CLEVELAND, Tenn. – You can always be sure that the best wrestling teams in the state of Tennessee will be in attendance at the annual Cleveland Duals and that was again the case on Saturday in the brand new Blue Raider Arena at Cleveland High School.
Cleveland, McCallie and Christian Brothers are the top ranked teams in the season’s first poll released earlier this week and it's probably not a real surprise that’s the exact order they finished in the popular event that’s been held for the past 34 years and is now known as the Al Miller Cleveland Duals.
If those top three teams weren't enough, five more from the state's top 10 were also present, including Science Hill, Baylor, Bradley, Father Ryan and Arlington.
These three teams each won their respective pools and then wrestled a three-match round robin to determine the champion.
Cleveland beat Christian Brothers by a resounding 47-10 final in the first match while McCallie beat the Purple Wave by a 38-27 margin in the second.
Then in the last match of the day with the championship hardware on the line, it was the host Blue Raiders who claimed first place for the second-straight year with an impressive 42-23 victory over the Blue Tornado.
Cleveland’s Jack Hicks, one of seven Blue Raiders to win their final two matches, was honored as the tournament MVP after winning by technical fall against Christian Brothers and a pin against McCallie.
“I’m glad it’s over as today has been a really long day for all of us,” said Cleveland’s first-year head coach Joey Knox after his team improved to 12-1 with the comeback victory.
“The kids showed up early this morning and helped us get everything set up and they stayed focused for the rest of the day. We knew we’d have a tough match against McCallie as they are always good, but the bonus points were the key for us.
We got two pins and a technical fall at 138, 145 and 152 that got us on a roll and that momentum carried us through. We also got a big pin from Dylan Jones at 170 and that just added to our momentum.
“Jayce Mullin’s pin at 132 may have been the biggest turning point. We knew we were facing a tough kid at that weight and for Jayce to get a pin was just tremendous,” Knox added after taking a quick break for a few team pictures.
McCallie coach Mike Newman – like the rest of the coaches who bring teams to this gathering – knows that his team will see some really good competition and it gives his kids a chance to compete against state-ranked kids in the public-school division that they otherwise might not face.
“That was a great match and a really fun dual meet from the start today,” said Newman after his team lost for the first time after eight straight wins.
“We let a couple of big matches get away and lots were won on just plain hustle. We really got after it today and that’s what makes me happy. We also made some mistakes, but those are all fixable.
“We ran into a few buzz saws in the middle of Cleveland’s lineup as they’re solid at every weight. You never know what will happen in a situation like that, but it’s good for us to be able to wrestle teams like that. It’s been a great day of wrestling,” Newman concluded.
Wilson Benefield posted a 4-0 decision at 220 pounds to get Cleveland off on the right foot against McCallie, but the Blue Tornado won four of the next five matches and Cleveland was tagged with the loss of two team points for a 17-4 McCallie lead following Alex Whitworth’s 6-4 overtime decision at 126, one of three matches to go overtime in the final meet of the day.
Cleveland’s Knox admitted later that he was just a little bit nervous at that point, but he really didn’t have to worry about a thing as his team came storming back to win the next seven matches, including five with pins, one with a technical fall and the other with a regular decision.
Mullin and Logan Whiteside had back-to-back first-period pins at 132 and 132 to get Cleveland within a point at 17-16 before Cody Mathews gave the Blue Raiders the advantage for the last time with a technical fall at 145.
Austin Sweeney’s pin in 57 seconds made it 27-17 following the match at 152 before Zach Brezna’s overtime decision at 160 kept the ball rolling for the hosts.
Dylan Jones and Hicks then put the final touches of icing on the cake with first-period pins at 170 and 182 before Walker Robinson finished the match with a third-period pin for McCallie for the final 19-point margin of victory.
Trae McDaniel had Cleveland’s other win with a 5-3 overtime decision at 106.
McCallie’s other winners included River Henry with a pin at 285, Emory Taylor with a technical fall at 120 and Christian Morris, who scored a reversal in the final second to post a thrilling 15-13 decision over Jackson Bradford at 113.
Bradford knotted the score with a takedown in the final 10 seconds, only to have Morris win with the reversal at the end.
Cleveland won its pool with wins over Father Ryan and Heritage while Christian Brothers defeated teams from Science Hill, Baylor and Cleveland’s B-team.
McCallie had three impressive wins over Beech, Arlington and Bradley, the last by a 60-17 margin over the defending Class AAA state champion Bears.
CLEVELAND 42, McCALLIE 23
(Match began at 220 pounds)
106 – Trae McDaniel (Clev) dec. Jack Braman, 5-3 in overtime;
113 – Christian Morris (McC) dec. Jackson Bradford, 15-13;
120 – Emory Taylor (McC) won by technical fall over Burns Meagher, 4:26;
126 – Alex Whitworth (McC) dec. Bryce Pond, 6-4 in overtime;
132 – Jayce Mullin (Clev) pinned Zach Ward, 1:12;
138 – Logan Whiteside (Clev) pinned Ian Herring,m :28;
145 – Cody Mathews (Clev) won by technical fall over Caleb Jones, 4:05;
152 – Austin Sweeney (Clev) pinned David Fisk, :57;
160 – Zach Brezna (Clev) dec. Hayden Rowland, 8-6 in overtime;
170 – Dylan Jones (Clev) pinned Thomas Sell, 1:47;
182 – Jack Hicks (Clev) pinned Russell Barry, :54;
195 – Walker Robinson (McC) pinned Logan Strickland, 5:10;
220 – Wilson Benefield (Clev) dec. Chase Looper, 4-0;
285 – River Henry (McC) pinned Titus Swafford, 1:15.
(email John Hunt at email@example.com)