Tigers can remove the chip this weekend
Charles Prince, Sports Editor
They were frustrated. They were mad. They were as ticked off as anyone can get. The Hartselle High wrestling team finished as state runners-up in 2004. But the finish wasn't good enough for any of the Tiger wrestlers. Not one Hartselle grappler smiled when they accepted the runners-up plaque.
They've had a chip on their shoulder since.
They've had 12 months for their anger to smolder and work at bettering their finish. If last Saturday's sectional championship performance is any indication, the Tigers looked primed to get the chip off their shoulders and bring home a championship.
The Tigers have a single-minded focus, which is evident to anyone who observes them. They joke around and play pranks on one another in between rounds. But the conversation quickly comes back to the state championship meet.
The Tigers display a oneness, which surpasses that of the teams they face. During the matches at Oxford last Saturday, the entire team came to the edge of the mat when a teammate wrestled and cheered on their fellow Tiger.
Wrestlers from other schools had one or two teammates, and sometimes no teammates, to cheer them on. Hartselle's quest for a state title had bonded this group into an athletic brotherhood. Each one showing a concern for the other, each one ready to commend and encourage all others.
Coaches in every team sport are concerned with unity. They always say team unity will translate into victories. The Tigers have the unity of a championship team, but it's not all they have.
They have a burning determination born from last year's disappointment. If it those two things weren't enough, they appear to be peaking at just the right time.
Last Saturday's performance was nothing short of dominating. This weekend 's state meet won't be easy to win. Defending champion Homewood will be there, as well as Section 1 champion Gardendale. Scottsboro has qualified the same number wrestlers as the Tigers, so they'll be a threat, and Benjamin Russell has qualified the second most wrestlers, so they can't be discounted.
The competition aside, the only team that can beat the Hartselle Tigers this weekend is the Hartselle Tigers.
If Hartselle doesn't wrestle up to their potential, they likely won't reach their goal of a championship. However, if they wrestle up to their ability, the chip on their shoulders will be removed.
If Hartselle comes out and performes the way they did last Saturday, there's no doubt who will raise the state championship trophy-Keith Corder's Tigers.