By Rubin E. Grant
Vestavia Hills junior wrestler Zach Flurry was determined that things would be different this time.
In the 2020 state tournament, Flurry was pinned by Thompson’s Blaise Albarado in the Class 7A 106-pound championship match.
The loss motivated Flurry throughout this season. He moved up to 113 pounds, and when he returned to the state tournament Feb. 12-13 at the Birmingham CrossPlex’s Bill Harris Arena, Flurry wouldn’t be denied. He captured the 113-pound crown with a 6-4 decision over Thompson’s Thomas Giere in the 66th AHSAA State Wrestling Championships.
Flurry finished with a 21-0 record, becoming only the third wrestler in Vestavia Hills history to have an undefeated season. James Edwards, now a football player at Clemson, was 32-0 when he won the 220-pound title in 2017, and Jeff Segars, the Rebels’ athletic director, was an undefeated state champion in 1986 at 185 pounds.
“Last year after I lost in the state finals, I made it my goal to win this year,” Flurry said. “Halfway through the season, I thought I had a chance to go undefeated. It doesn’t happen often. When it happened, I couldn’t believe it. It’s nice to be part of a very small group.”
Flurry was one of four Rebels to win individual titles as Vestavia Hills won the Class 7A team competition, ending Thompson’s three-year reign. The title was a state-record 16th overall for the Rebels.
Vestavia Hills finished with 277.5 points to earn its first state team title since 2017. Thompson was second with 240.5 points, followed by Hewitt-Trussville (150 points), Spain Park (147.5), Huntsville (144), Hoover (124.5), Smiths Station (95), Grissom (73), Sparkman (73) and Oak Mountain (72).
Vestavia Hills bounced back from a loss to Thompson in the final of the Class 7A AHSAA Duals Wrestling Tournament on Jan. 22, making its state title extra special.
“It was very sweet to win it,” Vestavia Hills coach Monterrious ‘Tee’ Adams said. “It was very much a team effort with all 14 guys contributing. Every kid did what we asked them to do.”
Flurry said it was simply a matter of dedication and hard work.
“It was amazing to win it,” Flurry said. “After we lost in the Duals, everybody came back to practice working hard and getting after it like we never had before.”
Junior John Edwards (20-3) at 170 pounds, senior Bryce Littleton (25-1) at 220 pounds and senior Dawson Ray (17-2) at 285 pounds joined Flurry as individual champions for the Rebels.
Edwards, the younger brother of James Edwards, posted a 12-8 victory over Florence’s Joseph Grijalva (25-4) to win his second state title. He won the 160-pound crown in 2020.
“It’s awesome to win again,” Edwards said. “My brother James was a two-time champion and now I have a chance to become a three-time champion and beat his record. That’s the plan.”
Littleton beat Kyle Watson (33-1) of Smiths Station with a 2-1 decision and Ray won a 3-2 tiebreaker against Drew Lawson (36-2) of Bob Jones.
The match judged the best by the coaches was the 160-pound final between Thompson’s Will Miller (34-0) and Vestavia Hills’ Jack Lamey (25-4). Miller won the match with a 6-5 decision to earn his second championship. He won in the 152-pound weight class in 2020. Lamey won the 145-pound title last year.
Two other Vestavia Hills wrestlers also suffered losses in championship matches, Carson Farris (16-4) to Thompson’s Yanni Vines (31-3) at 126 pounds and Christopher Hays (18-3) to Smiths Station’s Devin Stone (34-1) at 132
Hoover senior Nick Smith came back from two offseason knee surgeries to win his second straight 120-pound title. Smith (10-1), wearing a sleeve on his right leg, earned an 11-7 victory over Thompson’s Nick Dempsey (39-4) in the final.
Grissom’s Warren Hoyt (20-1) was named the 7A MVP by pinning previously unbeaten J.T. Foster (21-1) of Hoover in the 182-pound final.
In the 195-pound final, Hewitt’s Hunter Jones (30-0) got a takedown in the final 30 seconds – lifting his opponent off the ground – to earn a 4-3 victory over Hoover’s Dawson Rye (20-6) and complete an undefeated season.
In the 106-pound final, Oak Mountain sophomore Camden Tipton (32-8) scored an 8-6 decision over Spain Park’s Bradley Williams (34-1), a seventh grader, who fell one match short of a perfect season.
The Class 5A-6A Tournament last Thursday-Saturday at the Von Braun Center in Huntsville didn’t produce any Over the Mountain champions.
Homewood sophomore Sam Sutton (35-4) lost to Moody junior Cory Land by technical fall in the 126-pound weight class final. Land (44-0), who won his fourth straight state crown and finished undefeated for the third straight season, was leading 21-6 when the match was called at 2:43. Land has won 151 consecutive matches.
Mountain Brook senior John McKimmon (35-1) lost by disqualification in the 195-pound title match to Gulf Shores’ Drake Ewing (38-3).
McKimmon had edged Homewood senior John-Mark Crocker 8-7 in a battle of unbeatens in the semifinals. Crocker (24-1) bounced back to win the consolation final with a 7-6 decision over Arab’s Jonathan Pugh (44-5).
Homewood finished sixth in the team standings with 122 points. Gardendale won with 189.5 points.