CLEVELAND, Tenn. – The once-beaten and top-ranked Cleveland Blue Raiders are the Region 4 Duals wrestling champions for 2018, but they had to beat two pretty good teams here at Bradley’s Jim Smiddy Arena Thursday night to do so.
Cleveland, improving to 30-1 for the season, opened the action with a 33-24 victory over Bradley in one semifinal while Soddy Daisy advanced to the finals with a 45-27 win over Walker Valley.
Then in the championship, the Blue Raiders bolted out to a 21-3 lead after the first six matches before defeating the Trojans by a 35-25 final.
Cleveland and Soddy Daisy both advance to the AAA division of the State Duals, which will be held next weekend in Franklin.
Bryce Pond had a first-period pin at 126 to give Cleveland the early lead over Soddy Daisy before Garrett Stevenson and Logan Whiteside added regular decisions for a 12-0 lead.
Austin Sweeney added a pin and Zach Brezna a tough 5-4 decision to give Cleveland a 21-3 lead before the Trojans started their comeback.
Bailey Faires had a decision at 170 before Cleveland’s Jack Hicks posted a win by technical fall at 182 for a 26-6 lead.
Brent Settles and Addison Roberts sandwiched pins around a technical fall by Ty Boeck to get Soddy Daisy within 26-23, but Cleveland regained the momentum and basically won the match when Trae McDaniel won by decision at 106.
Jackson Bradford then put a little icing on the cake with a pin at 113.
Several members of Cleveland’s team have been battling the flu this week and were obviously not at full strength, but they were able to dig down deep and beat two of their biggest rivals.
Cleveland coach Joey Knox was anxious to head home for some much-needed rest after the second match, but he was just thankful that his kids found a way to win when it would have been just as easy to do otherwise.
“A bunch of us have had the flu for the past week and it showed, but we were somehow able to battle through it,” Knox said before the championship plaques had been handed out.
“I was sort of surprised that we wrestled that last match as we haven’t in recent years, but we’re a whole lot better than we showed. The pressure is off a little bit, but our job is to get healthy so we can get ready to take care of business next weekend.
“We knew that Soddy Daisy would be a battle and it was probably our toughest match of the year so far,” Knox concluded.
Soddy Daisy had lost a dual meet at Cleveland on Jan. 4, but Trojan coach Jim Higgins felt like his team is capable of wrestling with the Blue Raiders then and he feels more convinced now than ever.
“We just want one more shot, but we came up here to wrestle tonight and that’s what the fans paid to see. We really didn’t have anything to lose and I feel really good about the way we battled them,” he began.
“We lost a couple of matches that I felt could have gone either way and we had more than enough opportunities to win. They still haven’t seen our best team yet, but now we just need to capitalize on our opportunities next weekend,” he concluded.
Bradley won the first match against Cleveland when 120-pound Daniel Mroz claimed a 4-1 decision, but the Blue Raiders then reeled off six straight wins and seven wins in eight matches for a 27-6 lead following a pin from Hicks at 182.
D.J. Gibson and Kevin Gentry won back-to-back decisions at 195 and 220 before Titus Swafford recorded a 36-second pin at 285 to put Cleveland up, 33-12.
The Blue Raiders then forfeited the final two matches for the final difference of nine points.
Bradley coach Ben Smith doesn’t believe in moral victories, but Thursday’s loss was much closer than the one earlier when the Blue Raiders prevailed, 44-9.
“I think we sealed our fate on Tuesday (a tough 27-21 loss at Soddy Daisy), but I felt like we wrestled well tonight. I felt like we wanted it tonight as all I was asking for was better effort and more fight. We got both. Cleveland is better than we are right now and I wish them and Soddy Daisy the best of luck next weekend.
“The worst part is that two pretty good teams are having to stay home. Now we just need to refocus a little bit and get ready to make a run at the individual tournaments, but I’m confident that we’ll be ready,” Smith added.
Walker Valley gave the Trojans a run for their money in the other semifinal match before the Trojans pulled away at the end.
James Jur gave the Mustangs an early 3-0 lead with a 6-5 decision at 120.
A forfeit to Jacob Kilgore and a decision by Briston Hatfield allowed the Trojans to take the lead at 9-3.
Walker Valley then won three of the next four matches, including pins from Joey Vecchione at 152 and Heath Tanksley at 160 for a 18-15 lead before Soddy Daisy pulled away with four pins in the next four matches for a 39-21 lead following Roberts’ pin at 285.
