Christian County is taking 11 wrestlers to the state tournament this weekend in Lexington as they look to finish in the top three for the first time since 1994. The Colonels finished runner-up at last week’s region tournament to four-time state champion Union County.
Last year, Jakerion Merritt became the first Colonel wrestler in 15 years to win a state title. He carries a 31-0 record into this weekend as he tries to become the fourth Colonel wrestler to repeat as state champion and the first since Shawn Smith in 1995-96. The draw didn’t do him any favors with a potential second round match with 6th ranked Jacob Grandstaff of Conner who finished third in the state at 132.
Niko Bussell (33-1) repeated as region champion at 220 and was the state runner-up in the weight class last year. His path through the bracket includes a potential second round matchup with No. 5 Devin Johnson of Johnson Central.
Neal Aldridge (24-5) came in third at region at 160 and carries a No. 9 state ranking into the weekend. He just missed the podium last year and would like to end his high school career with a high finish. His first round opponent is No. 18 Hayden Hartlage of DeSales.
Gage Fowler (29-3) finished second in the region at 113. Last year, he finished fourth at the state tournament. He enters the weekend ranked second in the state in the weight class, only behind Union County’s Trayce Eckman who defeated him at the region tourney last week. His first round opponent at state is Field Johnson of DeSales with a potential second round matchup looming with No. 9 Yahir Menchaca of Harrison County.
J.T. Adams (22-6) finished third in the region at 170 and is ranked No. 10 in the state. His first round opponent is Everett Marret of St. Xavier, who is ranked ninth in the weight class and finished third at state at 160 last year.
JaRi Campbell (26-10) finished second in the region at 106. He is ranked 13th in the state in the weight class and will wrestle Ashland Blazer’s Troy Gardner in the first round. His potential second round opponent is No. 2 Colin Tucker of Wayne County.
Cameron Coleman (26-8) was region runner-up at 182 to Union County’s Micah Ervin. He is ranked No. 4 in the state heading into the weekend. His first round opponent at the state tournament is John Hardin’s Austin Silva, who is ranked 25th in the state.
Austin Grant-Hall (35-7) came in third at the region tourney at 138. He is ranked ninth in the state in the weight class and has a tough first round matchup against No. 8 Owen Stacey of Campbell County.
A.J. Harvey (29-10) finished third in the region at 195 and carries a No. 12 state ranking into the state tournament. His first round opponent is Trinity’s Ryan Martin, ranked fifth in the weight class.
TyDarius Kelly (30-7) almost pulled off a huge upset at the region tourney, losing to Union County’s Mathias Ervin by a single point in the 285 championship. Kelly appears under-ranked statewide at No. 17. He has a tough path through the bracket. Kelly opens with No. 21 Kyran Jackson of Madison Central with a potential second round match looming with No. 2 Tucker Shelton of LaRue County.
Ethan Wells (22-9) came in second at the region tourney at 126. He enters the weekend ranked sixth in the state. Wells won the region title last year but lost to Caldwell County’s Dylan Walls at the state tourney. This year, Walls beat Wells at region, and Wells will be looking to flip the script at the state tourney and reach the podium. His first round opponent will be No. 19 Luke Oliveros of South Oldham.
The first round of the state tournament begins Friday at Alltech Arena in Lexington and continues Saturday.