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Caleb Turrentine / The Herald Wetumpka’s Chad Strickland pins Auburn’s Ben Arrington during Thursday’s match in Prattville.

Best Senior: Zak Haynes, Tallassee

It was a long time coming but Haynes finally got his hands on the gold medal at the state tournament this season, capping his career in a perfect fashion. He continued to deal with injuries throughout his senior year but Haynes pushed through and was healthy when it mattered. Haynes finished the season 43-3 and defeated Hayden’s Evan Phillips in the Class 1A-5A championship at 126 pounds to grab his first title in six trips to the state tournament.

Honorable Mention: T.J. Anthony, Wetumpka; Jeremiah Cherry Daniel, Stanhope Elmore

Best underclassman: Chad Strickland, Wetumpka freshman

After starting the season with the junior varsity team, Strickland quickly grabbed a spot in the starting lineup and never came close to letting go of it. He was dominant at 106, finishing with a 55-8 record, tying Mason Blackwell for the most individual wins on Wetumpka. Strickland recorded 32 pins including four during his run to a first-place finish at the annual Swede Umbach Invitational.

Honorable Mention: Ethan Headley, Holtville; Brendan Emfinger, Tallassee; Gabe Taunton, Stanhope Elmore

Best middle schooler: Christian McCary, Tallassee 8th grader

McCary was already on the scene after an astonishing season as just a seventh grader but he went above and beyond expectations again this year, finishing fifth in the state at 132. McCary wrestled at a higher weight class than most middle schoolers at the varsity level but he was always up for the challenge. He finished the season with a 52-10 record, nearly doubling his win total from last season.

Honorable Mention: Ramon Lozada, Elmore County; Christian Preston, Wetumpka; Land Bell, Tallassee

Most improved: Solon Lee, Elmore County junior

The Panthers lost five senior state qualifiers from last season which means starting spots were up for grabs and Lee took advantage of the opportunity. He wasted no time showing his worth, winning 14 of his first 16 bouts including nine by pin. Lee had more than twice as many wins this year and cut back on his losses, finishing with a 39-8 record at 170 pounds.

Honorable Mention: Jake Debardelaben, Tallassee; Connor Russo, Stanhope Elmore; Matt Brown, Elmore County

Best individual match: Wetumpka’s Kyler Adams vs. Spanish Fort’s Gabe Warren

It was no surprise when this duo matched up yet again for the 132-pound title match in the Class 6A South Super Section at Garrett Coliseum. Adams got the best of Warren twice on his way to state title in 2019 but Warren appeared ready for battle, nearly pinning Adams in the first period. Adams fell behind 7-2 in the second period but stunned the competition with an escape and two late takedowns to win by a 10-8 decision.

Honorable Mention: Tallassee’s Mason Bell vs. Park Crossing’s Ezell Wood; Holtville’s Ethan Headley vs. Stanhope Elmore’s Jake Taunton

Best duals match: Tallassee vs. Elmore County, Nov. 26

The only thing on the line during the final match of Tallassee’s annual Thanksgiving Duals was rivalry bragging rights but that did not take away from the intensity of the night. The Tigers jumped out to a 30-0 lead with five quick pins but Elmore County answered with five of their own. Tallassee grabbed the next two classes but once again, the Panthers responded and tied the match with a pin by Evan Eason at 126 in the final bout. The Tigers would claim a 43-42 win, due to having the most near-fall points.

Biggest surprise: Davion Brown, Stanhope Elmore freshman

Stanhope Elmore coach Hunter Adams knew he had a lot of talent on his wrestling team but most of it was consolidated to just a few weight classes early in the season. Brown got his chance because he was the only heavyweight available for the Mustangs. Despite starting the season 6-15, Brown kept fighting and got his record above .500 with a fifth-place finish at sectionals. Brown did not get a win at state but he got the experience and finished the season 23-24.

Honorable Mention: Nate Jones, Elmore County; John Burnham, Tallassee; Mason Dickey, Wetumpka

Caleb Turrentine is a sports writer for Tallapoosa Publishers Inc.