MARYVILLE — With a lead of 115 points over their nearest competitor, the Blue Raiders of Cleveland needed only to show up at William Blount High School to capture their second wrestling championship in as many weeks.
Cleveland followed up its state duals championship performance with a win in the Region 3-AAA traditional championship Saturday in Blount County with a final total of 286.5 points.
"I thought it was a great effort on everybody's part. I think we set ourselves up to have a real good chance of doing a good job next weekend and winning the state tournament, 14 wrestlers helps. Everybody did a good job. I think everybody fought hard and gave the maximum amount of effort. We are pleased with all 14 guys," said the ever happy but subdued Yost.
"We had 11 in the finals and won nine matches."
The Walker Valley Mustangs, after a bit of a letdown in the semifinals round, improved their situation dramatically in the Saturday consolations and finished second with 156 points, the best finish in the history of the program.
"It's been a roller coaster," said Mustangs coach Al Morris as the final bout was being played out. "In our first round we won 11 of 14. In the semifinals, we were 3 of 11. That is about as opposite at you can get. This morning, we had a couple of guys get put out early in the consolations, but then we had a good round. We had nine guys to place and are going to state."
The Bradley Central Bears, still smarting from health and injury issues, fought to a third-place finish with 128.5 points.
"We got seven through and that is probably about realistic. I was hoping for nine to 10. We had some difficulty getting over our skin issues and had some kids get back on the mat with less than a week's worth of practice. I didn't feel like some of our guys were in post-season shape," Bears coach Ben Smith said.
"It's almost like we took two steps back and one step forward. I'm a little aggravated about that, not at the guys but it's that constant thing the whole year of some wrestle in spots and others don't. We have yet to put it together. I'm not used to sending less than 12 to 14 (wrestlers to the state tournament). I don't like finishing third."
Fourth place went to Heritage with 118.5 points with Maryville ending in fifth with 90.
After racking up 218.5 points on first day of competition the Raiders added to their final total by sending 11 wrestlers to the championship matches. Out of that dozen nine walked away as Region 3 champions.
Chris DiBein (113), Austin Stevison (120), Austin Oliver (126), Haden Hamilton (132), Joel Simpkins (145), Josh Hamilton (152), Aaron Lopez (160), Ethan West (182) and Koran Kennedy (285) all received championship medals at the post-tournament awards ceremony.
"Everybody is feeling good going into the final tournament of the year which is a good thing. Of course it's a good thing to win the region and that's a goal, but our end goal right now is to win the state tournament and have as many state champions as we can. I think we set ourselves up to have the most people on the podium we can have. We are ecstatic," Yost said.
Bradley Central's Toribio Navarro earned a championship for the Bears at 106 pounds.
"I'm not pleased with the weekend, but I'm happy for Toribio for his region championship," Smith said of his 106 pound wrestler. "I think down low where we are good, Cleveland is better. Our guys showed some improvement there and showed a lot of heart and a lot of fight. I'm pleased with that. We are sending seven quality kids and all seven have the potential to medal with five really solid chances to medal. They can score us a lot of points at the state tournament."
Walker Valley's Caleb Langford (138) and Billy Raulston (195) wrestled their way to gold medals for the Mustangs.
"We would like to have had a few more finalists and champions, but we got two good repeat champions in Billy Raulston and Caleb Langford. Both were region champs last year. Those guys have worked hard all year," Morris said of his two champions. "This is the highest finish in the history of the program. We've been third a few times behind Cleveland and Bradley. This year Cleveland is the team, but we are runner up. That is something the guys can be proud of."
Cleveland 106-pound wrestler Tristan Blansit was awarded the award for outstanding freshman. The Outstand Wrestler Award for the lower weights went to Caleb Langford. William Blount's T.J. Satterfield won the award for the higher weights. The Best Match Award was presented to Cleveland's Koran Kennedy and Joey Evans of Heritage for an overtime thriller at 285 pounds won by Kennedy.
"We got beat by that guy last time," said a smiling Yost. "We flipped several matches this weekend and did several things that were good for us that will help out in a situation to do the best we can next weekend."
106 — Toribio Navarro (Bradley Central) dec. Nick Crawford (Heritage), 7-3; 113 — Chris DiBein (Cleveland) pinned Dyer Rose (Bradley Central), 1:16; 120 — Austin Stevison (Cleveland) dec. Dakota Bromley (Bradley Central), 5-4; 126 — Austin Oliver (Cleveland) dec. Dakota Ream (Bradley Central), 8-3; 132 — Haden Hamilton (Cleveland) major decision Jose Hernandez, (Heritage), 13-1; 138 — Caleb Langford (Walker Valley) pinned Ezra Taylor (Cleveland), 1:45; Joel Simpkins (Cleveland) dec. Evan Howard (William Blount), 7-4; 152 — Josh Hamilton (Cleveland) dec. Joseph Giatino (Stone Memorial), 6-2; 160 — Aaron Lopez (Cleveland) dec. Robbie Clark (Bradley Central), 8-1; 170 — Chad Solomon (Maryville) dec. Chase Gregory (Walker Valley), 10-4; 182 — Ethan West (Cleveland) dec. Schuyler LaRue (Heritage), 7-0; 195 — Billy Raulston (Walker Valley) dec. Oleg Stukanov (Cleveland), 7-2; 220 — T.J. Satterfield (William Blount) dec. Jeb Davis (Heritage), 5-0; 285 — Koran Kennedy (Cleveland) dec. Joey Evans (Heritage).
106 — Tristan Blansit (Cleveland) pinned Cody McCarl (Stone Memorial), 1:44; 113 — Ryan Verhulst (Alcoa) dec. Conner Gavlick (Maryville), 6-5; 120 — Braxton Brewer (Walker Valley) dec. Nathaniel Murphy (Alcoa), 8-5; Dakota Ray (Alcoa) dec. Michael Diemer (Heritage), 3-2 OT; 132 — Tyrus Hamrick (Walker Valley) dec. Taylor Kazy (Bradley Central), 8-6 OT; 138 — Tres Markham (Marryville) dec. Karim Shereef (Alcoa), 9-7; 145 — Darren Rosser (Stone Memorial) pinned Colter McConnell (Bradley Central), 0:55; 152 — Nathan Wilson (Maryville) dec. Ryan Hager (Walker Valley), 4-1; 160 — Cody Caruthers (Stone Memorial) dec. Micah Langford (Walker Valley), 8-5; 170 — Sean VonPotts (Cleveland) pinned Joel Payne (Heritage), 2:21; 182 — Chazz Fulford (Walker Valley) dec. Justin Johnson (Stone Memorial), 11-9; 195 — Clay Strawn (Maryville) dec. Joshua Bain (Kingston), 7-2; 220 — Zach Miller (Walker Valley dec. John Gaither (Cleveland), 7-4; 285 — Robert Wright (Maryville) dec. Daniel Cochran (Rhea County), 5-1.
1 — Cleveland, 237.5; 2 — Walker Valley, 134; 3 — Bradley Central, 124.5; 4 — Heritage, 118.5; 5 — Maryville, 90; 6 — Stone Memorial, 73; 7 — William Blount, 52.5; 8 — Alcoa, 48; 9 — Rhea County, 25; 10 — Kingston, 19; 11 — Greenback, 13.5; 12 — McMinn County, 2.