After Tallassee jumped out to a big lead in its AHSAA Class 1A-5A Region 2 Duals match against Reeltown, Jake Debardelaben grabbed one of the most important victories of the night. Debardelaben pinned Reeltown’s Gabriel Bryant at 170 pounds to clinch the match for the Tigers, securing a spot in the next round of the state tournament and giving Tiger coach John Mask his 500th career duals victory.
“That was really special for me,” Mask said. “It’s not about me though. We have always preached team and winning duals matches. The 500 to me is about all of those assistants and former wrestlers over the years.”
Tallassee’s win over Reeltown set up high stakes for the final match of the night as the Tigers prepared to face off with Beauregard. Tallassee was limited on wrestlers and knew it would have to forfeit two weight classes so it had to make up ground somewhere else.
After dropping the first bout by forfeit, Tallassee responded with decision victories by Christian McCary (132 pounds) and John Burnham (138) to take the lead. Will Lackey (152) and Mason Bell (160) added pins as the Tigers jumped in front 24-12.
However, Beauregard came storming back and won the next four matches with pins. Beauregard’s Walter Daniels defeated Tallassee’s Max Moore in the heavyweight bout to secure the region title for the Hornets, winning 42-33.
“That was a fun match,” Mask said. “You hate to lose but I was so proud of the kids because they really got after it. Everyone gave it their all and Beauregard has a great team.”
Despite being forced to forfeit two classes, Tallassee was still in position to win. but it could not take advantage of some opportunities for early pins and three decision victories became the difference in the final score.
“When the opportunity presents itself, you have to finish it,” Mask said. “You’re grateful for the victory and the performances but you don’t get that opportunity much. We may work on that this week.”
Tallassee was without one of its starters as Zack Haynes was held out with an undisclosed injury. With the Tigers needing just one more victory to win the region, there were been some second thoughts about keeping Haynes out but Mask said the team was looking to the future when making that decision.
“Zack Haynes is a senior now and he couldn’t wrestle but he was cheering everybody on tonight,” Mask said. “His health is more important than anything, win or lose. The thought did cross my mind that if he is available down the road, that may be fun.”
Tallassee is already looking forward to getting another chance at Beauregard when the Tigers travel east this weekend for the second round. Tallassee will match up with Saint James on Friday night and could meet the Hornets again with a spot in the state semifinals on the line.
“We’re excited about getting a chance at them,” Mask said. “We’re going to have to defeat Saint James to get that opportunity and they have some mighty fine wrestlers. That’s going to be a challenge but if we are able to win, we’ll get that chance (at Beauregard) and we are looking forward to it.”
Elmore County also rolled into the second round as the Panthers won every match on their way to the Class 1A-5A Region 3 title. The Panthers advance to take on Weaver at Ranburne on Friday night.
“This is the first time we have been region champs so it is very exciting for the program,” ECHS coach Jared Jones said. “We’re wrestling a lot better right now so I really like where we are at as a team. You just hope you can continue to get better.”
Elmore County clinched the title by defeating Montevallo, avenging a loss earlier in the season by a final score of 58-19. Solon Lee (170) and JW Clement (182) got the Panthers started off on the right foot with pins before Clark Wood (145), Mason Carter (152) and Ethan Geer (160) clinched the matched with three consecutive pins to end the tournament.
“We want to win one match at a time,” Jones said. “We’d love to get to the semifinals and be in that atmosphere. That would be a great experience for the kids and for our school.”