Defending state champions, state runners-up and teams currently ranked in their respective state’s top 10 polls all made the drive out to CHS for a prestigious and action-packed annual tournament.
Cleveland ultimately walked off the mat going 3-2 and finishing fourth out of a field of 16 teams.
“I wanted my guys to feel the grind of five hard matches and have to opportunity to wrestle some really quality opponents, and we accomplished both tonight,” stated Raider wrestling coach Eric Phillips.
Phillips stated that he feels the team is ahead of where they were last year, but there is plenty of room to grow and build steam.
“Once we get some guys back from a few injuries and we come back from Christmas — I’m excited. I think we are going to be in a great place.”
The Raiders fought five tough matches, all against top-notch opponents and it made for some great wrestling.
Raiders 56, Wolves 12
In their first match of the tournament Cleveland faced off and ultimately defeated Rome High School.
The Raiders posted five pins, a technical fall and three wins by decision to kick off their tournament play strongly.
J.C. Bobe (170), third-ranked Jordan Hines (285), top-ranked Christopher DeBien (106), second-ranked Austin Oliver (120) and fourth-ranked Joel Simpkins (126) all scored pins for the Raiders.
Josh Hamilton (152) posted a technical fall and Javier Francisco (145), Seth Snyder (220) and second-ranked Hayden Hamilton (132) all won their matches by decision.
Raiders 53, Hilltoppers 9
The Raiders faced off against the seventh-ranked D1 Science Hill ‘Toppers’ in their next match of the tournament.
Four Raiders notched pins against their opponents; DeBien, Oliver, Hines and H. Hamilton.
Third-ranked Austin Stevison (113) won by technical fall.
J. Hamilton, Bobe, second-ranked Jesse Jones (182), Snyder, Ezra Taylor (126) and Francisco all won their matches by decision.
Raiders 35, Wildcats 28
Coming in from Cartersville, Ga., Woodlawn High School gave the Cleveland wrestlers a good physical match.
But, the Raiders dug deep and showed heart as they sent the Wildcats packing with a loss.
Once again four Raiders won by pinning their opponent; Bobe, Jones, DeBien and Oliver.
Simpkins defeated his opponent by technical fall, and Francisco and H. Hamilton won by decision.
Purple Wave 39, Raiders 22
In the semi-final match the Raiders faced off against a D2 powerhouse, second-ranked Christian Brothers High School out of Memphis.
The Purple Wave touts top 10 wrestlers in 13 of the 14 weight classes and proved to be stout competition for Cleveland’s wrestlers.
“We are never going to shy away from competition. That’s why we wrestle these teams. We might lose but we are going to give them a fight. That way in February we are going to be used to fighting and facing whatever comes our way,” Phillips elaborated.
Bobe posted Cleveland’s only pin in the match.
However, Snyder won a decision against fourth-ranked (D2) Phillip Nichols, Stevison over second-ranked (D2) John Santi and Chuck Norwood (160) over fourth-ranked (D2) Michael Isom. Jones and Oliver also won via decision.
Greyhounds 48, Raiders 19
In their fifth and final match Cleveland faced off against Pope High School from Marietta, Ga., for third place.
The Raiders had suffered through some injuries as the day progressed and were a little shorthanded going into the match, but Phillips said it was more about the experience than looking for a win.
“Injuries had a little impact, but these were some great teams we lost to tonight. We have a ton of respect for these teams and I knew it would help my guys who are still healthy to get that fifth tough match,” explained Phillips.
DeBien was the only Raider to pin his opponent in the final match.
Oliver, Simpkins, H. Hamilton and J. Hamilton all won their contests by decision.
“I am really proud of the way the guys handled themselves against Pope. We were dog tired and they still fought hard and put in some quality time.”
Cleveland will be in action again in the McCallie Invitational Friday and Saturday.
“We kind of go through a meat grinder early with the UTC Old Timers, and then our tournament and then the McCallie. We are going to have some hard fights, but I think to be a great wrestler you need to be willing to get in there and take one on the chin, get up and give it back,” Phillips expressed.