CHARLESTON, Tenn. -- They had quite an exciting Region 4-AAA wrestling tournament here at Walker Valley High School, but for the third straight year, the Cleveland Blue Raiders came out on top with 196 points.
This was the first year for teams from Soddy Daisy, Ooltewah and East Hamilton to be in this region, but that didn't seem to bother the Blue Raiders, who sent nine into the championship finals and went home with seven champions as they qualified 11 wrestlers for the traditional state tournament that begins on Thursday in Franklin.
"I'm really proud of these guys as they did well today," said Cleveland coach Jake Yost in his usual upbeat tone.
"We qualified 11 of our 13 for next week, but we had a third and a fourth to go along with seven champions, so I'm ecstatic. We were behind Bradley going into the last round and knew that we needed a strong performance in the finals.
"We beat a bunch of tough kids here today, but we're right where we need to be and we're taking 11 to the state who can score some big points for our team. We knew it was possible to catch Bradley and we came out and wrestled well.
"I'm really proud of Aaron Oliver at 152. He beat both of the top two seeds and looked better than he's looked all year," Yost nodded.
Cleveland finished the day with 196 points while Bradley was the runner-up with 178.5. Host Walker Valley was third with 171 while Soddy Daisy was fourth with 137.5.
Ooltewah was fifth with 44 points while East Hamilton was sixth with 42 and Rhea County seventh with 21. McMinn County failed to score.
Walker Valley's Drake Haney beat Bradley's Ryan McElhaney by a 9-6 decision after leading 9-1 early. That match was later voted as the Best Match of the tournament.
Bradley teammates Toribio Navarro and Knox Fuller then won by pins before Cleveland got on a roll.
Chris Debien and Austin Stevison got the Blue Raiders off and running with pins at 126 and 132 before Ezra Taylor pulled a shocker by beating Soddy Daisy's Tucker Russo in a 4-3 decision at 138.
Oliver later posted a 7-1 decision over Walker Valley's Ryan Hager in the 152-pound final before Josh Hamilton (170), Ethan West (195) and Koran Kennedy (220) all won.
Walker Valley had four champions with Lawrence Cotton (160), Billy Raulston (182) and Zach Miller (285) joining Haney at the top of the awards stand.
The other winner was Soddy Daisy's Gage Richmond at 145.
Bradley leads the way with 13 state qualifiers while Cleveland and Walker Valley both have 11. Soddy Daisy will send 10.
Bradley coach Ben Smith tried to not be overly excited, but he had a tough time containing his happiness when the tournament ended.
"I'm fairly pleased as we wrestled well, but it was a winnable tournament for us and we finished second," Smith explained.
"We had the lead halfway through the championship finals and that was a pleasant surprise, but we set some tangible goals at the start of the week. We're sending all 13 of our wrestlers to the state and we're taking the runner-up plaque home, so that's what I'm most proud of.
"We're within striking distance of Cleveland. A little more of this here and a little bit more of that there and things may have been different. We were close, but I'm really happy with what we did today," Smith nodded.
While the Haney-McElhaney battle won the Best Match award, Cleveland's Christopher Debien was voted the Outstanding Wrestler after winning the 126-pound title with a first-period pin.
LEGEND AND FINAL TEAM SCORES: 1. Cleveland (Clev) 196; 2. Bradley Central (BC) 178.5; 3. Walker Valley (WV) 171; 4. Soddy Daisy (SD) 137.5; 5. Ooltewah (O) 44; 6. East Hamilton (EH) 42; 7. Rhea County (RC) 21; 8. McMinn County (McCo) 0.
106 -- Drake Haney (WV) dec. Ryan McElhaney (BC), 9-6;
113 -- Toribio Navarro (BC) pinned Tristan Blansit (Clev), 5:53;
120 -- Knox Fuller (BC) pinned Matt Meeks (EH), 1:15;
126 -- Christopher Debien (Clev) pinned Hunter Parker (BC), 1:45;
132 -- Austin Stevison (Clev) pinned Emory Holcomb (SD), 3:23;
138 -- Ezra Taylor (Clev) dec. Tucker Russo (SD), 4-3;
145 -- Gage Richmond (SD) pinned Tyrus Hamrick (WV), 1:21;
152 -- Aaron Oliver (Clev) dec. Ryan Hager (WV), 7-1;
160 -- Lawrence Cotton (WV) major dec. Garrett Alexander (SD), 11-3;
170 -- Josh Hamilton (Clev) pinned Tyler Hixson (SD), 1:51;
182 -- Billy Raulston (WV) dec. Brett Brown (BC), 7-2;
195 -- Ethan West (Clev) major dec. Ric Kennett (WV), 10-0;
220 -- Koran Kennedy (Clev) won by forfeit over Daniel Cochran (RC);
285 -- Zach Miller (WV) dec. John Gaither (Clev), 3-1.
CONSOLATION FINALS FOR THIRD PLACE
106 -- Briar Potter (EH) won by forfeit;\
113 -- Mason Blevins (SD) pinned Zane Smith (WV), 4:27;
120 -- Jacob McClure (SD) dec. Taylor Bishop (Clev), 6-5;
126 -- Austin Gregory (WV) pinned Nick Akins (EH), 2:42;
132 -- Joseph Munoz (WV) won by forfeit over Taylor Kazy (BC);
138 -- Stephen Scott (BC) pinned Ethan Vandehei (EH), 4:28;
145 -- William Haas (Clev) dec. Caleb Adkins (BC), 9-7;
152 -- Austin Williamson (SD) pinned Colter McConnell (BC), 4:00;
160 -- Greg Wilson (BC) dec. Tyler Reid (O), 11-10;
170 -- Nathan Adams (BC) dec. Donovan Thomas (O), 5-2;
182 -- Hunter Maynor (SD) dec. Victor Bednarski (O), 5-1;
195 -- Christian Dean (SD) dec. Zach McFarland (BC), 3-2;
220 -- Kelvin Leon (O) dec. Xzayvier Beckingham (WV), 10-8;
285 -- J.J. Johnson (BC) dec. Jacob Keltch (O), 2-1.
(Email John Hunt at email@example.com)