Basketball dominates the sports world in the Bluegrass State every winter, but wrestling has solidified its spot on the radar, too.

Chuck Williams, who has been Ashland Area Wrestling Club’s president for four years, just witnessed his group of youth wrestlers close the book on another successful season.

Twenty-three kids represented the area at the state championships in Louisville in early February. That’s a considerable bump up from 15 athletes a year ago.

Overall, Ashland placed 30th out of 70 in Louisville.

Josh Wooten was a state champion in the 105-pound class of the 10-and-under division.

The following wrestlers placed: Carson Gillum (second place, 10-U, 71-pound); Layne Osborne (third, 10-U, 71); Nathaniel Williams (third, 10-U, 105); Memphis Williams (fifth, 14-U, 190); Ryan Wooten (fifth, 10-U, 108); Noah Smith (fifth, 10-U, 120); and Ian Hall (sixth, 10-U, 67). It marked the first year of competing for Gillum, Osborne and Hall.

Nathaniel Williams earned a heavyweight title in his weight class in 2018.

Chuck Williams said wrestling is beneficial in multiple ways, including enhancing football skills. He pointed to Johnson Central’s successful high school programs as a prime example.

“You’ll not find another sport as hard as this one,” Williams said.

On Jan. 13, Ashland hosted an event at the Boyd County Community Center that drew 276 wrestlers. Williams said he is shooting for 400 next year.

“That’d make it an economical shot in the arm for the area,” he said.

Williams said he would love to see Ashland Area Wrestling Club’s membership increase to 40.

Though the club is independent, regarding affiliation, it is based off the concept of the Ashland Mini MatCats. But Ashland isn’t the only school represented.

“We got kids from Boyd County, South Point, Huntington, all over,” Williams said.

The club held a banquet at the YMCA on Sunday to recognize the wrestlers’ accomplishments.

Fouts top frosh

Alabama’s Montana Fouts collected SEC Freshman of the Week honors for the third time this season.

The East Carter product picked up a pair of victories in the pitching circle while earning a save. Fouts and the Tide beat Missouri on Friday as she tossed a complete game. They took down the Tigers again two days later as Fouts dealt four frames of three-hit ball. Last Tuesday, Fouts struck out four while relenting only one hit in slamming the door on South Alabama, tallying her first career save.

Fouts is 10-0 with a 0.74 earned run average on the season. She’s struck out 83 batters in 66 innings, allowing only eight walks.

Alabama will compete in the Rainbow Wahine Classic beginning today in Honolulu.

LaFon steps down

As reported by Ironton radio voice Jason Philyaw, Mark LaFon is stepping down as the Fighting Tigers’ basketball coach after 15 seasons at the helm.

LaFon eclipsed the 300-win mark this past year before Ironton ultimately fell to Adena, 43-36, in the Division III district semifinals.

LaFon will remain the school’s athletic director.

Gee at Tech

Former Raceland and Rose Hill basketball player Brooke Gee is now an assistant coach at West Virginia Tech, her college alma mater.

With Gee in her first season helping on the sideline, the Golden Bears went 24-10, making it to the NAIA National Tournament. They lost to Indiana Tech, 73-63, in the opening round in Sioux City, Iowa, last Wednesday.

Hicks hangs it up

Scott County’s Billy Hicks said on Sunday that he is “99-percent sure” he will retire as the Cardinals’ boys basketball coach.

Trinity handed Hicks and the Cards a 50-40 loss in the Sweet Sixteen title game. The Cardinals were ranked No. 1 in the AP poll most of the season.

If it’s over, Hicks will punctuate his career with 14 state tournament appearances, including 13 in his 25 years at Scott County. His teams have won 1,013 games, putting Hicks No. 1 all time on that list. He guided Scott County to two state crowns (1998, 2007).

Reach AARON SNYDER at asnyder@dailyindependent.com or (606) 326-2664. Follow @DIndependentQB on Twitter.