The opening wrestling match of the season did not go exactly as planned but Wetumpka did not let that slow it down as the team recorded five pins in six matches to earn a 75-0 victory over Brewbaker Tech. After seeing the scheduled tri-match get narrowed down to just nine total matches, Wetumpka coach Anthony Byrd earned his first win since taking over the program in August and the Indians were excited to finally put all of the offseason talk behind them.
“We were definitely excited to finally get back to it and have my first match as a coach,” Byrd said. “It was good to get the season started.”
Wetumpka was ranked as the preseason No. 1 team in Class 6A by the state’s coaches and it’s eager to live up to the hype. Xander McWilliams, one of the team’s captains, was thrilled for the dominant start but he said there is still plenty of time to improve.
“That’s a good sign for us,” McWilliams said. “But we had a loss in one of the exhibitions so we still have things to work on. We can’t stop here. We may be No. 1 now but we can’t let that slip.”
McWilliams got the night started as the reigning state champion at 106 pounds moved up to 120 for the first time. After two forfeit wins for the Indians, McWilliams got the excitement started with a second-period pin of his opponent.
“It feels awesome,” McWilliams said. “I have been excited all summer so I was just ready to get back at it. I put on a lot of muscle to move up two weight classes so it felt good to wrestle that way at this weight class.”
Wetumpka’s two other reigning state champions did not get a chance to wrestle as Kyler Adams and Mason Blackwell each took home a win by forfeit. Brew Tech had to forfeit eight classes, clinching the team win for Wetumpka before it even started, but that did not stop the Indians from staying focused.
“They were still excited to be here,” Byrd said. “You just take the forfeit and come back ready to cheer on the next guy up.”
Dawson Tadlock, Christian Preston and Trent Blankenship each rolled to first-period pins as Wetumpka built up a 66-0 lead before the final two matches.
Nathan Waters competed in the most competitive match of the night at 220. After jumping out to a 5-0 lead early, Brew Tech’s James McKenny battled back to cut the deficit to 8-6 and had control in the third round. Waters had one more reversal and held on to win by a 10-6 decision.
“It was good for him to come back and win that one,” Byrd said. “He’s only been in practice two days because he has been in football so conditioning was a little off but it was a good start for him. We all just have to get in better shape.”
The final match may have brought the biggest cheer of the night from Wetumpka’s bench as freshman Jacob Strickland earned a first-period pin in the heavyweight division. Wetumpka then finished the night with two wins in three exhibition matches to help take momentum into its weekend tournament in Mobile.
““It was all about getting more experience,” Byrd said. “It’s a good confidence booster, especially for some of those first-year guys. The goal was for everyone to get a pin and we came up a little short but besides that, I think we wrestled really well.”