By Blake Ells
The Alabama High School Athletic Association wrestling tournament is fast approaching, and Vestavia Hills hopes to improve on last season’s third place finish.
Vestavia claimed back-to-back state championships in 2016 and 2017 before being dethroned last year by Thompson’s victory. Central (Phenix-City) claimed second place.
The Rebels already have played against some tough competition, visiting New Orleans for the Trey Culotta Invitational at Brother Martin High School and Brentwood, Tennessee for the G.P. West Invitational. They finished second as a team in New Orleans, while senior Pete Dazzio finished first in his usual 170-pound weight class. In Brentwood, the Rebels claimed third as a team, while Dazzio wrestled up a class and finished second in the 182-pound class.
“It’s a little different than normal, wrestling bigger, stronger guys,” Dazzio said. “But if you just wrestle well, it doesn’t feel much different – if you keep good position.”
Dazzio feels like his team is in good shape to accomplish its goals.
“We came up short last year, but we feel like we didn’t perform to the best of our ability,” Dazzio said. “This year, we’re working on peaking at the right time. We feel like if we wrestle well and we wrestle how we can wrestle, we don’t think there’s anyone that can beat us.”
He has personal goals that he continues to reach for as he leads his team to the postseason.
“I need to get in better shape to finish off the year,” Dazzio said. “I need to work on worrying about getting into my offense and not worry about what my opponent is doing.”
But he’s confident that if he and his teammates can polish things up, they’ll make a strong run.
Dazzio is one of the many at Vestavia Hills who have spent a decade or more in a competitive youth and high school program.
“We had a bunch of family friends that had been a part of the sport for a long time, and they got me and my older brother into it,” Dazzio said. “Vestavia has a great club program with great coaches. Christian Staylor was my coach growing up. Now James Nicholson is there, and he’s doing a great job. That’s been a big part of our success the past few years.”
The Rebels defeated Hewitt-Trussville in AHSAA State Duals last week. Vestavia Hills was set to meet Hoover in the State Duals on Tuesday. The championship of the State Duals and location will be based on that outcome.
This year’s super section tournaments take place Feb. 8-9, while the state tournament follows in Huntsville on Feb. 14-16.