The longest day of the traditional state wrestling tournament is now over and it’s time for the best to stand up and do their thing for all the marbles Saturday night.
There was a whole lot of action in all three divisions here at the Williamson County Agricultural Expo Park in Franklin and it’s really no surprise which teams are standing tall at the top of the list.
The defending AAA state champ Cleveland Blue Raiders have their title sewed up as they finished Friday’s rounds with 199.5 points and five in Saturday’s championship round.
The story is completely different in the Division II and A-AA battles as any of three or four teams could win those.
The top-ranked and unbeaten Baylor Red Raiders had an impressive showing in the championship semis and advanced seven of eight individuals to finish the day with 158 points.
Christian Brothers is a distant second with 134.5 while McCallie is a close third with 126.5. Defending D-II champ Father Ryan is fourth with 123.
The Signal Mountain Eagles, who finished as State Duals runner-up a year ago before taking fourth in the traditional tournament, is currently leading the A-AA division with 126.5 points. The Eagles brought nine entries and seven will medal, including four who advanced to the finals.
Pigeon Forge is second with 121 while Hixson is lurking in third with 115.5. Greeneville is fourth with 101.5.
The only matches left are medal rounds, including the consolation semifinals first thing Saturday morning followed by the consolation finals for third and fifth places in all divisions. The championship finals are set to begin at 5:30 (EST) on Saturday afternoon.
Baylor coach Ben Nelson chooses his words wisely and never gets overly excited when discussing his team and their most recent performance. Such was again the case after Friday’s last match.
“We had a good evening, that’s for sure. Advancing eight to the semifinals was successful and winning seven of those was impressive,” he began later by cell phone.
“I’ll certainly take it. I’d like to complain about the ones who didn’t advance, but nobody would feel sorry for me. But the key for us is staying focused on doing what it takes to win as individuals so we can achieve our team goal of winning another state title.
“That’s huge when there’s extra motivation to get every bonus point possible. I know those other teams will score a lot of points in the consolation finals, so those bonus points we score might be the difference in winning and losing at the end of the day. We just have to keep doing it,” he suggested.
Shane Turner is one of Baylor’s assistant coaches. He’s thrilled to see his kids reap the benefits of a season of hard work and dedicated effort.
“Tonight was a great round for us as it seemed like we got bonus points in every match,” he began.
“I know there are some tough guys in the finals, but I feel like we have a shot in every one. There were no real surprises today as we just showed up and did what we were supposed to do. I’m just proud to be a small part of it,” he added.
Baylor’s seven finalists include Jackson Bond at 106, Noah Horst at 126, Garrison Dendy at 132, Andrew Pace at 145, Mason Reiniche at 170, Connor Duffy at 182 and David Harper at 195.
Kade Hartline (113), Ryan Tisdale (120), Jason Motley (152) and Barrett Chambers (160) are still in the medals for the Red Raiders.
The Cleveland Blue Raiders have been a most dominant team all season. A one-point loss to Baylor in the finals of the Cleveland Duals is the only glitch on their record, but nobody’s come even close to beating them since.
Coach Joey Knox is like so many other coaches in that he wants every one of his kids to benefit from their hard work. It’s heartbreaking for him when they come up short. He was slap-dab worn out when Friday’s action ended, but he was also smiling from ear-to-ear with how his kids wrestled.
“I’m exhausted,” he said in an understatement of what most coaches are feeling at this moment.
“I think it’s sealed as we have a pretty good lead. I can’t be upset with five finalists. It’s simply not realistic to think about all of them advancing, but I just want the best for every one of these young men.
“Each kid had a game plan and I feel like they were executed pretty much as designed. That was a heartbreaker for Wilson Benefield at 220, but that’s just the way the sport is at times,” he added.
Cleveland’s five finalists include Trae McDaniel at 106, Jackson Bradford at 113, Grant Lundy at 145, Austin Sweeney at 152 and Isaiah Perez at 195. Logan Whiteside (132), Benefield and Titus Swafford (285) are still in the consolation medal rounds.
Signal Mountain didn’t meet their expectations at the Duals two weeks ago, but they’re trying to make up for it this weekend. So far, everything has gone according to plan as four Eagles have advanced to the championship finals and three others are battling for consolation medals.
“We’re in a really tight race right now and a lot can change tomorrow, but it’s up to the kids at this point,” said Signal Mountain coach Joe Jellison following Friday’s matches.
“We’ve wrestled well today, but it’s still close. We still need to win some big matches in those consolation rounds, but it’s all about who wants it the most. My kids are certainly capable. We just have to stay focused and motivated,” he added.
Those four in the finals include Caleb Uhorchuk at 106, Daniel Uhorchuk at 113, Kevin Muschel at 138 and Preston Worley at 152. Consolation entries include Kale Albritton at 126, Sam Wickizer at 132 and Jake Woodlief at 160.
McCallie has five finalists in D-II, including Jack Braman at 113, Emory Taylor at 120, Nathan Wysong at 132, Alex Whitworth at 152 and Thomas Sell at 182.
Hixson has Trevor Lewis at 120 and Devotis McCurdy at 285. Others include Walker Valley’s Jadon Langford at 285, Red Bank’s Caden Cline at 160, Whitwell’s Allen Ashworth at 182 and Notre Dame’s Cade Holloway at 113.
(Email John Hunt at email@example.com)