Charles Easterling entered the 12th annual Arkansas high school state wrestling tournament as the top seed in the deepest weight class (113 pounds) in Class 6A, where five medalists from last year returned.
Easterling won the state championship in 2019, which placed an even brighter spotlight on the junior from Bentonville West. But Easterling topped them all again and earned a second consecutive state championship after pinning Zander Payne of Bentonville in 37 seconds in the finals.
Easterling finished the season 46-5 with 33 pins this season for Bentonville West, which placed second in Class 6A to Bentonville in the tournament last weekend in Little Rock. It's also the third consecutive year the Wolverines have finished second. In addition to winning his second straight state title, Easterling was selected Most Outstanding Wrestler for the lighter weights (106-132).
For his effort, Easterling is this week's Northwest Arkansas Democrat-Gazette boys Athlete of the Week. Kelsee Barnett of Ozark is the girls Athlete of the Week.
"(Easterling) is physically strong for how big he is, and he puts in the work," Bentonville West coach Aaron Wise said. "There were five returning medalists at 113, and he put on a pretty dominant performance in the deepest bracket and won by pinning his opponent in 37 seconds. He's tough, and he loves the sport."
Wrestling is also a team sport, which Easterling exemplified early in the season when he voluntarily dropped down to 113 pounds when he should've been wrestling at 120 pounds.
"We had three returners all about the same size," Wise said. "Charles was up to 124 or 125 pounds, but he lost the weight to help out our team and a teammate. That's the kind of kid he is, and Tyler Holmes was able to finish second in the state for us at 120 pounds."
The Ozark girls' basketball team went 4-0 and won the 4A-4 Conference Tournament after winning only three games in league play. The Lady Hillbillies were led by Barnett, a junior point guard who had 43 points, 13 rebounds, 12 assists and six steals in four tournament games. She scored 16 points and contributed to a standout defensive effort that limited Morrilton to only five points in the second half of the championship game.
"Kelsee really stepped up in a leadership role," Ozark coach Bret Nagel said. "She made the right decisions with our offense, she hits open shots, and she was a big part of our defensive effort."
Ozark (19-11), which began the conference tournament as a No. 6 seed, will play Gravette at 4 p.m. Wednesday in the 4A North Regional Tournament at Berryville.
Arkansas Sports Media Prep Basketball Poll
Following is the Overall Top 10 girls high school basketball teams in Arkansas and the top five in Classes 6A, 5A, 4A, 3A, 2A and 1A as voted by a panel of sports media from around the state for the week ending Feb. 22. Ranking is given with first-place votes received, records, total points and last week’s rankings:
- FS Northside (11)^23-3^146^1
- Bentonville (4)^23-1^134^2
- Star City^27-0^36^8
Others receiving votes: Conway 26, LR Christian 25, Mountain Home 10, Pulaski Academy 9, Springdale Har-Ber 9, West Memphis 5, Melbourne 2, Lamar 2.
- FS Northside (11)^23-3^71^1
- Bentonville (4)^23-1^62^2
Others receiving votes: Springdale Har-Ber 10.
- Vilonia (13)^23-2^69^3
- Nettleton (2)^23-4^43^1
- LR Christian^20-4^30^4
- Mountain Home^20-5^20^NR
Others receiving votes: West Memphis 10, Lake Hamilton 4, Hot Springs Lakeside 3.
- Batesville (5)^26-2^58^2
- Star City (6)^27-0^56^1
- Farmington (4)^27-3^55^2
- Pulaski Academy^24-2^30^NR
(tie) Southside Batesville^22-5^12^4
Others receiving votes: DeQueen 2.
- Charleston (8)^25-2^60^1
- Hoxie (1)^24-3^53^1
- Valley Springs (3)^30-7^37^5
- Lamar (1)^27-2^36^3
- Mountain View (2)^22-4^18^4
(tie) Harding Academy^26-3^18^5
Others receiving votes: Walnut Ridge 2, Bergman 1.
- Melbourne (15)^27-2^75^1
- Marmaduke 27-9^20^3
Others receiving votes: Acorn 5, Riverside 3, Danville 1, Poyen 1.
- Viola (15)^34-2^75^1
- West Side Greers Ferry^27-9^30^5
Others receiving votes: Mount Vernon-Enola 14, Alpena 2, Ouachita 1.
Following is the Overall Top 10 boys high school basketball teams in Arkansas and the top five in Classes 6A, 5A, 4A, 3A, 2A and 1A as voted by a panel of sports media from around the state for the week ending Feb. 22. Ranking is given with first-place votes received, records, total points and last week’s rankings:
- North Little Rock (2)^20-4^117^1
- Magnolia (4)^21-0^116^3
- Springdale Har-Ber (5)^20-3^107^5
- West Memphis (2)^22-4^97^4
- Rogers (1)^20-3^91^2
- Russellville (1)^22-4^77^6
- Hot Springs^23-5^55^7
- FS Northside^18-8^42^10
- LR Mills^22-3^30^NR
Others receiving votes: Conway 15, Fayetteville 11, Valley Springs 9, Bentonville 7, Cabot 6, Blytheville 3, Izard County 2, Greene County Tech 1.
- North Little Rock (5)^20-4^61^1
(tie) Springdale Har-Ber (9)^20-3^61^3
- Rogers (1)^20-3^52^2
- FS Northside^18-8^27^5
Others receiving votes: Fayetteville 7.
- West Memphis (6)^22-4^63^1
- Russellville (5)^22-4^56^2
- Hot Springs (3)^23-5^52^3
- Jacksonville (1)^16-4^36^4
- Greene County Tech^20-5^11^NR
Others receiving votes: Maumelle 5, Sylvan Hills 1, Vilonia 1.
- Magnolia (15)^21-0^75^1
- LR Mills^22-3^60^2
- Pea Ridge^22-4^37^4
Others receiving votes: Pulaski Academy 8, Malvern 4.
- Valley Springs (12)^32-3^72^1
- Manila (1)^24-5^41^3
- Dumas (2)^22-2^40^2
Others receiving votes: Bergman 6, Waldron 3, Osceola 1, Baptist Prep 1.
- Marianna (12)^24-4^71^1
- Lavaca (3)^28-4^57^3
Others receiving votes: Earle 7, Dierks 6, Flippin 3, Cutter-Morning Star 1.
- Izard County (15)^33-5^75^1
- Kirby^33-2^51^ 2
- New School^33-1^30^4
Others receiving votes: Nevada 17, Concord 5, Viola 3.
Preps Sports on 02/25/2020
Print Headline: NWADG PLAYERS OF THE WEEK