Wetumpka entered the Class 6A South Super Section as a favorite for the title and the wrestlers lived up to the expectations and then some. Wetumpka claimed its second consecutive section title Saturday, edging Benjamin Russell and McAdory, and saw a school-record 13 wrestlers secure a spot in this week’s state championships in Huntsville.
“We have grinded all season so it’s awesome to see it all come through,” Wetumpka’s Xander McWilliams said. “We did the same thing last year though so we have to keep up the pace for state.”
McWilliams was the first Wetumpka wrestler to claim an individual title as he defeated Benjamin Russell’s Kyle Mattox by a 7-0 decision at 120 pounds. McWilliams, who is a defending state champion, said the focus is still on state but it felt good to grab the top seed at sectionals, especially doing it against Wetumpka’s closest competition in the team standings.
“Our team feeds off energy from those,” McWilliams said. “He’s a solid competitor and I was glad that I was able to outlast him but it helps that he’s from (Benjamin Russell).”
Wetumpka saw that energy rise even higher during Kyler Adams’ first-place bout at 132 against Spanish Fort’s Gabe Warren. The two have a history of battling in the spotlight with Adams often coming out on top but Warren had control early.
After nearly pinning Adams in the first period, Warren took a 7-2 lead and appeared to be on his way to getting revenge. However, Adams battled back and got a takedown and two near-fall points in the final moments to secure a 10-8 victory.
“We wrestled in the state finals and we wrestled in this tournament last year,” Adams said. “I knew I had to wrestle smart and I was a little nervous especially when he put me on my back. I just saw my teammates look at me and I had to keep going. I have been training this whole week for that one match.”
Mason Blackwell was the only other Wetumpka wrestler to grab first place and he did it with ease, pinning all four of his opponents at 182. Blackwell lost in the Super Section last year before bouncing back with a state title and he knows there is still work to do if he hopes to take home the state gold again but he is embracing the challenge.
“I felt good coming in and I know I have a good shot at this,” Blackwell said. “Being the returner gives me some confidence. I love having a target on my back. It makes people wrestle harder against me so I think I wrestle at my best when a target is on my back.”
TJ Anthony (145 pounds) and Mason Dickey (113) grabbed three wins each to reach the finals in their respective weight classes but they both lost by decision to claim silver medals. Chad Strickland (106) and Abe Preston (220) finished the day with wins to take third place.
Jay Nowden (126), Dawson Tadlock (138), Trent Blankenship (152), Devin Palmer (170), Nathan Waters (195) and Jacob Strickland (285) all made it to the second day in Montgomery to qualify for state.
“That’s awesome to set a school record for that,” Wetumpka coach Anthony Byrd said. “To come in and compete that well as a team was great. That many guys are going to help us get more points at state.”
Byrd said Wetumpka didn’t do too much celebrating after winning the section title as it is looking to go one step higher after finishing second at state last season.
“It’s really just about getting ready for next week,” Byrd said. “It’s nice to win and this is fun but the main goal is next week.”