The season isn’t over by a long shot but the AHSAA state duals always provide excitement on the mat ahead of the individual championships.
Even with a 20 percent capacity crowd, the arena was electric. Cheering was stoic on the Wetumpka side as Gardendale’s fans kept the afternoon interesting. Despite showing life in the middle weights, Wetumpka fell to Gardendale 38-19 to claim second overall in the state duals.
Wetumpka head coach Anthony Byrd says making the dials was one of the programs’ goals this year after falling in the semi-finals last season.
“It shows our hard work that our kids have put in since last year,” Byrd said after the match. “We lost in the semi-finals last year, this was one of our main team goals coming into the season. We just lost a couple of close matches and let them pull away with it.”
Outside of solid showings by Mason Blackwell, Abe Preston, Nathan Waters and Noah Smith to win by decisions, the driving force behind the day was Wetumpka’s inability to nab pins. Gardendale didn’t struggle on that front as the Rockets scored three straight pins to open the matches.
A way to limit that in the future comes down to Byrd looking to tell his kids that they have to keep fighting.
“We got caught in the first three,” Byrd said. “We had to fight back from the beginning and we could never recover those three.”
Christian Preston went down via fall after 1:37, Americus Bartee fell after 1:39 and Kaleb Robinson dropped his match in 40 seconds. Soon, the decisions came as Blackwell broke the collar that hung on the Indians’ board.
Unfortunately, Devin Palmer couldn’t pick up a decision despite scoring a takedown himself in the very next round. Preston picked up his decision in the 222-pound class over Gardendale’s Connor Williams, but the decision was only one point.
Waters scored a decision of his own, but had to reverse a takedown before picking up the lead and the eventual round win. But the deficit on the board was still great.
Wetumpka was down 21-9 and slowly falling behind. Gardendale took the 108 and 115-pound class before Smith notched a close 7-6 decision.
Unfortunately, a fall in the 128-pound class by Jay Nowden drove the Indians out of a chance at a late comeback.
The Indians managed to pick up two more victories for morale as Kyler Adams and Xander McWilliams each won via decision, but that did little to put a dent in the event.
“Those pins they got did (help). I believe the wins probably close to equal but those pins helped separate the points a lot,” Byrd said. “Their guys fought their butt off.”
For the future, the Indians are able to look to a solid future around this event.
“It shows our kids that we can compete with anybody,” Byrd said. “Coming back Monday we don’t have anything for a month. So we’re going to go, get prepared and get hungry going into that.”