The Cleveland Blue Raiders didn’t leave much room for doubt on the final day of the TSSAA Traditional State wrestling tournament at the Williamson County Agricultural Expo Park in Franklin Saturday.
While Cleveland breezed to their title by a 65.5 point margin over runner-up Wilson Central, the competition in the other two divisions was much closer.
Baylor had an outstanding day to win the Division II title with 207 points while arch-rival McCallie was second with 188.
The Signal Mountain Eagles had a slim lead going into Saturday’s medal rounds, but couldn’t hang on as Pigeon Forge came back to win the A-AA title with 166 points. Signal Mountain was second with 148.5 while Hixson was fourth with 126.5.
Best Match honors in AAA went to the 113-pound clash where Cleveland's Jackson Bradford scored a 7-5 decision over Wilson Central's Thomas Borders. Wilson Central heavyweight Michael Kramer was named Outstanding Wrestler after winning his second-straight state title with a first-minute pin.
Best Match in A-AA was the 120-pound final where Hixson's Trevor Lewis posted an 8-7 decision over Josh Parton of Pigeon Forge while Greeneville's 182-pound champ Trent Knight was the OW after winning his last match with a technical fall.
The 182-pound final between McCallie's Thomas Sell and Baylor's Connor Duffy was the Best Match in D-II after Sell prevailed in overtime while McCallie's 152-pound champ Alex Whitworth was the OW after getting a pin in the finals.
The Blue Raiders, by far the most dominant AAA team in the state since the first day of competition back in November, cruised to their second straight traditional title as they claimed four individual champions among their eight medalists and finished the three-day event with 233.5 points.
Wilson Central was a distant second with 168 points while Science Hill was third with 139.
The always proud Bradley Bears took fourth with 123.5 while Blackman rounded out the top five AAA teams with 111.5.
Cleveland coach Joey Knox could finally relax before the last round as his team had already wrapped up their second-straight traditional state title.
“It’s time to get back to work. We’ll go back to the motel and rest a little, but we have practice tomorrow afternoon at 2,” he began his post-tournament comments half-joking and half-serious.
“I’m really happy for these kids as they’ve worked hard from the first day. They all had a plan and it worked out just fine. We were relaxed and ready to go, but they earned it and I couldn’t be more proud,” he added.
The championship finals began at 220 pounds, so the victorious had to wait a few minutes before Trae McDaniel wrapped up a perfect season at 39-0 with a 12-4 major decision over McGavock’s Chris Calvin.
Bradford followed with a 7-5 decision at 113 before Grant Lundy and Austin Sweeney added back-to-back titles for the Blue Raiders at 145 and 152 pounds, respectively.
Isaiah Perez was the last man to wrestle at 195 pounds and he had to settle for second after falling 5-3 to Clarksville’s Bradley Williams.
While Cleveland had the most individual winners with four in the AAA tournament, Arlington, Clarksville and Tennessee High were the only other teams with more than one and they all had two each.
Tennessee’s two included Dillon Pendley at 138 and Dominic Fields at 160 while Arlington’s two included Michael Cannon at 120 and Austin Antcliffe at 182. Clarksville’s pair included Christian Isbell at 132 and Williams at 195.
Other individual champs included Brayden Palmer of Beech at 126, Science Hill’s Chase Diehl at 170, Brentwood’s Skylar Coffey at 220 and Wilson Central’s Michael Kramer at 285.
While Cleveland had five in the championship round with four winners, Logan Whiteside was third at 132. Wilson Benefield and Titus Swafford both claimed fourth at 220 and 285 pounds, respectively.
D.J. Gibson was Bradley’s highest-placing individual as he was third at 195. Ethan Wilson was fourth at 106 while Glen O’Daniel and Wesley Devaney were both sixth at 113 and 120, respectively, as the Bears didn’t have a finalist for the first time in many, many years.
Bradley coach Ben Smith was just pleased to have done as well as they did when nobody gave them much chance of being a contender in either tournament.
