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Big day for WCHS wrestling

The WCHS wrestling team shows off its medals after Saturday's wins (Photo provided)

If the Pioneers won anymore titles Saturday, Matt Turner would have to start paying taxes in Franklin County. Warren County completely owned the individual District 9 tournament held in Winchester.

The Pioneers won six eight classes in the event and all 11 wrestlers who competed finished in the top three - punching their ticket to the region tournament to be held in Warren County February 13.

“The boys wrestled well – tough and very aggressive,” said Turner, who saw his team dominate Franklin County and Smyrna on the road just four days before. “We had everybody qualify for the region. Now we have three weeks to prepare, so that is a positive.”

Sebastian Smith, Roberto Dodson, Caleb Mackie, Kalan Lusk, Ike Gillentine and Dayton Jernigan all stood at the top of the podium Saturday. Warren County’s six weight class victories were the most of any school at the event.

The Pioneers finished second as a team, falling short of Tullahoma by just eight points. The Wildcats accrued 226 points, needing 13 wrestlers to do it. Warren County had 218 points with 11 wrestlers. The schools will face off Tuesday in Tullahoma with the team district title on the line.

“It would have been nice to win the tournament title, but Tullahoma had two more classes filled. We came close, but couldn’t make up the difference,” said Turner.

Shelbyville (125 points), Coffee County (122.5), Franklin County (89), Columbia (65) and Lawrence County (55) also had wrestlers in the event.

Warren County’s domination of the lower weight classes was impressive. The Pioneers won the 106-, 113- and 120-pound weight classes. In the first two, it took just a minute in the finals to see Warren County’s guys have their hand raised.

Smith took down Tullahoma’s Jaydon Lee in 1:08 in the the 106-pound finals, while Dodson needed just 57 seconds to dispatch Orion Sadler from Shelbyville.

Mackie’s final match at 120 pounds was a thriller. Facing off with Shelbyville’s Tito Hernandez, it nearly went the distance. Just when it seemed it would be decided by points, Mackie was able to get into dominant position and get the pin.

Mackie’s match had plenty of spectators, but Lusk winning at 160 pounds ended up being the fan favorite.

Lusk went the distance against Cadan Avans, winning by decision 14-13. The points went back and forth throughout the whole match, with Lusk getting the final two points in the waning seconds to win the title.

“Kalan’s match was voted the best of the day. It was a battle to the final second,” said Turner.

Gillentine used his familiarity with his opponent - Lawrence County’s Samuel Bradley - to win the 195-pound bracket.

“It was a good one. It was a guy I had wrestled in the past and he ended up shooting on me,” said Gillentine. “I got the takedown and got him to his belly and started working my favorite move - a bar - and that’s how I ended up pinning him.”

Gillentine’s win came just seconds before the end of the first round. He also took down Tullahoma’s Brett Smith by pinfall in the semifinals.

In the heavyweight division, Jernigan showed he could be one to watch going forward. The sophomore was able to get by Blayne Myers 8-2, then pin senior Keimauri Smith in the third round in the finals.

Getting popped in the face was enough to energize Jernigan at the finish.

“He was trying to do a move on me and was punching me in the face - I didn’t like that and I had to get my revenge on him for doing that to me,” said Jernigan. “I kept a chip on my shoulder that match because, before that tournament, I had not won a medal yet. I was determined to win that match and pin that kid.”

Seth Lindsey (132 pounds), Alan Esparza (138 pounds) and Connor Smith (182 pounds) all finished second in their respective divisions, while Alec Smith (145 pounds) and Stephen Curtis (152 pounds) finished third.

Turner and his team will get an upclose look at Tullahoma Tuesday when the teams face off for the district title in an individual match.

“It could go either way. We expect a very competitive and physical match. Coach Morris and I agree it should be a good night of wrestling,” said Turner. “Our men are gaining confidence and we’re looking forward to the match.”

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