Despite missing a trio of starters, Bradley Central was able to secure a postseason spot with a come-from-behind mat victory over Ooltewah at Jim Smiddy Arena Thursday.
Winning the final six matches, the Bears turned a five-point deficit into a 50-23 victory to earn the District 8-AAA runner-up spot for next week’s Region 4-AAA Duals on their home mat.
“This was for next Thursday,” declared Bradley head coach Ben Smith. “We know Ooltewah is a great program and would battle us, but we knew if we didn’t win this one, we wouldn’t have a chance of going back to the state (duals).”
The Bears have won a dozen state dual titles in the past 18 years, including the last four straight.
Fifth-ranked Bradley will battle District 7-AAA champ Cleveland, ranked second in the Tennessee Wrestling Federation poll, in the region semifinals Thursday at 6 p.m., with a state tournament berth on the line.
The winner will advance to the championship meet to face either 8-AAA winner and top-ranked Soddy-Daisy or Walker Valley, the 7-AAA runner-up.
With reigning state heavyweight champ Patrick Benson, currently ranked No. 2 in the state, and fourth-ranked 152-pounder Tyler Schuch out due to injury, plus another starter out for disciplinary reasons, Bradley went into the battle with Ooltewah needing to get a quick start, according to Smith.
The Bears did just that as 138-pounder Caven Rogers needed just 34 seconds to open the meet with a pin.
Junior Robbie Clark did the same at 145, needing just 70 ticks of the clock to put his opponent’s shoulders to the mat for a 12-0 Bear lead.
Stepping in for Schuch at 152, freshman Warren Crisp saw his first varsity action. Even though Jordan Russell was able to get Ooltewah’s first win of the night, Crisp didn’t give up any bonus points in an 8-3 decision.
“Schuch has a torn rotator cuff. It’s a soft-tissue tear that will eventually require surgery. Being a senior, he’s hoping to be able to rest it a little and maybe come back for the traditional region,” explained Smith. “Crisp made a good effort for his first time out.”
Third-ranked Jacob Bailey survived an early scare when Erik Thomas put him on his back for a two-point takedown and three near-fall points, but then turned the tide a moment later and gave the Bears another six points with an 80-second pin at 160.
The Owls then strung together four straight wins with fifth-ranked Matt Sealor starting the run with a 15-0 technical fall at 170 and top-ranked Jay Rudwall ending it with a pin at the 1:20 mark of the 220-pound match.
In between Ooltewah got a forfeit at 182 and Jordan Zink stepped up a weight class to claim a hard-fought 4-2 decision over Devin Carroll at 195.
With the Owls up 23-18, sophomore heavyweight Jackie Black filled in for Benson, who bruised his sternum over the weekend when he took an opponent to the mat with the guy’s knee pinned against Benson’s chest.
Black kicked off the Bradley rally with an 11-8 decision and the rest of the Bears’ “Murderers’ Row” put the match away.
Freshman Toribio Navarro, ranked fourth this week, was like lightning striking with a 28-second pin at 106, while junior Dakota Bromley needed just 77 seconds to “stick” his opponent at 120.
Junior Dakota Ream and senior Jericho Crutcher, both ranked fourth, got forfeits at 113 and 126 respectively, before sophomore Taylor Kazy capped the victory with a 15-0 technical fall at 132.
“My (1)32 (Kazy), (1)38 (Rogers) and (1)42 (Clark) all looked really good tonight,” Smith praised. “Our ‘Murderers’ Row’ did it again. We had a pretty good overall team effort.”
Bears 50, Owls 23
(Meet started at 138)
106 — Toribio Navarro (BC) pinned Dillon Dowler, :28; 113 — Dakota Ream (BC) won by forfeit; 120 — Dakota Bromley (BC) pinned Joshua Brooks, 1:17; 126 — Jericho Crutcher (BC) won by forfeit; 132 — Taylor Kazy (BC) tech. fall Elliott Biizzoco, 15-0, 5:55; 138 — Caven Rogers (BC) pinned Patrick Henry, :34; 145 — Robbie Clark (BC) pinned Hunter Lynn, 1:10; 152 — Jordan Russell (O) dec. Warren Crisp, 8-3; 160 — Jacob Bailey (BC) pinned Erik Thomas 1:20; 170 — Matt Sealor (O) tech. fall, Tait Rakestraw, 15-0; 182 — Kelvin Leon (O) won by forfeit; 195 — Jordan Zink (O) dec. Devin Carroll, 4-2; 220 — Jay Rudwall (O) pinned Zach McFarland, 1:20; 285 — Jackie Black (BC) dec. Adam Dill, 11-8.