Before the season, Matt Turner had dreams of lifting a wrestling district title banner to the rafters of the WCHS indoor facility. For a moment Tuesday night, it looked like his dream would come true.
Warren County had Tullahoma on the ropes throughout the match, but the Wildcats rallied back to win the last four matchups and steal a 36-28 victory from the Pioneers.
“I was very proud of the guys. They fought hard,” said Turner. “I knew it was going to be a close match, win or lose. We had opportunities – we captured some and fell short in others.”
Ike Gillentine got the night started on the right foot for Warren County. The junior continued his recent dominance, pinning Brett Smith in their 182-pound matchup in 1:11. Gillentine moved to 25-3 this season with his latest victory.
Tullahoma proceeded to take the next three matchups, two by pinfall, to build a 15-6 advantage.
Warren County responded by claiming unchallenged wins in the 106- and 113-pound weight classes, swinging it into an 18-16 lead.
In the 120-pound matchup, coach Turner had sophomore sensation Caleb Mackie step up in weight class in hopes of gaining another win. Mackie didn’t disappoint.
Despite wrestling up two weight classes and facing a nearly 20-pound disadvantage, Mackie worked for three rounds to give his team points. After dominating most of the way, Mackie was even able to sneak an extra point for the Pioneers in the last 20 seconds.
Mackie earned a quick takedown for two points, then allowed his opponent to get to his feet. Knowing he could shoot and score again, Mackie took down Hayden Malone again and gained dominant position, pushing his point victory into a 15-7 major decision – the difference between three points and four points on the team scorecard.
Alan Esparza’s 5-1 decision in the 132-pound weight class, followed by Alec Smith’s exhausting 2-0 battle with Jerzy Hendrix at 138 pounds had Warren County ahead 28-21 with four matches left.
Tullahoma took over from there. A quick pinfall victory was followed by a trio of decisions going the Wildcats’ way, including a tough 9-7 win by Aaron Champion over Stephen Curtis at 152 pounds.
It was tough to see the team fall short, but Turner knows his squad is only scratching the surface of its potential.
“District runner-up and getting the opportunity to continue in the region championships is a great achievement for a young team. We only had one senior on the mat – we have many sophomores and juniors. I’m excited to see where we finish as we head into individual region and state tournaments,” said Turner.
Warren County participated in the team region tournament Thursday night at Tullahoma. Results were unavailable at press time. More details will follow in the Southern Standard.