Jasper wrestlers set for state

Nine Vikings heading to Huntsville

By W. BRIAN HALE, Eagle Sports Writer
Posted 2/11/19

In last year’s AHSAA State Wrestling Tournament, the Jasper Vikings had five members of their team qualify to compete — a number the program had not sent to Huntsville’s Von Braun Center in several years.

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Jasper wrestlers set for state

Nine Vikings heading to Huntsville

Posted

In last year’s AHSAA State Wrestling Tournament, the Jasper Vikings had five members of their team qualify to compete — a number the program had not sent to Huntsville’s Von Braun Center in several years.

Progress and development of the team, as well as the wrestlers’ dedication and drive paid dividends in last week’s North Super Section tournament — with nine members of the program earning qualifying bids, the most in over a decade.

Equally impressive is the overall outlook of the future for the program. Of the nine qualifiers, just one — 170 pounder Mark Stitt — is a senior. Six of the nine wrestlers going to state are sophomores or younger — an indication to head coach Tripp Otis that the future of the team is bright.

“With the five guys we had qualify last year all returning, we had high hopes that we would improve that number. Even though the number of those who made it last year was reduced to three, there was still a lot of optimism, especially after we saw how well some of our younger guys had been competing during the season,” Otis said. “But to qualify nine was incredible. There were a few of our guys who had to wrestle out of their minds to qualify — but the overall mentality of the team is completely different than we’ve had in the past. It’s come to be about the members of this team setting a goal and working towards it to achieve success.”

Otis stated that prior to the season, the team gathered to assemble what each individual had as their goal — which helped serve as a blueprint towards shaping mentality and determination.

“Some guys didn’t have the goal of being a section champion or state qualifier down for what they wanted to accomplish — some wanted to be a part of the team and to work hard. But all of the nine guys we have that qualified had that they wanted to go to state — that says a lot,” Otis said. “Some guys can look back at their high school careers and might be satisfied, but they never qualified for state. If you’ve qualified for state, you’ve accomplished something special. Our next goal is to have guys who place in the top six and return home with a medal. I believe that we’ll have 4 or 5 that will complete that achievement.”

Stitt is 7th in the 170-pound weight class.

Junior Brodie Vinson qualified 5th in the 220-pound weight class. Two sophomores qualified — Maney Havis (138 pounds, 6th place) and Ross McWalters (285 pounds, 7th), along with freshmen Alex Glass (132 pounds, 7th), Preston Reed (145 pounds, 7th) and Moises Sanchez (182 pounds, 7th). Eighth grade 152-pound wrestler Zach Whitehead, who earned the 7th qualifying spot, rounds out the group.

Junior Dashton Rush, who advanced to the section championship match in the 195-pound match before losing via injury default, will compete at the state tournament as the 2nd place qualifier.

Otis said the leadership of three members of the team — Stitt, Vinson and Havis — has been crucial to the team’s success this year.

“Mark is a state qualifier both last year and this year — his experience has really shown through the season. He’s not the most vocal guy, but he’s going to do everything right that he’s supposed to — he’s planning on going into the military after graduation and he’s going to be a fantastic soldier and his leading by example has been key. Brodie is a little more vocal and is a superb person. He makes sure other people excel as wrestlers and as students. In a team of so many young wrestlers, it’s extremely valuable,” Otis said. “Maney is constantly pushing people — he’s the most vocal of the three. He was a state qualifier last year and knows what it takes to have success.”