caleb Mims and Colby Bernier. I wish them luck as they compete for individual state championships.

I never knew anything about wrestling before I started working at my first newspaper, The Leeds News. Leeds High School is known as the home of Charles Barkley, but it has also had a very good wrestling program down through the years.

One year, Leeds took four wrestlers to the state meet. Two won state championships, one was a runner-up and the other won the consolation finals. I was very privileged to cover a team with so much success.

This was the year that I really got to enjoy the state wrestling tournament. I never realized just how big this was until I got there. This particular year, the tournament was held at the Pelham Civic Complex, and I was just so surprised to see so many folks there.

The arena was loud. Fans were right on top of you. Even though it was a nightmare trying to get in and out of the building, it was one of the best atmospheres for sports I’ve ever experienced.

I was just amazed at the level of competition there, and there were some amazing finishes. One included a wrestler I was covering, E.J. Love. He was 49-0 on the season heading into the championship match. Though he was facing a wrestler he had easily beaten before, Love struggled through the whole match and was down 6-4 with only 15 seconds left.

Love then pulled out an amazing comeback with little time left. He allowed the other guy to escape going down 7-4. Love then got a takedown and a two-point near-fall as the clock ran out, giving him an 8-7 win.

Those of you who are getting to go today and, hopefully, tomorrow, I hope you enjoy the event. It’s probably one of the best events you’ll see in high school sports.