"We had a great second half of the season and I think we outkicked our coverage in the last three weeks," Smith said while driving back to Cleveland late Saturday night.
"We had great tournaments at the State Duals and at the region last week and I think we did well here this weekend. We had a tough time winning the big matches and getting over the hump as Friday was as rough a day as I've experienced in this sport.
"That wasn't because we didn't fight hard and get after it, but we got a lot out of these kids in the last month. Nobody gave us much of a chance to do anything, but we have a lot to build on and I can promise you that Bradley will be back before long," he concluded.
Jadon Langford was second at 285 for Walker Valley as the Mustangs finished 18th with 51 points.
Cade Meeks was fifth at 170 and Jason Brumlow sixth at 195 as East Hamilton was 30th with 34.5.
Garrett Smith’s third-place finish at 220 helped Rhea County take 32nd with 32 points.
Ooltewah was 43rd with 23.5 while Soddy Daisy was 48th with 17 and McMinn County 65th with 6.5 points.
Baylor coach Ben Nelson has been preaching bonus points to his kids all season and just how important they can be in a close tournament. The Red Raiders took that suggestion to heart, winning six of seven individual matches with five scoring extra points.
Noah Horst and Garrison Dendy both had pins in the finals with Dendy’s third-period fall over McCallie senior Nathan Wysong sealing the deal for the unbeaten Red Raiders.
Jackson Bond, Mason Reiniche and David Harper all had victories with major decisions while Andrew Pace had a regular decision. Duffy suffered Baylor’s only loss in the finals and that was an overtime decision to McCallie's Sell.
Needless to say, Nelson was pleased with what he saw this weekend and particularly on championship Saturday.
“Saturday was a great day for us as I think we about maxed out,” Nelson said after all was said and done.
“We’ve been preaching bonus points all season and I think most of them reached their potential. We won six of seven in the final round with the only loss being in overtime, so we gave it all we had. The Sell kid is tough and we knew it would be a close match.
“But we took care of business like we intended to do and Garrison’s pin at 132 sealed the deal for us,” Nelson concluded.
McCallie coach Jake Yost had nothing but good things to say about his Blue Tornado team that kept closing the gap all season with Baylor.
McCallie finished second in both the Duals and Traditional tournament, so those guys have absolutely nothing to be ashamed of.
“We had a tough day on Friday as several matches didn’t go our way, but our guys responded well today,” Yost explained.
“We won nine of 10 matches in the consolation finals and four of five tonight in the championships, so winning 13 of 15 on the final day isn’t too shabby. I thought we had a team good enough to win, but I knew we’d have to wrestle above our heads to beat Baylor.
“We had to settle for silver and not gold, but we have a lot to be proud of with the nationals at Lehigh next weekend,” Yost concluded.
McCallie’s four winners included Jack Braman at 113, Emory Taylor at 120, Whitworth at 152 and Sell at 182.
Wysong was second at 132 while Christian Morris, Zach Ward, Russell Barry and Riley Looper all finished third and Austin Gentil fourth.
Notre Dame’s Cade Holloway was the runner-up at 113 after losing an overtime decision to McCallie’s Braman. Walker Valley’s Jadon Langford was second at 285 in AAA while Rhea’s Garrett Smith was third at 220.
Hixson’s Devotis McCurdy was second at 285 in the A-AA tournament while Red Bank’s Caden Cline and Whitwell’s Allen Ashworth were both second at 160 and 182, respectively. Sequatchie’s Will Keener was third at 145 while Central’s Haiden Dill was fourth at 113.
Signal Mountain had four in the finals, but Daniel Uhorchuk was the only winner as he claimed the 113-pound title with a pin to wrap up a perfect season at 41-0.
Caleb Uhorchuk, Kevin Muschel and Preston Worley all finished second for the Eagles, but that wasn’t enough to hold off a Pigeon Forge team that had two champs among three finalists.
Hixson’s Trevor Lewis was the A-AA champ at 120.
(email John Hunt at email@example.com)