FRANKLIN, Tenn. – We’re down to the medal rounds here at the TSSAA traditional state wrestling tournament at the Williamson County Agricultural Exposition Park, but nobody has conceded anything to anyone so far.
It’s a really close race in two of the three races, but anyone who knows anything about the sport of wrestling will tell you that those last two consolation rounds where placement points are distributed for third, fourth, fifth and sixth places are really important.
There have been teams in the past who won the tournament based solely off those consolation matches, so nothing has been decided so far.
The Cleveland Blue Raiders have been in first place since the AAA tournament began on Thursday afternoon and those guys are still in first following Friday’s action as they head to the medal matches with 149 points and eight wrestlers still competing for medals.
Science Hill is second with 136 while Wilson Central is third with 125.5. Heritage and Beech are fourth and fifth with 119.5 and 114.5 points, respectively.
Science Hill has three in the finals while Cleveland and Wilson Central both have two each and Heritage one.
Gibbs is leading the A-AA competition as they compiled 139 points while advancing four to Saturday’s championship finals. Forrest is a distant second with 106 points and three finalists while the Hixson Wildcats hold the third spot with 98 points and three in the finals.
Harpeth is fourth with 86 while Signal Mountain is fifth with 83 points and one finalist.
Christian Brothers is the team to beat in D-II after the Purple Wave scored 173 points and advanced seven to Saturday’s finals.
McCallie is second with 159 and six finalists while Baylor is third with 134.5 and five finalists. Defending D-II state champ Father Ryan is a distant fourth with 77.5.
Trae McDaniel became Cleveland’s first finalist with a 2-0 decision in his semifinal match at 106, but it was Austin Sweeney’s stirring 6-4 victory over Beech’s Trevor Rippy that may have been the best match Friday night.
The score was deadlocked at 4-4 in the waning seconds, but the scrappy Blue Raider junior scored the decisive takedown right before the buzzer to advance with the 6-4 win.
Needless to say, first-year Cleveland coach Joey Knox was happy and worn out when the second day of competition finally ended.
“It’s been and up and down kind of day, sort of like a roller coaster. It’s been a lot of fun and we’ve wrestled hard, so that’s all I ever ask for,” he expressed by phone from his motel room later.
“We still have eight alive and the odds appear to be in our favor, but we still have to take care of business. I wish that our heavyweight Titus Swafford could have competed as it might not be as close, but that’s life,” Knox added about his 285-pounder who suffered a concussion last week in the region and wasn't cleared to compete this weekend.
The Bradley Bears are the defending AAA champions, but they had to replace eight seniors from last year’s team and it’s been a tough season from the start. For the first time in a long time, Bradley will not have an entry in the championship finals.
“I really don’t know what to say right now,” said coach Ben Smith shortly after D.J.
Gibson lost a controversial match in the semis at 195 when he lost 3-2 on a stalling call in overtime.
“I grade my kids on effort and it’s been good for the most part, but this isn’t what we’re used to. Our character has been tested for sure and we’re much better than when we started, but most folks don’t have any idea of how hard we worked to get back here this weekend.
“I love my kids and we’ll be better on down the road for the experience we had here this weekend, but we simply lost too many close matches,” he said as tears streamed down his face.
The Division II race has been a three-team affair since the first match Friday morning, but the Purple Wave may be just a bit too strong as they pulled ahead by 14 points following the first day of action.
McCallie is still in the thick of the race, but the Blue Tornado needs a near-perfect day on Saturday and they also need for those guys in Memphis to stumble a bit.
“It’s been a pretty good evening of wrestling as we had a good round,” said McCallie coach Mike Newman.
“We appear to be in a good place, but it’s not over yet. We just need to get after it tomorrow and build on what we did today. Zach Ward pulled out a big win in overtime after we lost to that kid earlier and Walker Robinson won a battle that went back and forth. He was able to come from behind and even got some bonus points, so that was really big too,” Newman added.
McCallie’s finalists include Christian Morris at 106, Emory Taylor at 113, Cody Chittum at 120, Alex Whitworth at 126, Ward at 132, Thomas Sell at 170 and Robinson at 195.
Baylor’s finalists include Andrew Pace at 138, Austin Atchley at 145, Mason Reiniche at 160, Connor Duffy at 170 and Riley Westlake at 182.
Gibbs beat Signal Mountain two weeks ago for the A-AA state duals title and it appears those guys from just outside Knoxville want to do it again.
With four finalists and who knows just how many others in the consolations, it could be tough for anyone else in the field to catch them.
Hixson was second in the traditional tournament last year, but the Wildcats are rebuilding and still trying to reach the top. Hixson coach Garrick Hall appeared to be almost exhausted near the end of the action on Friday, but he was still happy to have three finalists, including two who just happen to be brothers.
Junior Jordan Lewis advanced at 138 pounds while freshman younger brother Trevor will be battling for a state title at 113. Sophomore Charles Burton is still looking for gold at 120.
“It’s been a roller coaster ride for us, but that’s what you expect when you have a young team like we do. Some of our guys have looked really good while others have looked pretty bad, but at least the ones who have lost have gone down swinging.
“I’m really proud to have three in the finals. We always want to do better, but it’s all about earning a medal at this point. We’ll see what happens tomorrow,” Hall added.
Signal Mountain had two in the championship semis, but only Daniel Uhorchuk advanced after the freshman 106 pounder advanced with a pin. Isaac Tate was also in the semis at 113, but lost a heartbreaker in overtime to Hixson’s Trevor Lewis.
Uhorchuk is now 27-0 for the season.
“It’s been a good and bad day I guess,” said Signal Mountain coach Joe Jellison while the consolation rounds were still being contested.
“We won a few that maybe we shouldn’t have won and we lost some we might could have won, but it’s been an okay day for the most part. The best kid always gets first place while the toughest one always comes back to get third.
“It gets to a matter of who wants it most. It’s been a great season for us as we qualified for the state duals the first time and finished second. We have a great group coming back, so we just want to come back next year and do a little bit better,” he concluded with a smile.
Other finalists from Chattanooga include Notre Dame's Cade Holloway at 113 pounds in D-II and Soddy Daisy's Ty Boeck at 220 pounds in AAA.
Bradley is the defending AAA champ while Pigeon Forge is the defending winner in A-AA and Father Ryan the D-II winner from a year ago.
All results for this tournament can be obtained at www.trackwrestling.com.
(email John Hunt at firstname.lastname@example.org)