Following on the heels of the Cleveland Blue Raiders winning a third consecutive state championship, the Higher Calling Kids Wrestling Club also dominated the Tennessee AAU State Championship tournament held over the weekend in Cookeville.
The club, coached by Josh Bosken, accumulated a total of 635.5 tournament team points, which is up from 440.5 points scored a year ago.
Higher Calling was the 2015 Tennessee AAU Middle State Champion and overall team champion for the second consecutive year.
“This was a huge day for the entire squad and bodes well for the future of Cleveland High School wrestling,” said Bosken, who leads the competitive youth wrestling organization. “Our goal is to train and maintain the highest-quality athletes to help continue the finest wrestling program in the state.”
Higher Calling is a wrestling program that gives young wrestlers of all skill levels, grades K through 5, a chance to learn the essentials of practice and competition.
“Our wrestlers finished in a commanding first place overall with a 338 lead over the second place team, Wave Wrestling, who had 315 tournament team points,” said Bosken. “Further, in the stand-alone divisions, Higher Calling took first place in the 3-4th grade division (midget), first place in the 5-6th grade division (juniors), and first place in the 7-8th grade division (middle-school).”
Bosken said the club had 55 kids from the state participate in the state tournament - up from 29 a year ago – and had a historical record of 33 state placers, 18 finalists, and 12 champs.
After the victory, Bosken offered a special thanks to Check Into Cash and its founder and CEO Allan Jones.
“Check Into Cash has given financially to all age groups of wrestlers in return for advertising on T-shirts, posters and other promotional materials distributed each season,” he said. “The company also purchased a bus for the club which has been invaluable. They have done more for these kids than we ever thought possible.”
Along with purchasing a bus for Higher Calling, the Allan Jones Foundation and CIC act as the primary funders of the club, paying for whatever needs arise, he said. "This enables those who aren’t financially able to wrestle to do so through a matching program. The company was the sole funder of the team’s trip to the recent state tournament in Franklin to see the Blue Raiders win another state title," Bosken said.
Bosken said the Foundation matches every dollar the wrestlers raise.
For Jones, he said it is a gift that needs no explanation.
“Higher Calling is important because the wrestlers develop a love for the sport and build a strong work ethic that will carry them through life,” said Jones. “The club also strives to teach the young athletes moral character and good sportsmanship. Winning starts at this level, which is why Cleveland is a hotbed for champions.”
Jones said he puts an emphasis on quality coaching.
“It's the coaches that make the Cleveland programs successful,” he said. “The coaches have to be willing to put the time in. When we find they are willing, Check into Cash is ready to put the money in to make it happen. Coach Bosken and his staff have done an excellent job and Check Into Cash intends to step up their donations even more in the future.”
Dawn McDaniel, a Check Into Cash employee who manages the company’s national Vehicle Appraisal Assistance Center, is the parent of Higher Calling’s Trae McDaniel. She says the club is important because it provides an opportunity for kids who otherwise wouldn’t be able to compete.
“We have kids who can’t afford the singlets, can’t afford their uniforms, and can’t afford to wrestle the tournaments,”Ms. McDaniel said. “Check Into Cash allows the young athletes in this community to have a chance that they would never have if it wasn’t for their sponsorship. It means a lot.”
Bosken said Cleveland’s road to dominance began in 2006, when the Allan Jones Foundation donated $50,000 to the city school system to hire the athletic recruiting firm Double Pump International so that a national search for a coaching staff could be hired to replace the retiring Al Miller at Cleveland High.
New coaches were hired for the high school, middle school and kids club, and the foundation implemented a “six-year plan” designed to guide the Cleveland wrestlers to a championship.
Mike Hatcher, a graduate from the University of Iowa, was brought in to take over the Kids Club. Bosken, who also helped Eslinger, joined him. When Hatcher left, Bosken settled into the Kids Club coaching role to ensure the Cleveland pipeline would stay full.
"The concept back in 2006 was that in six years, the sixth-graders would be seniors and would have come through the system installed by coach Heath Eslinger and would win the state championship,” Bosken said.
Prior to the implementation of the six-year plan, Bradley Central High School had served as a long-respected state powerhouse, and had beaten Cleveland in competition for 19 consecutive years. For the past four years, Cleveland wrestlers have defeated their crosstown rivals, Bosken said.
“If there is a state championship won in wrestling, we want it to be one of our three schools,” said Jones. “It all starts with the Kids Club, which we recognized back in 2006. Josh Bosken is doing an incredible job, and we congratulate him on the 2015 State Championship and Team Championship.”
Bosken said that as his team watched the high school athletes win in Franklin this year, the Higher Calling squad was reminded of what it takes to win.
“We are breeding future champions and as I saw the looks on these kids’ faces, I realized none of it would have been possible without Check Into Cash,” Bosken said. “They have turned these young lives around and we will always be grateful.”
Dawn McDaniel agreed.
If you haven’t been there—if you haven’t been in a program and had to pay your own way, then you don’t know the cost that’s behind it,” she said. “Check Into Cash made it so these kids and their parents didn’t have to think about cost – they allowed us to focus only on winning.”
The Higher Calling State Champions are:
Joseph Uhorchuk, 50lb bantam state champion
Ethan Uhorchuk, 50lb midget state champion
Tucker Smith, 65lb midget state champion
Caleb Uhorchuk, 60lb junior state champ
Trae McDaniel, 75lb junior 2x state champion
Cody Chittum, 85lb junior state champion
Garrett Bowers, 85lb middle school state champion
Logan Whiteside, 110lb state champion
Austin Sweeney, 120lb state champion
Russell Barry, 125lb state champion
Scott Jones, 160lb state champion
Caleb Flickner, 220lb state champion