FRANKLIN, Tenn. – There won’t be a A-AA team from Chattanooga winning a state duals title in 2013. As a matter of fact, there won’t even be a team from Chattanooga in the championship match.
The East Ridge Pioneers rolled to a 50-27 win over Sycamore in the opening round here at the Williamson County Agricultural Expo Center Friday night, but they lost a 44-36 heartbreaker to Greeneville in the semifinals.
Greeneville had started its day with an impressive 39-31 win over the Hixson Wildcats, but it took a dramatic comeback by junior Justin Carlson in the last match of the meet at 145 pounds to secure the win over East Ridge and propel the Greene Devils into the finals against Pigeon Forge, which advanced with a 42-32 win over Stone Memorial.
East Ridge and Greeneville were tied at 30-30 following a pin by Jon Boatman at 120 while teammate Josh Vance made it 36-30 with a pin at 126, despite trailing the Pioneers’ Brandon Whitley by a 4-1 score at the time.
A decision by Greeneville’s Rob Shelton extended the lead to 39-30 before East Ridge rallied with a pin from Robert McAvoy at 138.
With the match hanging in the balance and the Greene Devils holding a slim three-point lead, it all came down to the 145-pound match between Greeneville’s Justin Carlson and East Ridge’s Josh Kilgore.
Kilgore built a nice lead going into the second period and had Carlson on his back and almost pinned, but the Greeneville junior rallied with a reversal and a pin with one second to go in the second period to secure the win.
“When I got the reverse and put him on his back, I was confident that I was going to pin him,” Carlson said after being mobbed by his teammates.
“I had to win that match for my teammates, but when he had me on my back, I was scared to death. He had me squeezed so tight that I thought I was going to throw up,” Carlson added.
It was a bitter pill to swallow for East Ridge coach Brad Laxton and his Pioneers.
“We simply didn’t do enough to win this match,” Laxton said before addressing his team.
“Give all the credit to Greeneville because they won all of the close matches. We fought hard, but we just came up short. We still have some business to tend to on Saturday. We had several of their guys on their backs and didn’t get the pin while they did the same to us and got the call. It’s just a heartbreaker,” Laxton added.
Greeneville’s win over East Ridge was just a continuation of some really good wrestling as the Greene Devils totally dominated Hixson in the opening round.
Hixson had a 9-3 lead early, but a decision and two pins gave the lead back to Greeneville and they never trailed again. The difference was 39-19 before Hixson won the last two matches.
“The kids just didn’t step up as we didn’t wrestle up to our potential,” said Hixson coach Garrick Hall shortly after the match ended.
“Greeneville brought it to us as we lost some matches we shouldn’t have lost. I knew that they presented matchup problems, but we’re suffering from freshmanitis. We have a lot of new kids in our lineup and they had a chip on their shoulder as they wanted to prove they deserved to be here.
“When you shift your lineup and win, you look like a genius. When you do that and lose, you look like an idiot,” Hall said after his team’s record dropped to 17-6.
Hixson faces Sycamore in a consolation match at 10 a.m. Chattanooga time on Saturday with the winner facing Stone Memorial.
East Ridge awaits the winner of the Martin Luther King-Eagleville match at noon with the winner wrestling for third place at 2.
The Central Purple Pounders are the defending A-AA champions who didn’t qualify while Pigeon Forge was the runner-up in 2012.
(email John Hunt at email@example.com)