FRANKLIN — Intensity was the theme of the day at the state wrestling tournament Thursday. Walker Valley coach Al Morris and Bradley Central coach Ben Smith were looking for it while Cleveland coach Jake Yost stopped just short of being totally satisfied with he saw from the Blue Raiders.
And why not? All 14 of Cleveland's qualifiers are still in the tournament with eight still in the championship bracket.
"I'm happy, we've got 14 still alive," said a smiling Yost after Cleveland's last match of the night. "You can't win every match here. If we've got 14 still alive on the second day, that means we've still got a chance to place 14 and it means we've still got a chance for 14 guys to score team points."
"We didn't win the tournament today. The tournament's not over. There is still a ton of points still out there. But, I think we did a good job."
The Mustangs still have seven of nine qualifiers and stand in sixth place with 44 points.
"It's been one of those days," Morris lamented as Day 1 drew to a close. "We've done some good things, but there are a few outcomes we weren't expecting. But, they are just going to have to suck it up, come back and wrestle through the consolations."
"We've got guys that we have told if they get to this tournament they have to try to win. You've got to work the whole match. You can't try to sit on a one or two-point lead. You have to keep wrestling because everyone here is good and everyone here is tough. The guy that is trying to score is usually the guy that's going to score."
The Bears took seven wrestlers to the tournament and have and are currently in a tie for 15th with Clarksville with 29.5 points.
Only one Bear is still in the top bracket. Bradley's Toribio Navarro starts the day in the quarterfinals. Smith said his 106-pounder will need to step it up to have a shot at the top of the podium.
"The 106 tonight, the big guns between (Devan Cyree, Tullahoma), Nick Crawford, Heritage) and Toribio, I didn't see anybody that looked good. I thought we had a pretty decent first round match. I don't think we wrestled as well in our second round match as we should have. I was looking to go out and make a statement especially with the Crawford/Cyree match being a pretty big marquee match and we just went out there and let a kid slow us down. I wasn't super excited about that," Smith said.
"I would have to see a little bit more fire and a little bit more intensity out of him. But he's a sophomore and probably our best chance to win a state title so there was probably a little bit of pressure there. It wasn't to the points where I thought he was going to lose the match, but he can't wrestle like that and expect to win a state title I don't think."
Smith said he felt the performance at 106 mirrored the season effort from the Bears with the exception of his 160-pounder.
"It was about par for the course for the year. I keep looking for somebody to overachieve. I keep looking for somebody to go over the norm," he stated. "I thought Robbie Clark was the epitome of getting after it and wrestling the true Bradley style. I'm really proud of him for that. Dyer Ream did it for 4 1/2 minutes, the trouble is it's a six-minute match. Overall I'm pleased with the effort of all seven tonight, but it's still an unusual place for us to be in."
Cleveland led going into the consolation round by 22.5 points and added 66 more in the second round. The Blue Raiders hold a 32-point lead over second place Beech High School.
Yost was quick to point out the Raiders were in a similar situation two years ago heading into Day 2 of the tournament and came roaring back with an amazing Thursday performance that proved to be the winning edge.
"I remember two years ago when we were down by 20 or 30 on Thursday and scored a ton on Friday. There are teams out there that can do it," he cautioned.
Ravenwood holds third place with 52 points, followed by Wilson Central (50.5) and Soddy-Daisy (47). After Walker Valley, Heritage sits in sixth (38), Blackman and Pigeon Forge (36), Dickson County (32.5), Independence (31), Cordova, Franklin and Chattanooga Central (30.5).
With everyone still in the hunt for at least a third-place finish, the Raiders' coach still didn't feel as though his wrestlers were on a roll. But, if today's rounds are anything like Thursday's matches, the rest of the field will be vying for second.
"We tried, but every time we started to get on a roll we took a little hit," said Yost. "It's easier to get on a roll in a dual. It's harder to get on a roll in this tournament. It can be done, it's just harder to do because your guys are wrestling all over the place and it's harder to feed off each other when you're not right on top of each other,"
Still, Yost would not elaborate when pressed if Cleveland could put the tournament on ice today.
"We'd like to (wrap it up today). I don't know if we can, but we'd like to. I don't know if that's possible," he said. "We would like to put it away as early as we can but who knows? I don't know. We'd just like to score as many points as we can."