FRANKLIN — The Cleveland Blue Raiders, after fighting their way through Blackman, Ravenwood and Science Hill earned the right to face perennial wrestling power and Region 4-AAA foe Soddy-Daisy for the 2012 TSSAA State Duals wrestling championship Saturday in Franklin.
For the sixth straight year two Region 4-AAA teams have met in the state duals final. The Saturday rematch of the top two ranked wrestling teams in the state turned out to be a knock-down, drag-out battle.
The last out-of-region team to face a Region 4 foe in the championship match was Clarksville in 2006 in a loss to Bradley Central.
After a slow start, the Blue Raiders turned the tide and pushed the Trojans to the last match of the tournament before being forced to settle for second place by a score of 29-22.
“In 21 years, I have never been prouder of a team,” said a worn-out Cleveland coach Eric Phillips. “My guys left everything they had on the mat.”
Cleveland (17-6), after falling to the Trojans (25-2) 43-15 during the regular season, chose to forfeit a shot at the region title and focus instead on a rematch in the state tournament.
The Raiders got their wish when the Trojans mauled Independence 53-9 in their semifinal match.
“I told them for us to beat those guys, it would take a monumental effort and we could do it because we are character kids. We are fighters. They smacked us in the mouth last time, but I’m not the kind of guy to get smacked around twice. Regardless of the score, they are going to remember Cleveland because we are going to be smacking them back in the mouth,” Phillips said.
With Phillips shuffling his lineup for the game of wrestling chess, the Blue Raiders’ Joel Simpkins was first to take to the mat in the title bout at 132 pounds against No. 1-ranked Campbell Lewis. After a hard-fought opener, the Trojans came away with a 5-2 win and a 3-0 lead.
Soddy-Daisy got a decision at 138 before Javier Francisco battled to an overtime win at 145 to make it 6-3.
The Trojans came back with a technical fall at 152 and decisions at 160 and 170 to lead 17-3 before Cleveland’s Oleg Stukanov came back to win at 182 to make it 17-6.
Soddy rallied back with decisions at 195 and 220 and moved ahead 23-6. Jordan Hines kept Cleveland’s hope alive with a huge win over No. 1-ranked Alex Seeley at 285 that made it 23-9.
Top-ranked Chris DeBien kept the train rolling and cut the gap even more with a major decision at 106 pounds. Austin Stevison brought the Cleveland crowd to its feet in the 113-pound match with a quick pin to close the gap to 23-19, still in favor of the Trojans.
Needing wins in the final two matches to pull off the upset, the Blue Raiders battled to the finish against Soddy’s Jacob Stevens. Taking a 2-0 lead into the third period, Austin Oliver added four more to make it 23-22 headed into the final match.
In the bout to decide the championship, Soddy-Daisy’s Josh Deckelman got the pin against Ezra Taylor to end the match in favor of the Trojans, 29-22.
“I think at the end of the day, they are a better dual meet team. I think we gave them everything we had. Notice I said dual meet team. We have an individual tournament coming up and I’m not so sure they’re better there. I’m elated. I’m excited. This is why you coach, to get this kind of an effort out of a team. You are not going to win them all. To step on the mat and show that kind of courage,” said a proud Phillips, “to go from whatever that score was to the final match [was] an epic battle. I’ve never been more proud. I don’t want my guys hanging their heads. I want my guys to understand that the character they demonstrate in the hallways, the character they demonstrate in the hotel and in their relationships with their families and friends showed tonight. I’m proud to be a Blue Raider and these kids are champions, no doubt about it.”
After two relatively easy rounds against Blackman and Ravenwood to reach the semifinals, The Blue Raiders found themselves fighting for their wrestling lives early against Science Hill.
The Hilltoppers rallied to take a 13-12 lead over the Raiders after six matches. Phillips said afterward the Science Hill attack came as no surprise given the talent-laden lineup out to ruin Cleveland’s afternoon.
“We started right in the heart of their strength,” said Phillips. They have several state-ranked wrestlers right where were started. I felt like if we could weather their strength we would be OK.”
Phillips’ prophecy proved to be the correct one. A decision by Bobe put the Blue Raiders back on top, 15-13. Two more decisions and a four-overtime victory by Seth Snyder put Cleveland out front 21-13. Hines and DeBien closed out with pins sending the Raiders to the championship match after Science Hill chose to forfeit the final two matches.
