By ZACH BIRDSONG
With less than a month until wrestling season gets underway, the Tullahoma High School wrestling team will host its annual T-Town Rumble preseason tournament at THS on Saturday morning.
Things on Saturday are scheduled to get underway at 8:30 a.m. and, according to Wildcats’ Head Coach Al Morris, he isn’t exactly sure how many teams will show up to the tournament. He also noted that full teams might not compete in the tournament, due to the football playoffs still occurring. However, he still expects several schools from across the state to participate.
“[The T-Town Rumble] is a combination of teams from Chattanooga, Murfreesboro, Nashville and we have teams coming from all over,” Morris said. “Basically, it’s a first-year tournament for kids to step on the mat, wrestle for a one-minute-and-15-second period, instead of the regulation time of two minutes during a normal wrestling match.
“It’s just an opportunity for them to get on the mat to compete for the first time,” he added. “The coaches all rate their kids on a scale of one to five, with five being first-year kid and one being a kid that is a state champion or state medalist.”
According to Morris, each grappler at the tournament will be matched by weight class and experience level. From there, the wrestlers will be paired in a round-robin style tournament with each kid getting three matches.
The Wildcats are coming off one of their most successful seasons in recent history, qualifying for the state duals for only the fourth time in school history and the first time since 2009. The team also went on to win the District 9-AAA title and finished as runner-up at the Region 5-AAA Duals.
Tullahoma additionally sent 10 grapplers to Individual State Tournament last season, winning the Region 5-AAA Individual Tournament for the first time since 2008. Out of the 10 who went to state, the Wildcats have five of those grapplers returning as Cleveland Cyree, Dylan Pearson, Aaron Kelly, Dylan McElhaney and Will Moran will all be back on the mat this season.
Cyree and Pearson went undefeated during the region tournament last year to be named region champions. In the preseason rankings this year, Pearson is ranked No. 4 in the state wrestlers in the 182-pound weight class. Cyree is also ranked No. 4 but in the 126-pound class. McElhaney was named as a grappler to watch in the 138-pound class.
With a young team that only features four seniors and three juniors, Morris said he will be relying on some of his younger athletes. According to the Wildcats’ head coach, five freshman have impressed him this preseason, specifically Luke Price, John Smith, Garett Jennings, Braxton Potts and Cal Rogers.
Additionally, Morris has already named two sophomores, Luke Champion and Jordan Sanchez, as captains this year. Morris said that everybody else wanting to be named a captain has to earn it.
“They have both worked extremely hard,” he said. “I couldn’t be more proud of Jordan Sanchez and his effort. The kid has heart, he gives effort and he does everything that he is asked to and he doesn’t run his mouth. He’s everything you ask for in a captain and he just happens to be a sophomore.”
Following the T-Town Rumble, the Wildcats will then participate in the Early Bird preseason tournament hosted by Blackman on Nov. 21. Weigh-in times are still to be announced.
The season officially gets underway for Tullahoma on Dec. 1 when the Wildcats will take on Blackman, Warren County and Centennial at Blackman High School. Matches are scheduled to get underway at 5 p.m.
A full schedule of events for the THS wrestling team is available online at tullahomawrestling.org.