|Coach John Mask with state champion Land Bell
Wrestling season opens Thursday
By Michael Butler
The Tallassee wrestling team has gone 61-2 over the past two seasons in duals matches. Last season's record was 32-1 with the lone defeat in the Class 5A state duals final to Jasper 38-33.
"It was an amazing atmosphere," said head coach John Mask of the environment at the Birmingham Crossplex. "The true test of a team is my 14 versus yours. It was a battle down to the last bout. Jasper won duals and Huntsville last year."
Jasper will be among the teams to be reckoned with this season, as will Tallassee, in the duals and traditional tournaments. The Tigers lost six seniors off last year's squad but return eight state qualifiers including state champion Land Bell.
"We've got about 45 kids out - the most in probably about ten years," said Mask, who begins his 24th season with the program. "It's a cycle. Land, years ago, got to wrestle with Zak Haynes (a 2020 state champion). It makes for a great wrestling room."
Mask will not rest on his laurels. He knows it is difficult to win it all. The Tigers took the team title in 2014 but have been the state runner-up six times.
"Most people would say we're top five in 5A. Scottsboro is the favorite coming in. Jasper, Arab, Gulf Shores - they're loaded."
Tallassee beat Gulf Shores in the dual semifinal to reach Birmingham and could meet them again this go-round.
"This is probably one of the most talented teams we've had, but I told the kids that doesn't mean anything. We have to get better every day. Everything's got to go right."
In addition to state placers Bell (1st in 132) and Mason Nelson (3rd in 113), a couple of Wetumpka transfer state placers join the roster; Ramon Lozada (4th in 113) and Roman McWilliams (5th in 120).
SE Wrestle posted a preview on the 2023-24 THS squad. "Lots of talent on this team... 5A better be prepared... Tallassee is coming for the title."
The season begins on Thursday, Nov. 16 at home against Central Phenix City and Beulah.