Each team claimed a forfeit in the final two matches for the 45-27 final.
Walker Valley coach Alan Morris had good feelings about his team, despite the loss.
“We battled the best that we could and I’m really proud of that, but we’re in the toughest region in the state,” he began his comments after his team’s match.
“Soddy Daisy has a good team and there were several spots where they were simply better than us. We got a good win from Heath Tanksley at 160 and I liked what I saw from my guy at 285.
“Jadon Langford is just a freshman who’s worked all season to get his weight down and today was his first varsity match. He got caught in a mistake by a good kid, but I’m really excited about him as he’s our heavyweight for the future,” Morris nodded.
While Cleveland is now 30-1, Soddy Daisy falls to 10-2 with both losses to the Blue Raiders. Bradley is now 15-10 while Walker Valley's record stands at 12-5.
CLEVELAND 35, SODDY DAISY 25
(Match began at 126 pounds)
106 – Trae McDaniel (Clev) dec. Jacob Allen, 8-4;
113 – Jackson Bradford (Clev) pinned Cole Prestwood, 4:37;
120 – Jacob Pratt (SD) dec. Burns Meagher, 3-2;
126 – Bryce Pond (Clev) pinned Jacob Kilgore, 1:21;
132 – Garrett Stevenson (Clev) dec. Briston Hatfield, 8-3;
138 – Logan Whiteside (Clev) dec. Landon Lewis, 11-4;
145 – Tony Wilson (SD) dec. Cody Mathews, 11-10 in overtime;
152 – Austin Sweeney (Clev) pinned Bobby Vincent, 1:29;
160 – Zach Brezna (Clev) dec. Hayden Maynor, 5-4;
170 – Bailey Faires (SD) dec. Seth Eachus, 3-0;
182 – Jack Hicks (Clev) won by technical fall over Bryce Settles, 4:26;
195 – Brent Settles (SD) pinned Logan Strickland, 5:53;
220 – Ty Boeck (SD) won by technical fall over Wilson Benefield, 4:38;
285 – Addison Roberts (SD) pinned Titus Swafford, 4:38.
SEMIFINAL MATCHES (Both began at 120 Pounds)
CLEVELAND 33, BRADLEY 24
106 -- Glen O'Daniel (Brad) won by forfeit;
113 -- Wes Devaney (Brad) won by forfeit;
120 -- Daniel Mroz (Brad) dec. Burns Meagher, 4-1;
126 -- Bryce Pond (Clev) pinned Gavin Hughes, 3:01;
132 -- Jayce Mullin (Clev) dec. Sergio Hernandez, 6-0;
138 -- Logan Whiteside (Clev) dec. Ian Marchesa, 7-3;
145 -- Cody Mathews (Clev) dec. Andy Robinson, 4-3;
152 -- Austin Sweeney (Clev) dec. Skyler Bradley, 3-2;
160 -- Zach Brezna (Clev) dec. Seth Gerena, 4-1;
170 -- Henley Headrick (Brad) dec. Seth Eachus, 3-0;
182 -- Jack Hicks (Clev) pinned Luke Pace, 3:11;
195 -- D.J. Hicks (Brad) dec. Logan Strickland, 11-4;
220 -- Kevin Gentry (Brad) dec. Wilson Benefield, 3-2;
285 -- Titus Swafford (Clev) pinned Gavin Sewell, :36.
SODDY DAISY 45, WALKER VALLEY 27
106 -- Jacob Allen (SD) won by forfeit;
113 -- Chandler Davis (WV) won by forfeit;
120 -- James Jur (WV) dec. Jacob Pratt, 6-5;
126 -- Jacob Kilgore (SD) won by forfeit;
132 -- Briston Hatfield (SD) dec. Tyler King, 7-3;
138 -- Zeth Haynie (WV) dec. Landon Lewis, 9-8;
145 -- Tony Wilson (SD) pinned Joshua Anderson, 1:05;
152 -- Joey Vecchione (WV) pinned Bobby Vincent, 1:05;
160 -- Heath Tanksley (WV) pinned Brandon Davis, 4:43;
170 -- Hayden Maynor (SD) pinned Kallum Lowe, 1:40;
182 -- Bryce Settles (SD) pinned Tristan Mason, 3:21;
195 -- Cody Duggan (WV) dec, Brent Settles, 11-6;
220 -- Ty Boeck (SD) pinned Nick Buck, 1:35;
285 -- Addison Roberts (SD) pinned Jadon Langford, 1:40.
(Email John Hunt at firstname.lastname@example.org)