Spots in the state tournament will be up for grabs this weekend when the Warren County High School wrestling team takes the mat at Oakland High School.
The Pioneers are wrestling in the Region 5 Invitational Tournament, with the top four in each weight class advancing to the state tournament Feb. 20-22 at the Williamson County Ag Expo Center.
Matches begin Friday night and continue into Saturday for wrestlers who have not been eliminated.
“We’re getting geared up. At this point it’s finish in the top four or go home,” said WCHS wrestling coach Matt Turner. “The guys have been working hard and been practicing twice a day on some days to get ready for this.”
Ike Gillentine is the lone Pioneer with state experience, having qualified last year when the region tournament was held in Warren County. The junior has had a solid year in the 182-pound weight class, finishing with a 27-3 record. He is the No. 4 seed.
“For Ike to have the year he did and still be the No. 4 seed shows how stacked that weight class is,” said Turner.
Caleb Mackie (106 pounds) claimed a No. 1 seed after finishing the season with a 26-4 record.
While Gillentine and Mackie have consistently been near the top of their weight classes in all meets and tournaments this year, Turner is not hanging his hat on just those two. He firmly believes his whole squad has a chance to advance.
“We’ve been telling the guys that they don’t want to be the guy who is one win away,” said Turner. “We had a lot of wrestlers at the doorstep last year – in what they call the blood round. Those are the toughest matches because the stakes can’t be higher.”
Kalan Lusk grabbed a No. 3 seed for the Pioneers in the 145-pound class after finishing with a 16-5 record. Alan Esparza is a No. 4 seed at 132 pounds after compiling a 19-9 record.
Turner expects to fill almost every weight class at the event. Roberto Dodson will be at 113 pounds, while Alec Smith has filled the team’s 138-pound spot most of the season. Stephen Curtis, one of the team’s close calls last winter, looks primed to wrestle at 152 pounds.
Noah O’Shields, Zach Parson and Dayton Jernigan are also slated to suit up. The heavyweight spot for the Pioneers will be filled by either Jeremiah Miller or Austin Judkins.