7 wrestlers headed to state
Seven was indeed the lucky number for Tullahoma on Saturday, as the Lady Wildcats wrestling team had seven grapplers qualify for the TSSAA State Individual Wrestling in Tournament later this month.
In order to qualify for state, wrestlers had to place during Saturday’s Girls West Region, held in Nolensville. Tullahoma’s Jane Allen and Destiny Shelton took top spots in their respective weight classes, while Divine Desilets and Katy Champion finished as runners-up in their classes. Shelton also received the honor of best bout, after battling to an 8-6 semifinal victory.
Kaleigh Royal placed third in her division, while Haley Roberts and Meralay Baysin placed fourth overall at the region tournament.
“It’s awesome,” said THS Head Coach Jenna Morris. “Seven out of 10 taking part in the region tournament are going [to state] and two out of the three who didn’t qualify, made it all the way to the blood round. They were one match away. So, it’s super exciting.”
The TSSAA State Individual Tournament will take place from Feb. 14-16 at the Williamson County Expo Center. The girls state tournament opens on Feb. 15 and concludes on Feb. 16. For more information about the tournament, visit tssaasports.com/wrestling.
As a squad, Tullahoma finished as the runner-up during the region tournament, 7.5 points away from first place. In total, the Lady Wildcats tallied 159.5 points.
Rossview nabbed first overall at the region tournament with 167 points, also seeing seven wrestlers qualify for state. The Lady Hawks went on to take first as a team last year at the TSSAA State Individual Meet.
With a second-place team effort and two region champions, the THS head coach has high expectations for this year’s state championship.
“I expect to bring home a state champion, maybe two,” Morris said. “We were only a few points away from Rossview at region … They think that they are going to win the state tournament again. If we have a good tournament, who is to say that we don’t come out on top as state champions for a team championship? If we have a big tournament, we have some really big expectations.”
In the 170-pound weight class, Allen qualified for her third-straight state meet. In her first two appearances, Allen came away as a state medalist, first finishing fifth in 2017 and then taking third last year.
After leading off her region tournament with a bye, Allen won her next three matches, all by pin, securing her championship. Allen opened her tournament with a short 30-second pinfall victory over Sycamore’s Madison Tatro. She then followed that up with another quick victory, defeating Blackman’s Sidney Silva in 21 seconds to advance to the region title matchup.
In that matchup against Clarksville Northwest’s Deyla Brito-Perez, Allen found herself in a much tighter contest. After battling for the first two rounds, Allen was able to land the pin 30 seconds into the third round, securing the region title.
Allen’s head coach said that Saturday’s first-place effort was earned with the work that she put in during the preseason.
“There wasn’t a day that she didn’t come to an offseason practice,” Morris said. “She traveled all over the country on her own, spent thousands of dollars to get better. She wrestled in national tournaments in Oklahoma, Texas, Florida, Indiana, she went everywhere to get better. Most of that she did on her own.”
Shelton added another first-place effort for Tullahoma, taking the top spot in the 103-pound bracket. After receiving back-to-back byes to start her region tournament, Shelton needed extra time to defeat Fairbanks’ Livia Kelinggos. After being tied at 6 at the end of the third period, Shelton landed a takedown in overtime, advancing to the championship matchup. That semifinal bout between Shelton and Kelinggos was selected as the match of the tournament.
In the first-place bout, Shelton once again found herself locked in a tight matchup, this time with Siegel’s Kortney Brinkley. The THS grappler was able to fend off Brinkley, garnering the 14-11 victory.
“Destiny Shelton and Jane Allen, our two region champions, those are two unwavering, never-missed-an-offseason-practice athletes and those are the two who end up region champions,” Morris said. “In the sport of wrestling, that’s how it works. The results equal the work you put in and it shows.”
In the 112-pound weight class, Desilets received a bye to start her tournament, but won back-to-back matches to earn a seat into the region title matchup. Desilets defeated Siegel’s Alexis Davis by way of a 9-6 decision in her opening matchup, before escaping with a 3-2 decision against Rossview’s Savannah Barefield.
Desilets struggled in her final matchup of the day against Cane Ridge’s Bryce White. In the championship matchup, White defeated Desilets by way of a 15-0 technical fall, ending the matchup near the midway point of the third round.
Champion also added a second-place effort for the Lady Wildcats on Saturday. After opening with a bye in the 140-pound weight class, Champion followed with back-to-back victories by pin, locking her seat into the region title matchup.
In her first bout, Champion defeated Kingsbury’s Skye Givens with a first-round pinfall, winning with 52 seconds remaining in the opening period. Champion followed that effort by pinning Sycamore’s Lilly Pendelton with 54 seconds left in the second period.
In the region title matchup, Champion was upended by Rossview’s Saqara Buchanan. With two seconds left in the first round, Buchanan pinned Champion to garner the victory.
Royal nabbed third for the Lady Wildcats in the 119-pound weight class. After opening her tournament with a bye, Royal won her first matchup, pinning Memphis Central’s LaStacia Cloyd with 54 seconds left in the opening round.
Royal would lose her next matchup, being pinned by Rossview’s Sarah Collins with just over a minute left in the third round.
After being sent into the consolation bracket, Royal won her next two matchups to take third place. Royal first pinned Coffee County’s Mary Wolfrum 25 seconds into the second round, before winning by forfeit in the third-place bout.
In the 150-pound weight class, Roberts finished fourth for the Lady Wildcats. Roberts led off her day with a quick victory, pinning Hume-Fogg’s Sarah Steen in 45 seconds.
Roberts dropped her second matchup of the day though, being pinned by White House’s Taylor Whitehurst 45 seconds into the second round. That loss sent Roberts into the consolation bracket, where she picked up three-straight wins, earning a spot into the third-place bout.
Roberts led off her consolation bracket with a 51-second pinfall victory over Martin Luther King’s Mayuminira Inso. Roberts then followed that with a 7-0 decision victory over Hillwood’s Mary Habib. Roberts ended her day by pinning Cane Ridge’s Azui Rubi with seven seconds remaining in the third round.
Roberts forfeited her final matchup, finishing fourth overall.
Baysin also placed for the Lady Wildcats, taking fourth in the 190-pound weight class. After opening her tournament with a bye, Baysin defeated John Overton’s Roose Gailah by way of a 7-4 decision.
In her second matchup, Baysin was pinned by Northwest’s Catherine Palmieri in 45 seconds, being bounced to the consolation bracket. From there, Baysin won her next matchup, securing a spot into the fourth-place bout.
Baysin pinned Hillwood’s Taliyah Autumn with seven seconds remaining in the third round, securing her spot in the fourth-place matchup. However, Gailah got a little revenge, pinning Baysin with 59 seconds remaining in the second round to garner a victory.