By ZACH BIRDSONG
In only its second year as a program, the Tullahoma girls wrestling team will be sending five grapplers to the TSSAA Individual State Tournament based on their performances at the West Regionals at Nolensville High School on Jan. 27.
Divine Desilets, Jane Allen, Kaleigh Royal, Promyse Bryson and Katy Champion earned their seats into the TSSAA Individual State Tournament set to take place in Franklin on Feb. 16 and 17. Tullahoma previously sent two wrestlers to the 2017 state tournament.
“It’s super exciting to be sending five to state,” said THS Head Coach Jenna Morris. “I think it’s a bigger accomplishment this year, because girls wrestling has grown so much and the competition is much better. These girls are getting much better, so it’s also a major accomplishment for them.”
This won’t be the first trip to state for two of the Tullahoma wrestlers, as Allen and Royal both qualified for the state tournament last season. Allen was the program’s first medalist, taking sixth at the 2017 state tournament.
“Those two are the examples that everybody is looking up to because they’ve been there,” Morris said. “Because they were there, they were the two who put in all the work over the summer and the offseason. Nobody really did as much as those two did, because they saw it and they wanted it. They’ve been huge parts in leading the team to try to get to this point.”
Royal and Allen led the THS wrestlers at region, each finishing second in their respective weight classes. Royal took second in the 119-pound weight class while Allen took second in the 160-pound division.
With a field of only four wrestlers, Royal dominated Northeast’s Keaira Maxfield, winning by way of a 16-0 technical fall with 52 seconds left in the third round of the bout. In the first-place matchup, Royal was upended by Rossview’s Jasmine Barrios in a 14-7 decision.
In the 160-pound division, Allen won three-straight matchups to earn a spot into the first-place matchup. Allen started her tournament by defeating Montgomery Central’s JayAnna Stokes by way of a 13-8 decision.
Allen followed that up with back-to-back pinfall wins. Allen first pinned LaVergne’s Kennethis Dorsey in 57 seconds, before defeating Northwest’s Brianna Teasley with 52 seconds remaining in the second round.
In the first-place matchup Rossview’s Brielle Bissonette defeated Allen by pinfall. Bissonette pinned Allen 41 seconds into the third round to garner the victory.
Champion and Bryson each finished third in their respective tournament runs. Bryson took third place in the 125-pound class, while Champion finished third in the 132-pound division.
Bryson won her first bout of the tournament, pinning Independence’s Shawna Blue in 44 seconds. However, Bryson was pinned in her next matchup against Mt. Juliet’s Kaitlyn Lee with 23 seconds left in the first round.
After heading into the consolation round, Bryson won her next matchup, pinning Northwest’s Tiffani Ford with 51 seconds left in the first round, earning a seat into the third-place matchup. Bryson followed by pinning Hunters Lane Kayla Guider with 21 seconds left in the first round.
Champion opened her tournament with back-to-back pinfall victories. Champion first pinned Antioch’s Lindra Jernigan in 26 seconds, before pinning Spring Hill’s Madison Justice with 31 seconds remaining in the first round.
However, Champion was then defeated by way of a 15-8 decision against McGavock’s Donny Bradborn, sending Champion to the consolation bracket. Champion won her next matchup, again defeating Jernigan, pinning her in 45 seconds. Champion then pinned Sycamore’s Bonnie Hudgins with 26 seconds remaining in the second round of the third-place bout.
Desilets took fourth place in the 112-pound division, opening her tournament run with a 4-0 decision over Forrest’s Jesmarie Negron. Desilets lost her next matchup after being pinned by Northwest’s Cathlin Green with 26 seconds left in the second round.
The THS grappler followed with a decisive 11-5 victory over LaVergne’s Jennifer Praniuphung, sending Desilets to the third-place bout. However, Desilets was defeated in a narrow 7-5 decision against Antioch’s Diaja Sams, finishing fourth overall in the tournament.
While the five THS individual wrestlers have qualified for state, the Lady Wildcats aren’t finished as a team. Tullahoma will be traveling to Rossview to compete in the team’s first-ever dual meet.
“Rossview is really good,” Morris said. “They have 11 girls and they are top notch. Some of them are nationally ranked wrestlers already. They are really good. Most of ours who lost at region were to Rossview girls. I just started talking to their coach and said we needed to wrestle duals because that’s what is going to grow the sport of girls wrestling.”
The Lady Wildcats will be taking on Rossview as well as Northwest. Matches are scheduled to get underway at 5 p.m.