ROUND OF 16
CLEVELAND 58, BLACKMAN 12
(Match started at 195)
106 — Christopher Debien (C) pinned Austin Bishop—Pryor (B), 1:53; 113 — Austin Stevison (C) dec. Alec Myers (B) 11-6; 120 — Austin Oliver (C) pinned Hunter VandeRorp (B), 0:22; 126 — Edward Davila (B) pinned Ezra Taylor (C), 4:26; 132 — Joel Simpkins (C) pinned Ayinde Bakari (B), 1:20; 138 — Brandon Strickland (C) pinned Hunter Sommers (B), 3:29; 145 — Josh Hamilton (C) pinned Tyler Garrison (B), 1:24; 152 — Tyler Sells (B) dec. Javier Francisco (C) 11-9; 160 — Roman Yount (B) dec. Matthew Herd (C), 14-9; 170 — Juan Bobe (C) dec. Jevon Brown (B), 3-0; 182 — Jesse Jones (C) win by forfeit; 195 — Oleg Stukanov (C) major dec. Brandon Garrison (B) 14-4; 220 — Seth Snyder (C) win by forfeit; 285 — Jordan Hines (C) pinned Austin Wells (B), 1:30.
ROUND OF 8
CLEVELAND 36, RAVENWOOD 27
(Match started at 220)
106 — Christopher Debien (C) pinned Tyler Newsome (R), 0:58; 113 — Austin Stevison (C) pinned Grant Parsons (R), 3:53; 120 — Austin Oliver (C) pinned Kyle Kuehnhold (R), 1:15; 126 — Ezra Taylor (C) dec. Robin Klingersmith (R), 7-4; 132 — Jacob Freeman (R) dec. Joel Simpkins (C), 3-0; 138 — Haden Hamilton (C) dec. Taylor Warren (R), 3-1; 145 — Brandon Strickland (C) dec. Haydn Jennings (R), 10-8; 152 — Josh Hamilton (C) dec. Tanner Reynolds (R), 10-4; 160 — Grant Jones (R) pinned Matthew Herd (C), 3:20; 170 — Camden Grecco (R) win by forfeit; 182 — Jonathan Mabry (R) win by forfeit; 195 — Evan Long (R) win by forfeit; 220 — Seth Snyder (C) dec. Rex Shotts (R), 9-3; 285 — Jordan Hines (C) dec. Bowen Reau (R) 5—1.
CLEVELAND 45, SCIENCE HILL 16
(Match started at 126)
106 — Christopher Debien (C) pinned Gary Hudgins (SH), 3:05; 113 — Austin Stevison (C) win by forfeit; 120 — Austin Oliver (C) win by forfeit; 126 — Cole Schurlknight (SH) major dec. Ezra Taylor (C), 13-1; 132 — Haden Hamilton (C) pinned Tyler Knowles (SH), 1:43; 138 — Joel Simpkins (C) dec. Carson Shurlknight (SH), 7-2; 145 — Steven Goldstein (SH) dec. Brandon Strickland (C), 6-0; 152 — Josh Hamilton (C) dec. Wes Vaughan (SH), 2-0; 160 — Justin Snyder (SH) pinned Matthew Herd (C), 2:52; 170 — Juan Bobe (C) dec. Sam Arms (SH), 3-0; 182 — Jesse Jones (C) dec. Jacob Wilson (SH), 9-2; 195 — Ben Lowery (SH) dec. Oleg Stukanov (C), 10-5; 220 — Seth Snyder (C) dec. Damian Hayes (SH), 3-2, 4OT; 285 — Jordan Hines (C) pinned Ethan Morelock (SH), 1:06.
SODDY-DAISY 29, CLEVELAND 22
(Match started at 132)
106 — Chris DeBien (C) major decision Austin Houser (SD), 22-8; 113 — Austin Stevison (C) pinned Adam Brewer (SD), 1:50: 120 — Austin Oliver (C) dec. Jacob Stevens (SD), 6-0; 126 — Josh Deckelman (SD) pinned Ezra Taylor (C), 1:40; 132 — Campbell Lewis (SD) dec. Joel Simpkins (C), 5-2; 138 — Gage Richmond (SD) dec. Haden Hamilton (C), 8-4; 145 — Javier Lopez (C) dec. Jonah Smith (SD), 7-5 OT; 152 — Turbo Smith (SD) tech. fall Brandon Smith (C), 4:32; 160 — Brandon Hunt (SD) dec. Josh Hamilton (C), 6-3; 170 — Blaike Henry (SD) dec. Juan Bobe (C), 10-5; 182 — Oleg Stukanov (C) dec. Like Reno (SD), 11-9; 195 — Brett Ervin (SD) dec. Jesse Jones (C), 4-1; 220 — Billy Swanson (SD) dec. Seth Snyder (C), 3-0; 285 — Jordan Hines (C), dec. Alex Seeley (SD), 11-8.