However, the Christmas layoff and some unexpected circumstances took away some of the anticipated excitement, leaving both coaches feeling unsatisfied.
Despite having four starters out of the lineup, the Mustangs were able to build a five-point lead after the night’s first eight matches, but the strength of the Bear order finished the meet strong for a 39-24 victory.
“We knew that even though they (Walker Valley) didn’t have all their guys, the ones they’d put out there would fight,” commented Bradley head coach Ben Smith. “We were on weight and ready to go before the match, but there were times during the match we went flat. We didn’t always wrestle with the intensity we should have.”
“We showed up with 14. We wrestled 14. Some did as we expected but others didn’t,” expressed a disappointed Mustang mentor Al Morris. “We were hoping to give them a better match. They were ready and we weren’t.”
Both squads won’t have much time to recover as fifth-ranked Bradley (15-1) heads to Soddy-Daisy this evening for pair of dual meets against No. 15 Science Hill and Murfreesboro Oakland, while eighth-ranked Walker Valley (16-3) will be at Cleveland High to tangle with No. 11 Cordova and Cookeville. Both the Bears and Mustangs will be at the Soddy Showdown all day Saturday.
Coach Morris knew 220-pounder Zach Miller and heavyweight Sam Dworak weren’t going to be at the meet, due to out-of-town opportunities, but when the state’s top-ranked 138-pounder didn’t make weight for the third time this season, the Mustangs started the night out on the wrong foot.
With the dual meet starting with the 138-pound match, what was a 37-second Walker Valley pin when the teams met in the Tullahoma Duals championship in December, turned into a 67-second “stick” by the Bears’ Caven Rogers for a 12-point turnaround from the previous meeting.
The Mustangs evened the score when Lawrence Cotton was able to pin his Bear opponent in 3:07 of the 145-pound match.
In the most exciting battle of the evening, Bradley’s Jacob Staton and Ryan Hagar thrilled the more than 1,000 fans with an overtime duel at 152.
After claiming a 5-4 decision when the pair met a month ago, Hagar was up 4-2 going into the final period, but had to pull off an escape with just two ticks on the regulation clock to force an extra period. Staton was able to end the battle quickly, needing just 13 seconds to earn a takedown for a 7-5 victory.
Bradley was able to stretch its advantage to seven points when fifth-ranked Robbie Clark took a 14-4 major decision at 160, but the Mustangs came charging back into the lead when Chase Gregory claimed a 3-0 decision at 170 before Chaz Fulford earned an 84-second pin at 182.
Senior Alex Forgey was able to reclaim the lead for the Bears with a hard fought 5-4 decision over Ric Kennett at 195, but the Mustangs answered with 2:45 pin by third-ranked Billy Raulston, who stepped up a weight class to fill in for Miller. An all-state football player for Polk County, Miller was in Texas participating in the U.S. Army All-American football combines.
Down 21-16, Bradley strung together five straight victories to seal the team win. Heavyweight Jerry “J.J.” Johnson started things off with a 3-0 decision over Walker Hood, filling in for Dworak, who is in London with the Walker Valley Marching Band.
The Bears then got a 26-11 technical fall from second-ranked sophomore Toribio Navarro at 106 and an 81-second pin from Dyer Rose, No. 3 in the latest state poll, at 113.
Bradley’s “Double-Ds” did the damage to finish the victory with Dakota Bromley taking a 6-1 decision at 120 and fourth-ranked Dakota Ream putting his opponent’s shoulders to the mat in 1:45 of the 126-pound match.
Walker Valley closed out the meet with a 6-1 decision win from fifth-ranked Tyrus Hamrick at 132.
“We lost two more matches than we did at Tullahoma. It’s disappointing. We’re a better team than we showed tonight,” lamented coach Morris, a former Bear wrestler who has yet to claim a coaching victory over his alma mater. “Give Bradley credit. They earned the bragging rites.”
“It wasn’t pretty, but a win is a win. We’ll take it,” proclaimed coach Smith. “I’m friends with all of their coaches and have a great deal of respect for them. They have built their program into one of the best in the state. I’m proud of our guys to get two wins over them in such a short time.”
BEARS 39, MUSTANGS 24
(Match started at 138 Pounds)
106 — Toribio Navarro (BC) tech. fall Jordan Caylor, 26-11, 5:40; 113 — Dyer Rose (BC) pinned Jacob Stiles, 1:29; 120 — Dakota Bromley (BC) dec. Braxton Brewer, 6-1; 126 — Dakota Ream (BC) pinned Joseph Munoz, 1:45; 132 — Tyrus Hamrick (WV) dec. Taylor Kazy, 6-1; 138 — Caven Rogers (BC) pinned Devin Pruett, 1:07; 145 — Lawrence Cotton (WV) pinned Colter McConnell, 3:08; 152 — Jacob Staton (BC) dec. Ryan Hagar, 7-5 OT; 160 — Robbie Clark (BC) major dec. John Hayes, 14-4; 170 — Chase Gregory (WV) dec. Eric Goins, 3-0; 182 — Chaz Fulford (WV) pinned Nathan Adams, 1:23; 195 — Alex Forgey (BC) dec. Ric Kennett 5-4; 220 — Billy Raulston (WV) pinned Zach McFarland, 2:45; 285 — Jerry Johnson (BC) dec. Walker Hood, 4-0.