There are still several key weeks of competition between now and the state tournaments, but the Cleveland Blue Raiders are trying to separate themselves from the rest of the state wrestling powers.
The two-time defending state champs are ranked first again this week and most likely will stay there next week after beating 15 other teams in the annual Soddy Daisy Showdown Saturday afternoon.
A lot of coaches will tell you that the consolation rounds are where tournaments are won and lost and that may be the case most of the time, but Cleveland made its move in the championship semifinals where they won seven of eight as they won the meet with five champions and 199 points.
Wilson Central, Soddy Daisy and Pigeon Forge, always in the hunt for top honors in the state, had to fight for the runner-up spot and that went to the Wildcats, who ended up with 132. Soddy Daisy was third with 130 while the Tigers had to settle for fourth with 129. Hewitt-Trussville was fifth with 120.
Winning individual titles for Cleveland were Colton Landers at 120, Chris DeBien at 132, Ezra Taylor at 145, John Gaither at 220 and Koran Kennedy at 285.
Cody Matthews (106) and Aaron Oliver (160) both finished as runners-up while Tristan Blansit was third at 126.
“We’re starting to put the pieces of the puzzle in the right place and get guys in their correct weight class, but we’re trying to get back in the swing of things,” said Cleveland coach Jake Yost before the championship matches even began.
“We haven’t wrestled since our dual meet on December 23 at Soddy Daisy, so I thought we looked a little rusty, but we were able to win seven of eight matches in the championship semis and that was a good round for us.
“We just wanted to come out and compete hard today. If you do that and do things the right way, good things normally happen, but we were hoping to do well today. We still have a lot of matches to wrestle, but it’s been a good day for us so far,” Yost nodded.
The Blue Raiders benefitted from the addition of DeBien and Kennedy to their lineup and both responded by winning championships. DeBien had been recovering from a torn ACL while Kennedy took a few weeks off after football ended to overcome a high ankle sprain.
“That’s a lot of points between those two,” Yost concluded.
While Cleveland led the way with five champions, Wilson Central and Soddy Daisy both had two while Pigeon Forge, Cookeville, Tullahoma, Hewitt-Trussville and Signal Mountain all had one apiece.
Champions for Wilson Central included Mike Binns at 152 and Perry Baltz at 195 while Soddy Daisy’s two winners included Landon Wheaton at 106 and Emory Holcomb at 138.
Other champions included Gavin Hutchens of Pigeon Forge at 113, Tullahoma’s Devan Cyree at 126, Hewitt-Trussville’s Davis Perry at 160, Cookeville’s Austin Hammons at 170 and Signal Mountain’s Cale Shelton at 182.
Cleveland’s DeBien, who had two pins and a technical fall in earlier rounds before posting a 15-4 major decision over Wilson Central’s Lane Dickeson in the finals, was honored as the Outstanding Wrestler for the lower weight (106-145) while Hewitt-Trussville’s Perry earned the same honor for the upper weights after winning with two technical falls and a major decision over Cleveland’s Aaron Oliver in the finals.
The 145-pound championship match between Cleveland’s Taylor and Soddy Daisy’s Tucker Russo was voted the Best Match after Taylor prevailed in overtime.
Neither wrestler scored in the opening period while each had escapes in the next two. Nobody scored in the opening one-minute overtime period and neither scored in the next two 30-second segments.
Because Taylor had scored first, he had the option in the fourth extra period and he chose top. He was declared the winner when Russo was unable to score.
Wilson Central coach John Kramer had mixed feelings about his team’s showing on Saturday. The Wildcats were somewhat shorthanded with only nine wrestlers present, but four were able to earn medals.
“I feel like we’re a better team than we showed today, but to finish second in this tournament with only nine wrestlers is a pretty good day for us,” he expressed.
“We’re surely not where we need to be as we’re nowhere near our potential. Some of our guys did what they were capable of and more while others did not,” he added.
Soddy Daisy coach Jim Higgins certainly wasn’t crazy about finishing third, but overall he was pleased with how things went throughout the tournament.
