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Inaugural Girls Wrestling State Tournament- Bob Jones Freshman Wins State Title

HOOVER- An individual state championship, a state runner-up, a third-place medal and a top 10 team finished were achieved by the local schools participating in the recent inaugural Girls Wrestling State Tournament held at Hoover High.

Bob Jones freshman Carly Thomas won the state title in the 120-pound weight class, while Sparkman’s Akerah Artis, sophomore, was second in the 150 weight class and her teammate Reagan Grant, freshman, was third in the 140 division. Fellow Sparkman first-year wrestler Kameron Glenn, a junior, finished fifth in the 130 class. As a team, Sparkman was seventh among 24 teams and 74 participants in the first ever girls state event.

“It was an awesome experience for everyone and just to see the excitement and overall hard work each of the girls showed made for a great event,” said Ronnie Watson, head coach of Sparkman. “For our girls, they represented our program and school very well and each of them already can’t wait until next year.”

For Thomas, in her third year of wrestling at Bob Jones and the lone female member on the team, she defeated her opponent from Beauregard High in 1-minute, 17 seconds of the first period to win the gold medal. She had first period pins in each of her three matches at the state meet.

“Knowing all my coaches and teammates believed in me and pushed me to be a better wrestler was a great experience,” said Thomas, who also plays outfield for the Patriots’ softball team. “It was a rush to win.”

Thomas finished 15-4 on the season, which included going undefeated (9-0) against girls. She took up the sport after playing two years of football at Discovery Middle School at the encouragement of her coaches. Once she stepped onto the wrestling mat, she said she loved the challenge that was ahead of her.

Artis advanced to the semi-finals through a first-round bye and won by a fall (1:55) over Zailyn Morton of W.S. Neal High. In the finals, she lost via a fall (1:29) to Jade Eldridge of Wetumpka. Artis went into the state championships as the No. 1 seed.

In the 140 weight class, Grant won by a fall (0:27) over Margaret Premo of Daphne in the opening match and then lost in a fall (1:00) to Lena Johannson of Weaver in the semi-final match. Moving to the consolation matches, Grant posted a fall (3:25) over Tristin Robinson of Northside Methodist Academy and a fall (3:25) over Estrella Islas of Thompson to win third place in the division.

The first girls state event was presented as a trial for the hopeful sanctioning by the Alabama High School Athletic Association.

Watson saw the emotion and the focus of each participant as just as exciting as the boys’ state tournament which is set for February. For some of the coaches in attendance, the fierce competition caught some by surprise. Watson added his girls know the sport is relatively knew and that some of their competitors seem to not be into the sport completely.

“Kameron (Glenn) came to me and indicated some of the girls in the tournament were wearing makeup,” added Watson. “Our three girls chose on their own not to wear makeup. Maybe that made them feel more in tune with the sport.”

“In the finals I could tell my opponent was looking to just settle for second place,” said Thomas of her championship match. “I could see in her eyes and her body language.”

Thomas has taken this sport as seriously as girl can as she traveled to Georgia during the off-season and placed fourth out of 32 regional qualifiers in the 120 weight division. She even started some varsity matches for the Patriots during the regular season.

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