Kloe Robb, left, and Kalea Loving of Sparkman High won individual state championships at the AHSAA Girls Wrestling State Championships held in Birmingham. Robb won her title in the 107-pound weight class while Loving earned her title in the 165-pound division. Photo contributed

Sparkman wrestles with the state’s best, two Lady Senators win state championships

BIRMINGHAM- The 2023-2024 wrestling season came to a close for girls with the fourth annual AHSAA State Tournament in Birmingham. The action closed one chapter of the sport while opening a second chapter as the AHSAA will officially sanction the sport next season.

The Sparkman girls team set an unbelievable trek to the State Tournament by taking six of its 13 member squad where five of those athletes scored with two winning state titles pushing the Lady Senators to 128 points and a seventh place finish.

For Bob Jones, which finished at No. 13 with just 47 points, saw its star wrestler, Carly Thomas, fall just short of winning her fourth consecutive state championship losing in the finals of the 126-pound division 4-2 versus Taimame Benemerito (34-3) of Enterprise ending Thomas’ season at 21-1 and a superb wrestling career in the sport’s first four seasons.

“This team really exceeded my expectations but what a great finish with only six athletes competitive against other schools which had a full slate of 12 athletes in the competition,” said Dylan Miller head coach of Sparkman. “I’m very proud of how they represented our school as this squad won all but one of the tournaments we participated in this season. They are all hard working athletes.”

For Sparkman, Kalea Loving completed an undefeated 28-0 season with a spectacular run at the 165-pound state title winning all five of her matches with pins, including in the finals versus Patience Ransom (19-7) of Brookwood 24 seconds into the second period.

“I worked through a bunch of hard practices as I’ve been very aggressive and competitive, especially in the tournament,” said Loving, a sophomore who has been wrestling since the eighth grade. Wrestling seem to help me during a hard time in my life and helped me fall in love with the sport.”

The 5-foot-4 athlete who carries a 4.0 grade point average is also a member of the school’s ROTC squad. In her eighth grade season, she finished runner-up (21-2), took fourth place last season as a freshman (23-3) and now sets the tone for next season. She said, “I can’t wait to get started for next season as I always want to improve. I believe I need to be technically stronger. One area that seemed to help me is the fact I practice against the Sparkman boys team.”

“She competes at a high level, is a very focused individual who is hard working and practicing against boys is where she’s looking to add to her skill set,” added Miller.

The second Lady Senator to score a state title was senior Kloe Robb (28-3). The 5-5 student athletic trainer for the entire Sparkman athletic program nailed down her spot as best in the state in the 107-pound division with a pin against McKenzie Nguyen (35-3) of Daphine at the 1:45 mark of the first period.

“I tried to use a ‘chicken-wing’ (wrestling move) but couldn’t pull off that move so I used a half-nelson to make the pin,” said Robb (28-3). “I performed my best against some amazing competition. I used what I was taught over the years and I couldn’t have done this without my coaches and teammates.”

Robb will carry a 3.0 grade point average into her final classes as a senior with her future as an athletic trainer within reach. Her storied trek in wrestling has been one of disappointments, physical and emotional hardships and unlimited courage.

A fifth-place finish in last year’s state tournament was a spectacular accomplishment. Wrestling in the semi-finals she suffered a right shoulder injury leading to shoulder reconstructive surgery, but that was not her first tournament disappointment. In the quarter-finals in the season-ending event a year earlier as a sophomore, Robb suffered a similar injury to her left shoulder, which also led to undergoing a major surgery repair.

“I overcame both of those injuries with the help of my coaches, family and teammates,” added Robb.

“She’s team captain, holds the team accountable, is focused and her eyes on winning a state title all year long as she met her goal,” said Miller, in his first year as head coach. “She pushed through her adversities.”

Here are the state tournament matches for Robb in the 107 weight class: vs. Mary Martin, 10, Thompson (29-19), (Fall, 1:45), vs. Zoe Fagan, 12, Baker (16-11), (Fall, 1:05), vs. Jessica Wright, 12, Montgomery Catholic (19-11), (Fall, 2:38), vs. Tabitha James, 9, Central (22-8) (Dec. 3-2), vs. McKenzie Nguyen, Daphne (35-3) (Fall, 1:45); State Meet matches for Loving in the 165 weight class: vs. Na’Lani Robertson, 8, Piedmont (17-9) (Fall, 1:11), vs. India Reid, 11, Brookwood (13-14) (Fall, 1:03), vs. Sarah Edgar, 10, Spanish Fort (14-7) (Fall, 4:00), vs. Josie Faison, 11, Northside Methodist Academy (18-11) (Fall, 2:23), vs. Patience Ransom, Brookwood (19-7) (Fall, 2:24).

Additional finishers for Sparkman included 100- Kayla Bonds, 11, (21-14) eighth place; 138- Jessica Cook, 11, (25-12) fifth place; 235- Kia Loving, 9, (22-9) fifth place.

For Thomas of Bob Jones, a heartbreaking loss in the finals to finish her career, bur her talents showed in the matches leading up to the finals: vs. Kylee Kaiser, 10, Southside-Gadsden (5-12), (Fall, 0:20), vs. Taelor Robinson, 11, Alabama School For The Blind (2-3) (Fall, 0:35), vs. Olivia Parker, 10, Montgomery Catholic (16-10) (Fall, 1:51), vs. Caidence Sellars, 12, Central (25-5) (Dec. 6-4).

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