In an effort to try and figure a way to top the Trojans, as well as gather intelligence for future skirmishes with traditional foes, Phillips gathered his troops before the match and explained the plan of action — a drastically different lineup for the Raiders.
The Blue Raiders gave up a couple of matches due to illness, most notably in the 140-pound class where Aaron Lopez holds the No. 1 state ranking, but Phillips noted Cleveland still has conspicuous weaknesses that must be overcome.
“We were trying to get a lot of very valuable information,” Phillips said, but quickly added, “The bottom line is, we can’t be a great team as long as we are having guys get pinned. Although I was gathering information — and did gather valuable information — and we forfeited a couple of weights due to sickness, the thing is we still have guys getting pinned. And as long as we have guys getting pinned we are going to have trouble beating a great team and Soddy is a great team.”
Phillips reminded the Blue Raiders have had impressive wins during the season. The only losses have come at the hands of the Trojans.
“We have beaten Christian Brothers and Father Ryan, both ranked in the Top 5 or 10 in the state. We beat up on Franklin, ranked in the Top 5. We have an absolutely monster schedule. We only have three losses and all of them are to Soddy. Each time, I have wrestled a different group of guys trying to gather information because I know none of them (the matches) really count. Last night was the biggest stretch but it wasn’t just to go gather information. We have wrestled them twice and they have beaten us twice. We are looking for a way to beat them down the road.”
Phillips decided to vary his tactics against the perennial power by going straight at the Trojans. The results were less than what Cleveland had hoped, but good enough to help strengthen the Raiders for anticipated meetings down the road, when all the “practice matches” during the regular season pay tournament dividends.
“I think we can beat them if we go straight at them, but I don’t want to beat them now going straight at them. I want to beat them when it counts. I wanted to really go and try to gather information for the next lineup,” explained the coach. “It wasn’t like it was just, ‘Oh, we can’t beat Soddy’ or just to gather information. They have beaten us twice. We haven’t lost to anybody this year except them. So I decided to go a completely different route. I took some long shots to see what we could do with a couple of weeks to get ready for the next time. It is not something we would normally do.”
The Trojans earned pins at 140, 189 and 285. Cleveland’s Joel Simpkins (119), Haden Hamilton, (185), Marvin Lopez (No. 1 at 135) and Isaiah Nichols (ranked No. 3 at 160), who bumped up to 171 pounds, won decisions for the Blue Raiders. Nichols’ victory came in triple overtime against No. 2-ranked Blaike Henry.
“We had some great efforts in there. At the same time, until we eliminate getting pinned from our repertoire we are just not going to be able to get by a great Soddy team,” said the Blue Raiders’ coach. “But, at the end of the day, Soddy whipped us pretty good in some weight classes where we got pinned and we can’t have that. If we don’t get pinned in those three weight classes, I am very proud of our effort last night,” Phillips said. “Seth Snyder took a guy who pinned him last time and lost 3-2. He rode the guy the whole second period. My 112 (Austin Oliver, ranked No. 2) was losing 8-0 to the No. 1-ranked kid in the state (Jacob Stevens). He battled back, nearly had him pinned and lost a decision.”
In the meeting of the No. 1- and No. 2-ranked wrestlers in the state at 112 pounds, Soddy’s Jacob Stevens got out to an 8-0 lead and looked to put the match away early. Oliver battled back in the third period turning Stevens twice to close the gap to 11-8, then put Stevens on his back in a cradle nearly getting the six points before losing the decision.
“It’s going to be a dog fight. We are going to have to wrestle really, really well. But I think we can. I think we can give a much better performance than we gave tonight. I think if everything goes well for us we can come up on the winning side of it,” said the optimistic Phillips.
“I like our chances, in spite of the score. The score got out of control but I wasn’t worried about the score, I was worried about getting information. I saw some things and I saw some variance in particular matchups that we need to work on.
As tournament season draws closer, Phillips wants the Blue Raiders to take the upcoming challenge seriously. He also said Cleveland will benefit in future meetings with the Trojans from lessons learned in the loss.
“We will also be wrestling them in the state tournament as well other matchups. They will be at the traditional and individual state tournaments as well. We picked up some things I think can help us in the future,” said Phillips.
“Hopefully, our guys will be completely healthy and hopefully, things will go our way.”
SODDY-DAISY 46, CLEVELAND 12
(Match started at 135 pounds)
103 — Jonah Smith (SD) dec. Austin Stevison, 6-3; 112 — Jacob Stevens, (SD) major dec. Austin Oliver, 16-8; 119 — Joel Simpkins (C) dec. Ryan Gardner, 3-2; 125 — Haden Hamilton (C) dec. Kyle Eustice, 5-3; 130 — Gage Richmond (SD) dec. Brandon Strickland, 7-5; 135 — Marvin Lopez (C) dec. Campbell Lewis, 2-1 OT; 140 — Jacob Adams (SD) pinned Josh Hamilton, 1:55; 145 — Josh Elliot (SD) win by forfeit; 152 — Turbo Smith (SD) win by forfeit; 160 — Kyle Odom (SD) dec. Chuck Norwood, 1-0; 171 — Isaiah Nichols (C) dec. Blaike Henry, 3-2, 3 OT; 189 — Mathew Ervin (SD) pinned Jesse Jones, 4:43; 215 — Billy Swanson (SD) dec. Seth Snyder, 3-2; 285 — Alex Seeley (SD) pinned Jordan Hines, 2:14;