HARTSELLE — In his first year as Hartselle High head coach, Matt Watson made a deal with his team.
For every wrestler who qualified for the state meet, which begins today at the Von Braun Center in Huntsville, Watson would do 50 sprawls.
Scratch that, he told his players, make it 100.
The basic drill — which involves dropping to the ground from a standing position to hands and feet — is no easy feat, even for Watson, the 2001 Hartselle graduate who made a name for himself with Tigers’ wrestling, holding records for most career wins and most individual state championships, after winning three.
Watson has done 200 so far, and has 400 more to go, as six wrestlers qualified for the state meet. Logan Smith (113-pound weight class), Matt Watson (no relation) (132-pound), Michael Prince (145-pound), Ryan Nowka (152-pound), Clint Bender (195-pound) and Oliver Duncan (220-pound) will all compete for Hartselle when the Class 5A competition opens Friday.
“I think I’ve worked hard enough to where I’ll be able to do good,” said Bender, a senior.
Joey Schutt, Kurt Hamilton and Danny Timm, all former Hartselle wrestlers, assist Coach Watson. John Mark Waynick signed on as staff sponsor when it looked as though the program might be suspended because of declining interest.
“They worked hard for it,” Coach Watson said. “It’s not like they just came in here and it fell in their lap.”
Athens also has shown improvement under first-year coach Jonathan Snider, as the Golden Eagles have five qualifying wrestlers. Rob Morse (182-pound), Madrell Kirby (126-pound) and Philip Patton (160-pound) each qualified for their second-straight year, while Bolton Patton (195-pound) and Thomas Carter (132-pound) will compete for the first time.
“The kids have worked hard from Day 1,” Snider said. “Having five qualify is a continued step in the right direction for the program.”
|High School Sports||@DecaturPreps|