Today is the annual Calhoun County meet.
And next week is sectionals.
But Thursday, it was about the seniors.
“They’ve all gotten better, and they’re all pretty much first-year wrestlers and have improved,” Panthers coach Matt Tanner said of his seniors. “I’m just proud of them for sticking it out. You know how you are with your seniors, they’ve all put it in and given it all they’ve got, and we’ll see how it goes next week.”
On Thursday afternoon, Wellborn had an in-school dual match against Piedmont and Saks, while also recognizing select wrestlers on Senior Day. It’s the second consecutive year for the special event.
“I just think that aspect of filling the gym got them pumped up,” Tanner said.
Wellborn was led by several wrestlers — seniors and underclassmen alike. Matt King and senior Evan Entrekin won in two separate weight classes, and fellow senior Matt Smith won easily against Saks and Piedmont in the 138-pound class.
For Smith, though, after finishing as the state runner-up the past three years, bigger things are his focus.
“We’ve worked with him and he’s been in the weight room a little bit, and he’s done some things that can help him get there,” Tanner said, “So all he has to do is do it.”
But before state, Smith and Wellborn must qualify at next week’s sectional meet at Pete Mathews Coliseum.
And before that, they must focus on the other five teams in Calhoun County, some of which the Panthers are familiar with and one they haven’t wrestled all season.
“We haven’t seen Oxford all year, but we’ve seen everybody else at least once, some a few times,” Tanner said. “It’s going to be interesting how the guys do against their guys.”
However, the overall favorite in the tournament seems to be Weaver, which is ranked as one of the top teams in the state.
“Weaver has a good program. (Andy) Fulmer has been over there for a while and they have a good youth program over there,” Tanner said. “Their guys know what’s going on, so by the time they earn a spot they’re ready to go.
“There’s no doubt they’re doing a great job, but there are some things we’re trying to start here to get back to the times when Wellborn was like Weaver.”
Although Tanner spoke confidently about the Panthers’ chances against the other three teams, he noted he doesn’t have a wrestler in each weight class. Despite being strong at 106 with King, 113 with seventh-grader Austin McQueen and 138 with Smith, there’s no way to pick up points when there’s no wrestler for a class.
“For the matches that we wrestle, we’re good,” Tanner said. “But we give up about 36-42 points in forfeits, so we can’t really compete in a dual tournament, which county is.”
The county meet is set to start today at 5:30 p.m. at Piedmont.
Sports Writer Brandon Miller: 256-235-3575. On Twitter @bmiller_star.