A remarkable rise became complete Saturday night with the Tate High wrestling team.
The Aggies went from last in their district the past four seasons to hoisting their first championship trophy.
As the only high school in Escambia County with a wrestling program, Tate made history for its own program and had a breakthrough for Pensacola area schools by claiming the District 1-2A championship at Tate’s William T. Fryman Sports Complex.
“It’s huge, historic,” said second-year coach Reggie Allen, who previously coached at Pace High where his teams won back-to-back district titles in 2013-14.
“I have been thinking about this moment since the day I was hired,” he said. “I think this will change the culture. I really do. I am just so happy for these guys.”
The Aggies won six championship matches in separate weight classes en route to compiling 185.5 points. Pace was second at 145.5, followed by Gulf Breeze. The others competing in this district tournament were Niceville, Choctaw, Fort Walton Beach, Milton and Crestview.
Tate and Pace teams move on to the Region 1-2A tournament next weekend at Tallahassee-Chiles High. It will be with Tate carrying the area’s title banner.
“This is very special,” Allen said. “I’ve had three teams in my coaching career that I thought were my best. This is one of them.”
Seven of the team’s eight seniors reached the championship match of their class. Tate’s Jacob Cochran got the night started right when he won the district title at 106 pounds.
Alex Porter, nicknamed “Lightning” lit up the team when he followed with a win at 113 pounds.
Complete results of the tournament will be in Monday’s PNJ.
The other champions for Tate were Tanner Wood at 126 pounds, Logan Womack at 152 pounds, Juan Alverez at 160 pounds and Gavan McAnnally at 220 pounds.
Tate competed in 13 of the 14 weight classes in matches to reach the final four. The only class where the Aggies did not have a wrestler make it was at heavyweight due to an injury.
Just as he did when coaching at Pace, Allen told his wrestlers there was no special formula to having success in this sport.
“The reason we won at Pace is because we out-practiced everybody,” he said. “When I got here, I told the kids that I would be here with them four days a week and I would treat this just like any other sport.
“If you want to be a Tate baseball player, for example, what do you do? You play all year-round. Wrestling is no different. I started a summer program and all these guys who were juniors (a year ago) bought in.
“We competed in (summer) tournaments and we hosted tournaments. That’s the difference. The magic word is practice.“
Allen, now retired, was a high school wrestler at Naval Prep Academy in New London, Conn., and in college at the U.S. Coast Guard Academy. He’s lived the sport all his life.
“When I moved here in 1982, the only team that was wrestling was Niceville,” he said.