Hueytown High School's First State Championship
by Johnny Curry

When most people think of Hueytown High School's participation in Alabama athletic history, they might think about the many quality baseball teams over the years.  Or maybe they think about individuals like Butch Wilson, or that football squad in 1958 that went undefeated and amazingly shut out most of their opponents.  What doesn't usually come immediately to mind is that the first state championship was produced by the school's wrestling team.  This happened on February 16, 1974 under the direction of Coach George A. "Tony" Morton who did double duty that year both as a wrestling coach and as a 10th grade Biology teacher.

According to an article written at the time by Gary Hopson in The Birmingham News, "Hueytown Coarch Tony Morton has predicted that if his team was going to win the State 4A Wrestling Title, it would have to do it in the consolations after trailing at the beginning of Saturday's final day of action.

He couldn't have been more exact as his matmen in the consolation regained the lead and the team's men in the Championship Finals took it from there as Hueytown won the State Wrestling Title at Fair Park.

Going into the Championship finals, the Golden Gophers owned a 3 1/2 point lead over Robert E. Lee of Montgomery.  A win by one of Hueytown's three wrestlers would have given the Gophers the title as Lee only had one man in the finals.  But Hueytown got two Title Round Wins - from 155-pounder Ricky Burnette and 185-pounder Billy King who had the most pins in the Tournament.

Hueytown won what people were calling their tournament but it took a  great amount of  determination and a lot of skill on the part of their wrestlers." 

Playing for the Golden Gophers Championship Team that year were Barry Sykes, winner in the  Consolation Semi-Finals; Ken Lucas, Kevin Burnette, Gene McDowell, Chris Coleman, winner in  the Consolation Finals; Donald Hand, Manuel Walker, Fred Jones, Ricky Burnette, winner in Finals; Tab Blair, Charlie Green, Billy King, winner in Finals; David Bracknell, Woody Bryant, Joey Hosmer, T. Lawrence, T. R. Long, Keith Ellis and Mark Trice.

Some of these players would continue their wrestling careers in college.  Billy King would go on to be a four-time Southeastern Conference Champion at the University of Alabama.  Others would receive scholarships to different schools:  Ricky Burnette to Livingston College and Mark Trice to the University of Wyoming.  Others like Tab Blair are to this day still actively involved in supporting the athletic programs at Hueytown High School.  Still others answered an even higher calling like Keith Ellis who is now a Minister of the Gospel.