HUNTSVILLE — There are no rings for a top-five finish.
But right now for Oxford, it’s not about rings. It’s about rungs.
The Yellow Jackets are trying to climb the ladder into the elite level of 6A wrestling. Thursday at the Von Braun Center’s Propst Arena, they took another step.
Qualifying nine of their 10 wrestlers, Oxford still has seven alive for today’s second of the three-day event. They’re also three points out of that coveted goal, which would best the Yellow Jackets top finish in 6A by two spots, which they achieved last year.
“It’s more than enough to do this,” Oxford coach Monterrious Adams said.
Admittedly, going for a top-five finish instead of the rah-rah speak of a state championship is a different approach, but it’s all part of methodical process to greatness many on the team said.
“It’s a tough mindset,” Adams said. “… but I see it building.
“It started on Day 1, working hard and saying, ‘We can do this.’ They’ve bought in and believed.”
The first-day charge into the top third of the standings was led by a strong showing from Jordan Simpson in the 126-pound weight class. As one of 15 wrestlers with two pins in two matches, Simpson did it quickest clocking a time of 85 seconds of mat time. The two-time state champion’s first pin came over Wetumpka’s Will Thompson in a blistering 25 seconds.
“He was real timid,” said Simpson (60-0) of Thompson. “Once I took him down, he just gave up.”
In addition to Simpson, three other wrestlers went 2-0: William Hardin (106), Preslee Kelley (120) and Hunter Lee (138).
With his pair of wins, Kelley draws a lofty and intreique laiden matchup with Spain Park’s Tommy Bostany. The two met earlier in the season with Bostany (60-2) getting the win.
“We’re both real good on our feet,” he said. “It’ll be back and forth.”
While Kelley said he thought it would be a good tough match, it’ll also be interesting because his former coach Matt Thompson will be on the opposite side of the mat.
“That’d put a little more icing on the cake,” Adams said.
Hayden Carpenter (113), Jared Shake (145) and Brady Heard (220) all went 1-1 and will continue on in the consolation rounds, where they are still able to earn team points and hope for, at best, a third-place finish.
But at this point, points is all that matters as a team. And Adams said he doesn’t see a reason why the Yellow Jackets can’t accomplish the goal they’ve set for themselves. And the larger goal of one day being among the state’s elite.
He knows, because he’s seen it done.
Adams is a product of Vestavia Hills, a program that laid claim to seven state championships in a 10-year span starting in the early 90s.
But even Vestavia Hills had to start somewhere. And for Oxford, that start could be this year.
“It could be a great season for us,” Adams said of a top-five finish. “Anything can happen … we’ll just have to wait and see.”
Bran Strickland is the assistant managing editor for The Star. He can be reached at 256-235-3590.