Cleveland HS Wrestling - Its Humble Beginning

Blue Raiders in State Duals Semifinals

Friday, February 1, 2013 - by BB. Branton

“If I was a high school football coach, all my linemen would wrestle. What you learn from wrestling - self-discipline, stamina and the ability to protect your legs - can be transferred to football."

-- Bill Emendorfer, Cleveland HS’s first state wrestling champion (1968, heavyweight)



From practices held in a junior high science class on used YMCA mats in the mid-1960s to a new millennium state power, the Cleveland Blue Raider mat program has won five state titles (traditional and duals) in three different decades with 20+  individual champs.

“We were a new high school in the fall of 1964 and, of course, a new wrestling program and to say we didn’t know much was an understatement,” said Bill Emendorfer with a laugh who was the program’s first state champ in 1968.

“Any success we had was due to pure athletic ability and hard work.”

State Duals Semis: The Blue Raiders have continued the hard work over the years and are in the D-I AAA state duals semifinals Saturday at 2 p.m. at the Williamson County Ag Expo in Franklin. Longtime rival Soddy Daisy is in the semis in the other half bracket as the two teams hope to meet in the finals Saturday night.

On Friday, Cleveland defeated Cordova (73-0) in the round of 16 and Clarksville (61-12) in the quarters, while Soddy Daisy stopped Science Hill (51-16) in the round of 16 and Maryville (31-30). Soddy Daisy won the state duals and traditional crowns a year ago and Cleveland won the state traditional in 2011.

 Emendorfer did note that Blue Raider coach Jim Tanara took some of the wrestlers to summer camps at such top college schools as Oklahoma, Iowa and Iowa State.

“We (coaches and wrestlers) were learning together and those summer wrestling camps were invaluable to us,” Emendorfer stated.

Evidently, the Athens, Tenn. native was a quick learner as he won the aforementioned state, was also a state runner-up in 1969, won two region titles and lost only three matches in three years.

Emendorfer’s success has been repeated by such Blue Raider legends as Johnny Lennon, Hank Howard, Carlos Thompson and Danny Coleman.

Emendorfer Notes: After Emendorfer’s junior year, coach Tanara became an assistant football coach and head wrestling coach at Alabama … Though heavily recruited to sign with Alabama by coach Tanara, Emendorfer decided to stay in state to and wrestle and play football at Tennessee.

“Choosing to sign with Tennessee and having to say no to coach Tanara was such a difficult decision for me since he was a good friend of our family,” stated Emendorfer who was a two-time All-SEC offensive lineman for the Vols under coach Bill Battle and was also chosen for the sophomore All-American team in 1970 . 

Blue Raider Football: Emendorfer played five years on the varsity football team (8th grade year the team played a JV schedule in the school’s first year, 1964-65) … he led them to three bowl game victories and a 10-0 record as a senior in the fall of 1968.

Contact B.B. Branton at

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