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The Main Event
Eastlan Green
Eastlan Green sets up his opponent for a shoot attempt.

Closets and auxiliary bays. Hidden away from the rest of the school.

That’s how many former members of the Warren County High School wrestling program remember their time spent grinding away on the mat. Tuesday was the first chance for many former grapplers see wrestling take center stage.

With a packed house gathered at Charlie Dalton Gym, the WCHS wrestling team held its homecoming. The event drew over 40 alumni, who were able to watch a trio of matches featuring the WCHS team, the WCMS team and the Pioneer Pride - a local AAU program.

“It’s fun pulling up to the gym and seeing all the cars here for this,” said Andi Jones, a 1997 graduate. “Matt Turner has done a great job getting alumni involved. And it’s great to see the young kids wrestling as a start of a feeder program.”

 James Anderson Jr., who wrestled in 1996-97 and kept in touch while watching his younger brother Justin wrestle from 2001-04, was happy to see the teams out in the open after years of practicing in a closet.

“We had to rotate 10 people in while 20 others ran steps,” said Anderson. “It was a closet. We made due with what space we had. I’m glad the program has come this far and is out in the open.”

The old guard had a chance to see several standout performers, many coming when the high school battled Coffee County. A battle between Pioneer Chase Gannon and Andrew Lawson that went the distance at 170 was one of the highlights of a 41-27 Warren County victory.

“The intensity was awesome. I want to thank everybody who came out and supported us. It really fueled the team,” said Turner.

The alumni surrounded the ring at times, some swapping stories of their time on the mat while others tried their hand at coaching from the stands. Turner, along with AAU coach David Holcomb, were more than happy to have the moral support from homecoming.

“We’re all working together to build things. We have coaches, alumni, lots of people helping out, supporting and helping build this AAU program,” said Holcomb. “I’m happy to be involved with growing the youth program. We had kids who were way behind by middle school (compared to the competition) and even further behind as freshmen. We’re hopeful this will help.”

Jones recalled a time when the girls had to mix in with the boys, something she didn’t struggle much with as a state qualifier. But now with a girls division set up, and a state qualifier at the high school in junior Allison Vazquez, Jones is happy to see the growth.

“I was the first female wrestler to qualify for the boys state tournament in Tennessee,” said Jones. “It has come a long way with girls having their own sanctioning now. It’s great.”

Vazquez will become the latest state representative after finishing second over the weekend in the East Regional tournament. Vazquez punched her ticket for the state event Feb. 15-17, while members of the boys team will have their chance to advance at the region tournament on Feb. 9-10.

Turner hopes he’ll have more wrestlers join Vazquez, but even if it’s just one wrestler, they’ll be more than enough support for the Lady Pioneer.

Tuesday’s showcase helped bring the team to the forefront and punctuated something Turner and other coaches have been working to achieve - wrestling becoming mainstream in Warren County.