The Wetumpka wrestling team lost just five bouts in four duals matches as it eased to the Class 6A Region 2 title last Thursday. Wetumpka racked up at least 70 points in all four matches to secure a spot in this week’s round of 16 of the state duals tournament.
“It’s definitely a good confidence booster for us at this point in the season,” Wetumpka coach Anthony Byrd said. “And it was big for our seniors to get it done like that on senior night. The team is really excited about it right now.”
TJ Anthony finished the night 4-0 at 145 pounds, recording three pins in the first period of his matches. Trent Blankenship got one pin at 152 and finished with three victories while Ezra Phillips moved into the starting lineup at 195 to get three wins, including a pin against Stanhope Elmore.
“They really want this one,” Byrd said. “After going out in the semifinals last year, there’s not much extra motivation needed. They have been really getting after it.”
Wetumpka will host the next round as it matches up with Gulf Shores on Friday night with a spot in the quarterfinals on the line. The team has much bigger goals for the season and it made winning the region title look easy but Byrd said the magnitude of the achievement was not lost on the wrestlers.
“Knowing they won the region is really big for them,” Byrd said. “You had to win (Thursday) before focusing on the rest of the matches. It’s one match at a time.”
Stanhope Elmore also advanced to the next round and will wrestle Spanish Fort at Wetumpka on Friday night. The Mustangs won three of their four matches at the Region 2 duals but the 73-6 loss to Wetumpka is sticking around just as much as any of the wins.
“We definitely want to use that as motivation,” SEHS coach Hunter Adams said. “We want to improve on all of that so we can do better when we wrestle them again. That’s a rivalry for us.”
Adams said the Mustangs are not built perfectly for duals matches but they still go out to compete against everybody. After struggling to fill every weight class early in the season, Stanhope Elmore appears to have figured things out at the right time.
“We have really ironed a lot of things out,” Adams said. “We are wrestling well above my preseason expectations right now and that says a lot about the leadership on this team. By season’s end, we think we can set a new school record for state qualifiers.”
Elmore County also rolled into the next round as the Panthers won every match on their way to the Class 1A-5A Region 3 title. The Panthers advance to take on Weaver at Ranburne on Friday night.
“This is the first time we have been region champs so it is very exciting for the program,” ECHS coach Jared Jones said. “We’re wrestling a lot better right now so I really like where we are at as a team. You just hope you can continue to get better.”
Elmore County clinched the title by defeating Montevallo, avenging a loss earlier in the season by a final score of 58-19. Solon Lee (170) and JW Clement (182) got the Panthers started off on the right foot with pins before Clark Wood (145), Mason Carter (152) and Ethan Geer (160) clinched the matched with three consecutive pins to end the tournament.
“We want to win one match at a time,” Jones said. “We’d love to get to the semifinals and be in that atmosphere. That would be a great experience for the kids and for our school.”