Coach John Mask with state champ Land Bell
Bell wins state title
By Michael Butler
The Tallassee wrestling team sent 11 wrestlers to the AHSAA State Wrestling Championships in Hunstville. Four were state placers. One won a state title.
Land Bell won the Class 5A/132-pound division winning his first individual championship. He is a sophomore.
"It's like a dream come true," said Bell. "I've thought of this moment since I was two-feet tall."
Bell has been wrestling since he was about two-feet tall. He started at the age of five and has won seven state titles in the youth ranks.
"It's a different atmosphere," he said comparing it to his championships at a younger age. "You've got college coaches watching you. Once you finally get to that big stage, it's way different."
Tallassee head coach John Mask thought Bell was the state winner earlier than the call came for a fall at the 3:31 mark.
"He had his opponent on his back with a pin at 30 seconds that didn't get called, and then put him on his back again. It was probably one of the most dominating finals matches I've seen."
Bell (43-3) beat Jasper's Ethan Caldwell and talked about the moment when he thought he had won.
"When I had him on his back the first time, I was like it's about to happen. He kind of rolled through. My nerves were shot. I had to take a deep breath and recuperate."
Bell is Tallassee's first champion since Zak Haynes in 2020. It's the program's 31st individual championship.
"It's no small feat," said Mask. "Most people don't know what it takes and how hard Land works. The young man outworks everybody. He's got everything it takes with speed, quickness, agility, strength - he has all the tools."
Eight Tallassee wrestlers have won multiple titles. Josh Epperson has the most with three - a mark that Bell would like to match.
"My goal is to tie his state championship record and beat his all-time career record (for wins)."
State placers (front, left to right): Caden Griffith, Mason Nelson, Rutland Phillips, Land Bell. Coaches (back row, left to right): Phillip Nelson, John Mask, Dustin Cook.
Senior Rutland Phillips (49-4) finished as the state runner-up at 106 pounds. Sophomore Mason Nelson (41-4) was third at 113. Senior Caden Griffith (47-6) placed fourth at 182.
Jasper was first in the overall team standings. Tallassee was seventh out of 21 teams. The impressive season also includes a runner-up finish in the state duals tournament and a 32-1 duals record.
"We just had a great year," Mask added. "We're still on cloud nine. People don't realize taking 11 that we have eight coming back next year. Every wrestler on this team will give his all for the school and community. The coaching staff would like to thank every wrestler for their hard work this year."
Tallassee High School Individual Champions
1997 (4A) - Brian Freeman, Brandon Redden
2001 (4A) - Justin Harris, Eric Cagle, Brandon Rigsby
2002 (4A) - Eric Cagle, Justin Harris
2003 (4A) - Jonathan Webb
2004 (4A) - Jonathan Webb, Mack Farrow
2006 (4A) - Jonathan Haynes
2009 (5A) - Sharrod Person, John Stuckey
2010 (5A) - Chris Adams, T. C. Robinson
2011 (5A) - Chris Adams, T. C. Robinson
2012 (5A) - Josh Epperson
2013 (4A) - Josh Epperson, Jesse Rowlen
2014 (4A) - Kennon Reese, Josh Epperson, D. J. Rivers, B. J. Thomas, Drew Baker, Davontae McKenzie
2015 (5A) - Kennon Reese
2016 (5A) - Jake Baker
2017 (5A) - Jake Baker
2020 (5A) - Zak Haynes
2023 (5A) - Land Bell