Bob Jones’ Young Wrestlers Win North Alabama Championship
MADISON- The Bob Jones High School wrestling program is regarded as one of the most successful in Alabama with a strong feeder program of middle school student-athletes. The Jr. High team of the Patriots has again won the North Alabama Wrestling Championships posting a 194.5 to 139 win over runner-up Arab, followed by New Hope with 97.5 and Huntsville at 91.5.
Held at Bob Jones, the North Alabama Wrestling Championships featured 18 teams with 342 young wrestlers taking to the mats for the annual event.
“We were the favorite going into the event as were undefeated during the season and we have won the title each year since 2014,” said Jim Zepp, volunteer head coach of the middle school program for Bob Jones. “We started the season teaching the basics of wrestling to our athletes and ended up as team winners. That’s a great feeling and shows the dedication of our wrestlers.”
The event featured middle school and junior varsity competition. In JV action, Ben Hazuga, T. J. Sanders and Ben Forton captured first place medals. Dunyea Dorsey was a runner-up while Slade Congo, Gidion Roll and Don Baker each captured fourth place in their weight classes.
For the middle school Patriots, they had 12 competitors out of the 14 weight classes with eight of those wrestling placing. The points gathered by all of the wrestlers combined throttled the Patriots to the team title.
Individually, Bob Jones had two middle school wrestlers capture first place medals. In the 114-pound weight class Jacob Reyes, with a 31-6 record on the season, won the gold medal. In the 167-pound class, Sheldon Sharp (47-14) was tops. As an eighth grade student-athlete, Sharp participated in the Bob Jones varsity lineup throughout the current season with several of his losses coming against much older wrestlers in varsity action.
Second place finishers for the Patriots included Connor Nicholson (121 division), Jackson Caballero (147) and Jackson Aquino (177). Third place medal winners were Carter Lindsey (137) and Isaiah Gehrig (205). Micah McKinney (132) won a fourth place medal.
The North Alabama Championships were sort of an “icing on the cake” for the Patriots as they placed on the podium 58 times during the season with 27 of those being gold medal winners. Bob Jones posted a 55-percent winning percentage with 43-percent of the time winning by a pin.
Zepp retired in 2018 after 28 and a half years from the U.S. Army as a Colonel. He began his coaching with the program in 2013 and took a two-year break due to travel duties with his work with the Military. He supports Bob Jones head coach Matthew Sweatman in his endeavors whenever possible. “I like working with Matthew as his enthusiasm is contagious,” said Zepp, who was a high school wrestler and took to the mats at The Citadel before focusing on his military career.
Zepp uses his military background structure and discipline in his coaching style. He understands how wrestling changed his life and hopes to pass those experiences to his young wrestlers in an attempt for their lives to change for the better as they make their way through life. He added, “After wrestling, because of the discipline, everything seemed to come easy as I realized how much hard work was required to be successful. The discipline of the sport made me focus on my grades for college and the military.”
The Tennessee Valley Wrestling Club is a feeder program for Bob Jones wrestling as many of those young wrestlers arriving into the Patriots program are already well-versed in the sport, which makes for a quick transition from club to school wrestling.
“We drill the basics on the first day and drill those same basics on the last day,” said Zepp. “I strive on that and what we get from our hard work are team championships.”