Region 4 was well represented on Tuesday, as second annual Region 4-AAA Media Day took place in Manchester.
For the Tullahoma boys’ team, it graduated some key wrestlers from last year, including Cal Rogers, C.J. Harden and Rhett Birdsong. However, the Wildcats were led by underclassmen as they notched a berth into the TSSAA State Duals.
With the majority of its grapplers returning to the mats this season, expectations for Tullahoma are high this season. So much so, that Coach Al Morris said he expects his team to win the district and compete for a region title.
If Tullahoma wins the district like it hopes, it will have a benefit when it comes to Region Duals. The Wildcats will have the advantage of being at home when it pays host to the Region 4-AAA Duals in late January.
Heading into this season, Tullahoma will be led by two seniors, Brian Nelms and Aaron Champion. On top of that, the Wildcats have a large junior class, including several who came up big late in the season as sophomores.
“That junior class is full of some athletes, who have stuck it out and been with him since Al coached middle school football,” said Jenna Morris, in lieu of her husband Al, who was not in attendance. Jenna coaches the THS girls wrestling team.
While Tullahoma made it to the state duals last season, they lost their first two matches, ending their year as a team. With the majority of his team being young last year, receiving that experience is going to wonders coming into this season.
“Coming from Bradley County, he lectured his team, saying ‘Guys we have to stop being complacent on just getting here. We have to start being competitive here,’” Jenna said. “I think that’s going to be his mentality this year. We can’t just be complacent with just getting there, but we need to start competing at that level.”
There are several names that jumped out to Jenna on who could play a big impact for Tullahoma. Leading off that list was Franklin County transfer Elijah Cowan. Other names include: Landon Willette, Rex and Dallen Nunley, Hayden Malone, Jerzy Hendrix and Caleb Adkins.
On the girls’ side, Tullahoma returns four state medalists, as Destiny Shelton, Katy Champion, Haley Roberts and Divine Desilets. Champion finished third last year at state, while Shelton took fifth and Roberts and Desilets both finished sixth.
With so much talent returning to her roster, Jenna has high goals for her team this coming year.
“I expect us to have a run for a region title, and be in the running for a state championship with Rossview,” Jenna said.
Tullahoma will also be competing in more duals this coming year. The Lady Wildcats will take on Sequatchie County, Northwest, Rossview, Montgomery and Clarksville.
As a sport, girls wrestling in the area has been growing. This coming season, four teams will be able to qualify for the state duals.
“The girls deserve a chance,” Jenna said. “I think the mentality has changed in a sense. Our first year, we had some backlash, refs didn’t want to officiate our matches. The demeanor has completely changed. Coaches now see that these girls are dedicated.”
One key piece that will be missing this coming year for Tullahoma is Jane Allen, after she graduated in May. Allen was a state champion for the Lady Wildcats, but put in plenty of work off the mat, to continuously get better.
That leader-by-example mentality has left the Tullahoma program though. Stepping up has been Shelton, who has been traveling all over the country, competing year-round in tournaments.
“Destiny has competed all over the nation this year,” Jenna said. “Destiny went to Fargo and just got back from placing fourth in Indiana. Destiny has filled Jane’s role in showing what it takes to be successful. A lot of my girls have actually traveled to compete.”
Both Tullahoma wrestling teams will open the preseason with the T-Town Rumble on Nov. 16 at 8:30 a.m. Tullahoma will then open the regular season on Dec. 7 with the Pat Welsh Day of Duals at 10 a.m.