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The Sparkman girls wrestling team is currently ranked No. 3 in Alabama and has nine team members ranked among the latest individual state rankings. The Lady Senators are led by head coach Ronnie Watson. Photo- Melanie Watson

Sparkman Girls Wrestling Team Ranked Among The Best In Alabama

HARVEST- Female wrestling continues to grow within high schools throughout Alabama. More schools have welcomed the sport for the first time while returning programs have expanded with enthusiasm like never before.

The latest state rankings include the Sparkman Lady Senators at No. 3 behind top-ranked Daphne and second-ranked Thompson. The individual state rankings include the top wrestlers in each of the 12 weight classes. Carly Thomas of Bob Jones, two-time defending state champion, remains top-ranked in the 126-pound weight class and is the lone Lady Patriot among the elite listings. Overall, Sparkman has nine girls among the state rankings including Akerah Artis who is ranked No. 1 in the 145-pound division. The senior Artis is joined by fellow teammate Jessica Cook, a sophomore, who is listed as sixth ranked in the 145-pound weight class.

“Akerah has been impressive as her dedication to the sport and what she has brought to it in the state and in this community has no doubt made her a great ambassador for this sport,” said Ronnie Watson, Sparkman head coach. “She will always go down as our first female wrestler at Sparkman that has helped pave the way for so many to enjoy and thrive in this great sport.”

Female wrestling is still a relatively new sport, thus finding a cluster of opponents has been difficult to schedule. In early December, Sparkman held its first-ever quad match hosting Arab, Grissom and Huntsville, and the Lady Senators showed its top 10 state ranking prowess by winning each of the dual matches going 3-0.

On a three tournament winning streak, the Senators included a huge higher placing over the first and second ranked teams in Alabama while in the Queen of the South Tournament held in Enterprise. Top programs from both Alabama and Florida were on hand for the fierce competition in which the Lady Senators shined beyond belief.

“We have made some great strides and been very goal oriented. We always make sure to keep them focused on what each wrestler wants to accomplish for themselves. As long as they keep growing, so will the team and our program,” said Watson, who credits the squad’s assistant coaches, Suzanne Westenhofer and Nathan McKenna, for pushing the team to excellence the past two years.

Here are details about each of the Lady Senators listed among the state rankings:

120- Kloe Robb (Junior) (Ranked 4th), 19-4, coming off of a shoulder injury last year she has really turned it on this year and has been impressive. She has a very competitive weight class and has done very well this year.

126- Nadia Smith (8th Grade) (Ranked 5th), 17-7, “Squirrel,” her team nickname, is nothing but a ball of energy. She has really improved over last year on the mat in both skill and maturity levels. The program looks forward to having her for years to come. She is the youngest ranked wrestler in her weight class.

138- Rylee Parsons (Senior) (Ranked 6th), 18-6, is the definition of not giving up in a match. Her flexibility and explosion off the bottom position in matches has really helped her out.

145- Akerah Artis (Senior) (Ranked 1st), 21-0, has wrestled since the seventh grade and those first few years there was no female wrestling and she had to wrestle against boys and that has really helped her in these last few years. Over the three years versus females, she is 63-2 with her only losses coming in the State Championship matches the last two years. She is motivated and huge leader on and off the mat.

145- Jessica Cook (Junior) (Ranked 6th), 16-7, has really come on this year. She bulked up a bit through weight training and a few of those loses are from teammates. She has moved around weight classes where it helps the team the most. Great team player.

152- Reagan Grant (Junior) (Ranked 4th), 11-2, has been with the program the past few years placing in each of the two girls state tournaments. In 2020 was third and in 2021 second. You cannot find more of a leader for any level team. Looking for that last ranking before state to come out and would be very surprised if she does not go up in the rankings. She has been very impressive over her last two tournaments.

165- Kaleah Loving (Freshman) (Ranked 4th), 14-4, is coming off of her first season as an eighth grader and wrestling in the state championship match. She has the most competitive weight class this year. She continues to work every day to hit her goals and grow. Probably one of the strongest young ladies physically pound for pound in the state.

185- Joy Hawkins (Junior) (Ranked 3rd), 13-0, is truly a joy to be around. She opened eyes across the state last year by coming in a surprising third place at the State Meet. This year, she has really become focused and really zoned in on her craft. Looking for big things the rest of the year.

235- Aliza Wix-Amaya (Senior) (Ranked 2nd), 17-1, has really been an inspiration to not just the team the last two years, but personally to Coach Watson, as well. She is so involved in school and other things, and to stay focused on her goals and her process to meet her goals, words cannot express. The process she personally takes to make sure she is where she needs to be is impressive. No wall to thick for her to run through on and off the mat.

One additional unranked Lady Senator showing headway in her quest for excellence is Jillee Jin. The sophomore is currently 8-2 on the season in the 107-pound weight class. In the Queen of the South Tournament, she finished runner-up in only her second tournament experience. On her way to the finals, she defeated two ranked wrestlers.

“Our goal as a team and staff moving forward is making sure we are getting better with each rep at every practice and pushing to achieve our goals every day,” added Watson. “If we can achieve that daily, everything else takes care of itself.”

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