“I’m not really happy about that as nobody likes finishing second or third, but we had a great tournament today with some outstanding competition. Wilson Central had the upper hand today, but we’re right there with them,” Higgins nodded.
Brother Martin, a powerhouse team from Louisiana who won this tournament in 2013, was not present to defend its title.
FINAL TEAM SCORES: 1. Cleveland 199; 2. Wilson Central 132; 3. Soddy Daisy 130; 4. Pigeon Forge 129; 5. Hewitt Trussville 120; 6. Dobyns-Bennett 90; 7. Cookeville 72; 8. Tullahoma 68; 9. Independence 52; 10. Centennial 50; 11. Walker Valley 45; 12. Gibbs 44.5; 13. Suwannee 44; 14. Signal Mountain 40.5; 15. Oakland 37; 16. Grissom 22.5.
106 – Landon Wheaton (Soddy Daisy) dec. Cody Matthews (Cleveland), 8-4;
113 – Gavin Hutchens (Pigeon Forge) dec. Phillip Maxwell (Gibbs), 4-2;
120 – Colton Landers (Cleveland) pinned Heath Williamson (Hewitt Trussville), :55;
126 – Devan Cyree (Tullahoma) pinned Jacob McClure (Soddy Daisy);
132 – Chris DeBien (Cleveland) major dec. Lane Dickeson (Wilson Central), 15-4;
138 – Emory Holcomb (Soddy Daisy) pinned Adam Jeffers (Dobyns-Bennett), 3:19;
145 -- Ezra Taylor (Cleveland) won by sudden death overtime over Tucker Russo (Soddy Daisy);
152 – Mike Binns (Wilson Central) pinned Dalton Underwood (Cookeville), 2:00;
160 – Davis Perry (Hewitt Trussville) major dec. Aaron Oliver (Cleveland), 11-0;
170 – Austin Hammons (Cookeville) dec. Austin Williamson (Soddy Daisy), 8-5;
182 – Cale Shelton (Signal Mountain) dec. Chris Poole (Pigeon Forge), 7-2;
195 – Perry Baltz (Wilson Central) pinned Jack Manning (Independence), 1:22;
220 – John Gaither (Cleveland) dec. Ric Kennett (Walker Valley), 3-2 in overtime;
285 – Koran Kennedy (Cleveland) pinned Jonathan Ruth (Dobyns-Bennett), 2:00.
CONSOLATION FINALS FOR THIRD PLACE
106 – Reagan Land (Hewitt Trussville) pinned Brandon Trask (Suwannee), 2:20;
113 – Daniel Fowler (Independence) won by forfeit over Blake Turis (Grissom);
120 – Chase Payne (Soddy Daisy) won by forfeit over Owen Schneider (Independence);
126 – Tristan Blansit (Cleveland) pinned Hunter Knight (Centennial), 2:58;
132 – Matthew Kieta (Pigeon Forge) won by forfeit over Jeffrey Iler (Centennial);
138 – Sinjia Noga (Wilson Central) pinned Dylan McElhaney (Tullahoma), 2:56;
145 – Dalton Meadows (Hewitt Trussville) dec. Gary Reagan (Pigeon Forge), 4-2;
152 – Franklin Darnell (Pigeon Forge) dec. Reece Argo (Hewitt Trussville), 4-1;
160 – Joseph Begley (Dobyns-Bennett) major dec. Xavier Bohannon (Pigeon Forge), 13-5;
170 – Tyler Dean (Dobyns-Bennett) won by forfeit over Nathaniel Campbell (Hewitt Trussville);
182 – Tyler Foster (Suwannee) dec. John Lawson III (Gibbs), 5-0;
195 – Michael Lett (Tullahoma) dec. DeVonte Walker (Centennial), 6-1;
220 – Darren Houston (Cookeville) dec. Tyler Hill (Oakland), 3-1 in overtime;
285 – Christian Sisto (Pigeon Forge) pinned C.J. Schwark (Walker Valley), 1:42.
(Email John Hunt at firstname.lastname@example.org)