What to expect and who to watch at Arkansas state wrestling tournaments

Buck Ringgold
Fort Smith Times Record

After waiting two additional weeks due to the recent winter storm, high school wrestlers across Arkansas will finally get to compete for state titles.

The Arkansas high school state wrestling tournaments get under way Wednesday from the Jack Stephens Center on the Arkansas-Little Rock campus. The girls start at 11 a.m., and the finals to start at 5:30 p.m.

Then on Thursday, the boys tournament starts and runs through Friday. Wrestlers from classes 1A-5A will have their sessions in the mornings, while the 6A wrestlers compete in the afternoon and evening. The final session Friday goes from 8:30 a.m.-12:30 p.m. for 1A-5A, and from 4-9 p.m. for 6A.

It will also be vastly different due to COVID-19. There will be two separate bowls in the arena, with the wrestlers competing in the upper bowl while spectators will be placed in the lower bowl. Guidelines are also established to make sure wrestlers don't interact with fans or parents while in the arena.

"Being a high school kid, it's hard not to be social, but anything social they've had to do, they've made sure they were following guidelines," said A.J. Herrlein, who coaches both Northside and Southside. "They've just been awesome at putting that extra sacrifice on their high school experience to make sure that they can have this tournament."

Then, of course, the recent winter storm altered wrestlers' plans as the tournament was rescheduled from two weeks ago.

During the week school was out, Herrlein instructed his wrestlers to conduct at-home workouts. Then when they were finally able to return, he had them wrestle intensely for a period of three straight days.

"I think we've got the fire. We've got the edge," Herrlein said. "These two weeks helped us more than they hurt us, honestly. We took that snow week, got a chance to learn, got another week of refining in and I think they're ready."

Greenwood coach John Kincade also saw the unexpected delay as a benefit.

"We spent all last week, Monday through Friday, working out and everything, so it didn't change too much except for us not being able to wrestle," he said. "In the meantime, we've kind of been able to heal up a little bit, too; it's kind of given us an extra week to let our bodies heal up, so that was a positive note on that aspect of it."

Greenwood's boys will be one of the teams to watch in 5A. The Bulldogs are going for a repeat state championship, already having repeated as state dual champions last month. They also have several wrestlers capable of winning individual state titles, but Kincade told them to concentrate on one match at a time.

Top 5 Girls Wrestlers To Watch

Violet Summers, Van Buren: Summers made history last year as the first girls wrestler in Arkansas to win an individual state title. The junior is seeded third in the 108 weight class with a 14-2 record.

Lillian Jones, Van Buren: Jones may become the first Lady Pointer to win state this year, as the sophomore is the top seed in the 100 weight class with an 11-0 record.

Addison Loney, Van Buren: Another state champ from a year ago, Loney - a junior - has a 27-0 record and is the top seed in the 124 class, though she will not get a bye in the opening round.

Stephanie Delgado, Northside: A sophomore, Delgado is the sixth seed in the 108 class and drew an opening-round bye. There's a chance she could face Summers in the quarterfinals.

Samantha Rivas, Northside: Rivas is 4-1 as a junior. But she has a tough assignment right out of the gate in the 132 class, squaring off with Searcy's Mykenzie Clark, who is 19-0.

Top 5 Boys Wrestlers To Watch

Hayden Rofkahr, Greenwood: Rofkahr won state two years ago as a freshman in the 106 weight class, but he was injured last year and missed the Bulldogs' title run. He's back this year with a 26-4 record and is seeded second in 5A in the 126 class.

Ty Moose, Greenwood: Moose has a 27-2 record as the senior goes for the 5A title in the 138 class, which would be his third straight state title in three different classes.

Jason Arnold, Greenwood: Greenwood is another Bulldog seeking a repeat as state champion, having won the 160 class last year. The senior is 26-4 and seeded second in the 170 class.

Devin Potter, Northside: A senior, Potter received the top seed at 195 in 6A and comes in with a 13-1 record, with his lone loss coming to an out-of-state wrestler.

Ti Lockwood, Southside: Another senior, Lockwood transferred to Southside this season from Wagoner, Okla., where he won 99 matches. Lockwood, who is 11-1 this season, is the No. 3 seed in 6A in the 152 class.