TUSCUMBIA — The dome, the crowd and the spotlight.
Three combined to create an atmosphere Deshler’s wrestlers fed off of Tuesday night.
They rarely enough get to compete at home — this being the sixth time in the last four years — let alone in the high school’s dome-shaped gym.
Three of those home matches came in the dome, with the other three at the middle school.
Tuesday’s was the first Deshler’s current seniors have wrestled under the spotlight, which shines down from the scoreboard that hangs over center-court.
The spotlight will be removed along with the scoreboard later this year, and a large crowd came out to experience a unique wrestling atmosphere for the first and perhaps final time in a long time.
“It shocked me,” senior wrestler Tyler Vinson said. “I’ve never seen that many supporters come out here to watch us wrestle. Wrestling around here has really died down. There’s not been a lot of support. This is first year I’ve seen a wrestling banner hanging up in the hallway here.
“To experience an atmosphere like we had tonight, it was exciting.”
In its only home stand of the year, Deshler faced James Clemens and Athens in back-to-back dual matches. The Tigers lost both, the first thanks largely to injuries that caused forfeits in three weight classes.
With the crowd filling the home-side stands for the opening James Clemens match, Deshler’s varsity wrestlers won 6 of 8 matches head-to-head, three by fall.
Vinson led the way for the Tigers, pinning his opponents from James Clemens and Athens to win both of his matches by fall. Normally a competitor in the 152-pound weight class, Vinson competed in 160 against James Clemens.
“It was my first time being able to wrestle in here in the dome since my freshman year,” Vinson said. “It pushes you to want to win even more.
“It’s hard to get other teams to come here because the only other local team is Muscle Shoals. The next closest is Hartselle. Everybody goes to big tournaments on the weekend instead of traveling to compete during the week. That’s how they get their matches in to prepare for sectionals and state.”
Tyler Williams (106) also won both of his matches by fall.
Louis Torres (115) went 2-0 on the night, winning by pin against James Clemens.
Michael Johnson, a senior, split his matches, winning 8-4 on points in the 132-pound class against James Clemens.
Another senior, Juakeem Fuqua won by decision in both of his matches, 5-2 against James Clemens in the 147-pound class and 6-0 against Athens.
“It feels real good to be able to compete at home,” Fuqua said. “Especially when they told us they were going to put the light on and that they’re not going to do it anymore.
“It’s a big deal. A lot of older guys who used to wrestle came out to see and talked with us. That was neat. It was the biggest crowd I’ve ever seen here for a match. That created a lot of excitement. Everybody yelling in here, it was hard to hear. I like it.”
It brought back memories for Deshler coach Jae Lockett, who wrestled for a year at Deshler in the early 80s.
The spotlight, which had been broken for the last several years, was installed when he was a student there. He remembered crowds like this being the norm for home matches, which were more common in those days, with area schools like Sheffield, Central, Bradshaw and Coffee also fielding teams.
“For me, this was my first time coaching in here since 2004,” said Lockett, who is coaching the team again this season for the first time since 2004. “But to see and hear the crowd and with the light on, it did bring back some memories.”
Bryan App can be reached at 256-740-5730 or email@example.com. Follow @bappster on Twitter.