Since the inception of the wrestling program at Walker Valley, the Mustangs have worked hard to break free of the “little brother” stigma associated with trying to catch already well-established programs like Bradley Central and Cleveland.
The Mustangs battled hard once again against the Bears Tuesday night and got off to an exceptional start, but in the end were unable to shake the “little brother” collar and take the next step forward in the progression of the program, falling to the Bears by a score of 38-30.
“First of all you have to say congratulations to Walker Valley and their seniors on an extremely hard-fought match on their part. It’s a great environment for us to come in here and wrestle,” complimented Bears coach Ben Smith.
“This match has been talked about by them since the end of last season. A lot of their seniors match up well with us. They came in here knowing what they wanted to do and they threw the kitchen sink at us.”
Mustangs coach Al Morris said Walker Valley missed several good chances to change the outcome.
“They are a good team and you have to take your hats off to them,” he said as “The Stable” emptied. “I feel like we missed some opportunities. We will just have to get back to practice. I feel like where we lost here tonight was in the practice room. Some of the guys have not stepped up and done what we’ve asked, and it showed tonight. That’s tough.”
The Mustangs fired the first volley with an upset win by Drake Haney at 106 pounds over No. 1 ranked Ryan McElhaney.
“I’m real proud of my 106,” said Morris. “He beat the No. 1-ranked guy, that was a big win. I’d be lying if I was counting on that, however I knew it could be done. Drake told me before the match he had a plan. I told him to make it a good one. From now on he gets to make all his own plans. He did a good job.”
Smith, however, said the fan stunner by Haney came as no surprise to him.
“We came out and got hit in the mouth at 106. That was big,” he said. “It was an upset on paper, but the Walker Valley kid descended from 113 and is a tough kid. So that wasn’t a surprise to me. It was a disappointment because I thought we should have won the match.”
The Bears responded with back-to-back-to-back pins from Toribio Navarro (113), Knox Fuller (120) and Hunter Parker (126). Taylor Kazy capped off the run with a technical fall win at 132.
A decision at 138 by Stephen Scott put the Bears up 26-3.
Walker Valley’s Tyrus Hamrick made it 26-9 with a pin at 145 and Colter McConnell stretched the Bradley lead to 32-9 with a pin at 152.
Walker Valley’s Ryan Hager got the Mustangs back on the winning track with a pin after bumping up to 160 pounds from 152. The six points were canceled out in the next bout when the Bears’ Nathan Adams was declared the winner by injury default.
“In the 170-pound match the kid slammed us illegally, we get a concussion and the trainer made the call. It’s out of my hands at that point,” Smith said of the outcome.
Morris was also disappointed in the loss but said the 170-pound loss was just one of several he felt could have and should have gone the other way.
“We lose (the match) by eight points. We had a match where we’re winning and get rolled over and pinned at 126. Then we had the match at 170 where we were winning by decision and he slammed him, the referee called it and that is a nine-point swing,” he said.
Billy Raulston picked up a win for the Mustangs at 182, followed by wins at 195 by Ric Kennett and Xzavier Beckingham at 220. Zach Miller closed it out for Walker Valley with a pin at 285 to make the final 38-30.
“We just got outfought in some spots. We got four pins, they got three. We won zero close ones, they won four. I knew once they got down to weight this would be a heck of a match. This was one of those wins that you have that feels more like a loss. But I’m proud of our guys for putting us in a position to win the match,” said Smith.
“We picked up four pins on top of the medical forfeit and put ourselves in position to win. Again, hats off to Walker Valley and their coaching staff. They are, on most days, good friends of mine and I wish them the best Thursday against Cleveland as we go into Soddy[-Daisy].”
Morris said the loss again reminds the Mustangs of the work needed to compete at an elite level. Walker Valley will have little time to bemoan the loss with Thursday’s match with Cleveland on the horizon.
“It’s frustrating because we are the new program in this community and with Cleveland being the top team in the state and Bradley right there, we’re knocking on the door but we need to kick it in,” he said.
“I hope our guys will respond the way they should as far as getting after it at practice and stepping up. It isn’t getting any easier — Thursday we have Cleveland. Bradley will be wrestling Soddy, and that is all going to dictate who will be wrestling who in the region duals. We could see Bradley again. But, we can’t worry about that right now, we have to worry about Cleveland.”
Smith and the Bears will turn their focus to a huge match with Soddy-Daisy on Thursday that holds major duals tournament ramifications.
“I feel like the state championship is going to run through Bradley County and Cleveland City Schools,” he said. “Hopefully, we can go into Thursday and knock off Soddy, win our district and set ourselves up to wrestle the loser of Cleveland and Walker Valley, and get in the state duals.
BEARS 39, MUSTANGS 30
(Match started at 106)
106 — Drake Haney (WV) dec. Ryan McElhaney (BC), 7-6; 113 — Toribio Navarro (BC) pinned Zane Smith (WV), 3:22; 120 — Knox Fuller (BC) pinned Logan Smith (WV), 5:47; 126 — Hunter Parker (BC) pinned Austin Gregory (WV), 5:56; 132 — Taylor Kazy (BC) tech. fall EJ Johnson, 16-1, 4:20; 138 — Stephen Scott (BC) dex. Joseph Munoz (WV), 2-1; 145 — Tyrus Hamrick (WV) pinned Caleb Adkins (BC), 1:21; 152 – Colter McConnell (BC) pinned Dante Richardson (WV), 3:28; 160 — Ryan Hager (WV) pinned Steven Wilson (BC), 3:14; 170 — Nathan Adams (BC) win by injury default over Lawrence Cotton; 182 — Billy Raulston (WV) dec. Brett Brown (BC), 2-1; 195 — Ric Kennett (WV) dec. Zachary McFarland (BC), 13-11; 220 — Xzavier Beckingham (WV) dec. Eddie Shalchick (BC), 2-1; 285 — Zach Miller (WV) pinned Jerry Johnson (BC), 0:50.