SODDY-DAISY — In their most important dual meet of the regular season, nothing seemed to go right for Bradley Central Thursday evening at the Soddy-Daisy wrestling building.
With the District 7-AAA championship on the line, the fourth-ranked Trojans were able to open the meet with the strength of their lineup and proceeded to take the third-ranked Bears to the proverbial woodshed. Soddy built a 29-0 lead on their way to a 44-24 victory, the final six Bradley points of which it forfeited to the Bears.
“I thought we were ready for this match,” declared a disappointed Bear head coach Ben Smith. “We had tough defeats last week, where we fought really hard against the two No. 1 teams in the state (Cleveland and Baylor). We went up to Johnson City and won a couple of duals Friday and then the Fandetti Brawl Saturday.
“We struggled a little bit against a very good Walker Valley team Tuesday but had a great practice Wednesday and everybody was excited this morning (Thursday), but what we did tonight was hard to watch,” he commented. “They (Soddy) took the fight to us. Getting beat is one thing, but getting outfought is what really bothers me.”
The defeat means for the third straight year, the Bears will once again battle archrival Cleveland in the opening round of the Region 4 Duals with a state tournament bid on the line. Soddy-Daisy will take on sixth-ranked Walker Valley in the other region semifinal meet Thursday in Ooltewah, for a shot to return to Franklin for the third year in a row.
“We’re going to have to figure out a way to fight,” proclaimed Coach Smith. “We’re going to (Knoxville) Halls this weekend and we’ll see (No. 2) Wilson Central there and then we’ll get ready to take on Cleveland again. This loss does not define, nor does it end, what has been a great season for us. We’ve still got lots of work to do.”
Opening Thursday’s match at the 126-pound division, Soddy won the first seven matches, five of which had state-ranked Trojans pin the mat, including four listed as No. 1 or 2 in their classification.
“When you lose the first seven matches, five by pin, it doesn’t leave you any room for error,” stated Coach Smith. “We were able to win five of the last seven matches and I felt like the other two were winnable, but we weren’t able to pull it off.”
Bradley freshman Brett Brown, ranked No. 5 in the latest state poll, was finally able to put some points on the left side of the scoreboard with a pin at the 3:18 mark of his 182-pound match, but the hosts wrapped up the victory with wins in the next two matches.
Senior Jerry “JJ” Johnson gave the Black-and-Gold fans something to cheer about in the heavyweight match, claiming a 6-3 decision.
In the second battle of state-ranked wrestlers on the evening, Bradley freshman Ryan McElhaney, ranked No. 2, captured a 5-2 decision over fifth-ranked Chase Payne at 106, before top-ranked junior Toribio Navarro made it three wins in a row for the Bears with a 3:26 pin at 113. Soddy forfeited the final match of the night to second-ranked freshman Knox Fuller.
"I've been pointing toward this match for a long time and I thought that we were a little closer to them than we are,” Coach Smith commented. “I really thought we had a shot at winning this match. It's not OK to just lay down and give up, but I felt like that's what we did in some places. We just have to find our fight."
TROJANS 44, BEARS 24
(match started at 126)
106 — Ryan McElhaney (BC) dec. Chase Payne, 5-2; 113 — Toribio Navarro (BC) pinned Mason Blevins, 3:36; 120 — Knox Fuller (BC) won by forfeit; 126 — Austin Houser (SD) pinned Hunter Parker, 4:40; 132 — Emory Holcomb (SD) dec. Taylor Kazy, 8-3; 138 — Tucker Russo (SD) dec. Stephen Scott, 4-1; 145 — Gage Richmond (SD) pinned Caleb Adkins, 1:30; 152 — Austin Williamson (SD) dec. Colter McConnell, 7-5; 160 — Garrett Alexander (SD) tech. fall Greg Wilson, 16-1, 4:05; 170 — Tyler Hixson (SD) dec. Corey Gatlin, 5-2; 182 — Brett Brown (BC) pinned Hunter Maynor, 3:18; 195 — Christian Dean (SD) dec. Zach McFarland, 6-4; 220 — Dylan Aslinger (SD) pinned Eddie Shalchick, 2:15; 285 — Jerry Johnson (BC) dec. Trace McNew, 6-3.