Cleveland Takes Charge In AAA State Wrestling

Hixson Second In A/AA After Miserable Evening Session

Saturday, February 15, 2014 - by John Hunt

FRANKLIN -- Cleveland finally caught and passed Wilson Central in the AAA division while Hixson will try to bounce back in the A-AA competition after a miserable showing in the championship semifinals here at the Williamson County Agricultural Exposition Center on Friday in the second day of the TSSAA State Wrestling Tournament.

Cleveland trailed the Wildcats by three points following Thursday's action, but the Blue Raiders took charge during the quarterfinals on Friday morning by winning seven of eight matches while Wilson Central only won three of seven.

The Blue Raiders are now comfortably in front after sending five individuals into the championship finals with 188 points.  Cleveland also has five more who will also finish in the medals.

Wilson Central is a distant second with 145.5 while Bradley is in third with 131.  Ravenwood and Soddy Daisy complete the top five AAA teams with 117 and 107.5 points.  Walker Valley is eighth with 85.

Hixson looked like they might run away with the A-AA tournament after sending nine into the championship semis, but oh how things can change in a hurry.  The Wildcats only won one of those nine semifinal matches. 

While Hixson still has 10 in the medals, it will take some hard work on Saturday and a little luck to catch Alcoa, who is currently in first place with 129.  Hixson is second with 100.5 points.

Pigeon Forge is third with 90.5 while Notre Dame is fourth with 74.5 after sending three into the Saturday finals.  Red Bank and Signal Mountain are tied for fifth with 66 points while East Ridge is seventh with 64.5.  Central is currently eighth with 63.

Cleveland's third straight title is all but locked up after Friday's action.  Coach Jake Yost tries to be cool, calm and collected and he is for the most part, but he could hardly contain his happiness after the way his Blue Raiders performed on Friday night.

"I would have liked to have one more in the medals, but we've done great today and I'm thrilled," he began while awaiting John Gaither's last consolation match of the evening.

"We won seven out of eight in the quarters and then won five of seven in the semis.  I think that may be the most finalists we've ever had and I'm not sure we've ever had 10 medalists, but it's been a good day for the Blue Raiders," Yost concluded.

Cleveland's finalists include Christopher Debien at 126, Austin Stevison at 132, Ezra Taylor at 138, Josh Hamilton at 170 and Ethan West at 195.  Triston Blansit, Aaron Oliver, Koran Kennedy, William Haas and Gaither are still in the consolations.

The Bradley Bears had a positive day after a tough start on Thursday.  Bradley has three finalists in Ryan McElhaney at 106, Toribio Navarro at 113 and Knox Fuller at 120, who had the biggest win of the day when he shocked Tullahoma's top-seeded Devan Cyree in the semifinals by a 10-8 final.  Brett Brown is still in the medals at 182.

"Winning three of three in the semis was some big points for us and we needed them," said head coach Ben Smith.

"Our guys in the lighter weights came through big time again.  We might be able to catch Wilson Central, but we have to have some help.  I'm okay with Cleveland getting the gold as long as we take home the silver," Smith nodded.

Soddy Daisy advanced two to the finals while two others are still fighting for third place.  Tucker Russo (138) and Gage Richmond (145) will be in the hunt for a championship while Austin Williamson and Jacob McClure will be in the hunt among the consolations.

"It's been a good day for Soddy Daisy and our fight from yesterday has tripled," said a happy coach Jim Higgins.

"Our kids really showed some character today and Jacob McClure will earn his first medal.  I couldn't be any more proud of the way he bounced back today.  He lost to that kid yesterday, but just came back to beat him and I'm thrilled for him," Higgins noted.

Alcoa only brought eight wrestlers to the tournament, but they have four in the finals and the others are all still alive in the medal hunt.  Coach Brian Gossett was hoping to do well, but he wasn't expecting to be in first place midway through the tournament.

"I was confident that we'd do well this weekend, but no way did I expect to be leading at this point.  We knew that Hixson and Pigeon Forge were the teams to beat, but we have eight in the medals and we brought eight kids.  It doesn't get much better than that," he beamed late Friday night.

Hixson coach Garrick Hall knows how big a challenge his team is now facing after such tough luck in the semifinals.

"I'm feeling a little bit better, but we lost eight of nine in the semis and that hurts big time," he began.

"We had a great start in the morning session when we won nine of 12 matches, but we have to battle back now and hope that Alcoa comes up a bit short on Saturday.  I think we still have a shot at winning, but it will be tough," Hall nodded

While Alcoa leads the way among the A-AA teams with four in the finals, Red Bank, Notre Dame and Signal Mountain all have three while East Ridge and Central have two apiece.

Red Bank will be represented by Trent Comeaux at 106, Gabe McDuffie at 138 and Devin Crawl at 170 while Notre Dame will have Luke Mullin at 113, Packy Mullin at 138 and Noah Bankston at 145.  Signal Mountain's three include Warren Weaver at 113, Cale Shelton at 182 and Micah Pressley at 220.

"We did okay as we're headed in the right direction," said Red Bank coach Shane Turner after his Lions had finished for the day.

"It's been a long time since Red Bank had three in the finals and they're all sophomores.  I think that McDuffie may be the biggest surprise as he didn't even have a winning record last year, but they've all worked extremely hard and I couldn't be any more proud," Turner said quietly.

DeAngelo Johnson (170) and C.J. Baker (285) are the two from East Ridge while Xavier Norwood advanced for Central at 152 as did Truman Martin at 195.

Other Chattanooga-area finalists in AAA include Walker Valley's Billy Raulston at 182, who was the runner-up at 195 last year. Other finalists in A-AA include Dylan Bargerstock of Hixson at 182 and Trent Walliser of Lookout Valley at 120.

Perhaps the best story of the entire tournament is the showing by the three young men from Brainerd.

Denzell Robinson advanced to the semifinals at 170 and will medal as will 285-pound Sedric Jordan.

"I'm really excited as I had no idea what to expect as we've never been here before," said an elated head coach David Moore after Jordan had prevailed in his consolation quarterfinal match.

"We just want our program to grow and we hope that the little bit of success we've had today will help that cause.  I was hoping we'd get three in the medals, but they were a bit nervous before we got started," Moore nodded.

Results from all divisions can be accessed at trackwrestling.com.

(email John Hunt at nomarathonmoose@Comcast.net)



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