When Scottsboro head wrestling coach Chris Staton told his team it could win a state title prior to entering last season’s state tournament, he wasn’t sure it believed him.
But as the tournament wore on, he made a believer out of the Wildcats, and they made one out of themselves.
Scottsboro put a scare into the overwhelming favorite Arab, a team going for a sixth straight title, before ultimately finishing second in the Class 1A-5A division. One Arab win, the 145-pound state final, proved to be the difference.
“I think it’s hard not to get discouraged when you see the number of [state] qualifiers someone else has,” Staton said. “But it come down to the quality you have going. It comes down to who can wrestle when it gets tough. We had wrestlers that could get to the podium.”
Staton believes the Wildcats believe as they enter the 2018-19 season, which started with Wednesday’s Hewitt-Trussville Duals.
Scottsboro boasts six returning state qualifiers, highlighted by defending state champions Kolton Clark — a recent All-American at the Super 32 Challenge in Greensboro, North Carolina — and Bradford Womack, whom Staton is hopeful is ready to return at midseason from an injury suffered late in the football season that will also keep him out of the Alabama-Mississippi All-Star Game.
“We’re hoping to get him back soon, maybe around our invitational Dec. 22 or so,” Staton said.
Clark, who will start the season in the 182-pound weight class, is two-time state champion and three-time state finalist who is receiving college scholarship offers and is expected to be among the state’s best wrestlers in any classification this season.
“He hasn’t rested on his past accomplishments. He’s continued to work and continued to improve,” Staton said of Clark. “He’s a guy that’s on the path to wrestle for a D1 [Division I] program in college.”
Scottsboro lost two-time state champion John McAlpin to graduation, but Clinton Stewart, Connor Calfee, Caleb Anderson and Damian Ramirez are all returning state qualifiers. Anderson, Calfee and Stewart each finished fifth in the receptive weight classes at state last season.
“We’ve got kids back that placed and some kids back that we think can get to the podium this year,” Staton said.
Stewart will wrestle in the 113 and 120 weight class this season while Calfee will start at 160, Ramirez at 170 and Anderson at 220. Mason McKenzie is penciled in at 106 with Jordan Porter at 126, Aaron Clark at 132, Tanner Shelton at 152 and Tre Billingsley at 195. Levi Hall will man the heavyweight spot with Womack sidelined. Scottsboro will begin the season without a full-time wrestler in the 120, 138 and 145 weight classes.
Staton said the Wildcats will be a work in progress the first few weeks of the a season.
“We just need to get on the mat and get matches,” he said. “The early part of the schedule is pretty brutal, so we’re going to get some real good competition right out of the gate.”