There’s no doubt Bentonville will enter this weekend’s ninth annual Arkansas High School Wrestling state wrestling tournament as the favorite to win the Class 6A-7A team title. The Tigers won the Dual State title two weeks ago, then claimed the Big West Conference crown last weekend.
Action begins Friday morning at 10 in the Stephens Center in Little Rock and continues Saturday with the finals slated to start at 3:30.
Bentonville has the most wrestlers seeded (12) among the top six in the tournament, followed by Springdale Har-Ber (10) and Searcy (nine). Rogers Heritage coach Doug Freeman said the Tigers are the favorite without question.
“I think it’s Bentonville’s to lose really,” said Freeman, who’s hoping his War Eagles can be in the top five. “I think they’re going to medal 12 or maybe even 13 kids if things go their way. I see Har-Ber right there behind them.
“Bentonville has a couple top-end kids in Cash (Jones) and Luke (Brandon). I think Luke’s the biggest favorite along with Jake Turner. Searcy will make a run, but I don’t think they have the pure numbers to go with Bentonville and Har-Ber.”
Har-Ber has been right behind Bentonville the past two weeks, losing in the finals to the Tigers at Dual State decisively but closing the gap last week at the conference tournament.
Bentonville coach James Rappe said it’s about focus now.
“We’re there now,” Rappe said. “It’s about approaching every match with the importance that each one of them deserves. Every one of them are important at this point. They can’t have a mental lapse and break down here at the end.
The Tigers have three top seeds in sophomore Logan Schmit (132), Jones (145) and Brandon (170), who holds the state record with 220. Freshman Obi Smith (126) and senior Scott Lome (113) are also No. 2 seeds.
Har-Ber coach Eric Nolan liked the way his team competed last weekend at the conference tournament and is looking forward to seeing out it all works out at the state tournament.
“I feel every season has peaks and valleys,” Nolan said. “I get kinda concerned if we don’t face a certain amount of challenges. I think we’re in a good spot considering the challenges we’ve faced.”
Brendan Davis (113) is the Wildcats’ lone top seed, while teammates Josh Tyler (152) and Logan Collins (195) are both No. 2 seeds.
Even Searcy coach Jerry Evans agreed with Freeman’s assessment.
“We’re on the outside looking in as far as the team race,” Evans said. “I think that’s what most people are thinking and I think that’s probably the truth. Bentonville has 12 seeded kids. Our extra five that aren’t seeded are gonna have to pick up points.”
The Lions have a pair of top seeds in Brad Brown (126) and Caleb Freeman (182). Freeman lost in the finals a year ago at 138 to Russellville’s Logan Sloss..
Sloss, the No. 2 seed at 145, will be looking for a rematch with Jones. The Bentonville junior defeated the defending state champion decisively in the Big West finals.
There are also several other Northwest Arkansas wrestlers, who will go in as favorites since they garnered No. 1 seeds.
Heritage Chance McCrary, who was injured and didn’t wrestle in the state tournament last year is the No. 1 seed at 152. Turner of Rogers finished second at 126 last year, but is 50-1 this season and easily top seed at 138. Turner’s lone loss came to McCrary when he bumped up in weight class.
Springdale High’s Isaac Ponce is the top seed at 106 and will try to follow in his brother Trey’s footsteps as state champion in that weight class.Greenwood’s Austin Collins (195) and Fort Smith Northside’s Brandon Williams (120) are also top seeds.