At TSSAA State Traditional: Local teams 3 of top 4
by RICHARD ROBERTS Banner Sports Editor
Feb 14, 2014 | 1384 views | 0 0 comments | 27 27 recommendations | email to a friend | print
CLEVELAND BLUE RAIDER William Hass battles Logan Womack of Clinton in the 145-pound Round 1 match at the TSSAA State Traditional Wrestling Tournament Thursday, in Franklin. Banner photo, LYNNAE ROBERTS
CLEVELAND BLUE RAIDER William Hass battles Logan Womack of Clinton in the 145-pound Round 1 match at the TSSAA State Traditional Wrestling Tournament Thursday, in Franklin. Banner photo, LYNNAE ROBERTS
FRANKLIN — Cleveland wrestling coach Jake Yost could only watch as a Blue Raiders’ lead quickly turned into a three-point deficit at the end of Day 1 of the Tennessee State Championships wrestling tournament in Franklin.

Wilson Central leads headed into Day 2 with 73 team points to 70 for Cleveland, a bit of a turnaround from the 50-15 whipping put on the Wildcats by the Raiders two weeks ago in the state duals team championship match.

Bradley Central made a late charge to move from eighth place to third with 63 points. Walker Valley, bumped from the third spot by Bradley, currently stands in fourth with 55 points.

Cookeville holds fifth place with 53.5 points and Soddy-Daisy is sixth (51.5). Heritage, Ravenwood, Brentwood and Collierville round out the Top 10.

The defending champion Cleveland Blue Raiders sent 11 wrestlers to the state tournament and all 11 are still alive with nine still in the championship brackets and two working through the consolations brackets.

"We've got eight left in the championship round, they did a good job. We had three big wins. Tristan Blansit, our 113, beat a kid that beat him here last year. Austin Stevison (132 pounds) beat a tough kid and Ezra Taylor (138) beat a really tough kid in the second round. So far we are doing a good job. Every one of our guys have scored points and that is a good thing," said Yost.

Blansit, Chris DeBien (126), Stevison, Taylor (138), Aaron Oliver (152), Josh Hamilton (170), Ethan West (195) and Koran Kennedy (220) are all still alive in the championship brackets.

Taylor Bishop (120), William Hass (145) and John Gaither (285) will be looking for consolation points.

The large number of wrestlers in the front side of the bracket definitely gives the Blue Raiders an advantage when it comes to scoring team points.

"It's worth more points on the front side of the bracket and when you have the chance to get to the finals, that's where the big points come. When you start getting those placement points, it starts adding up quick," he said.

Bradley Central, no strangers to the front side of the bracket, qualified 13 Bears and have five left alive in the championship brackets with five more battling for points in the consolation rounds.

Bear coach Ben Smith said an uphill battle was expected with a large number of qualifiers coming from the back side of the region tournament bracket, setting the lower-seeded Bears up for tough matches against top wrestlers from outside the region.

"We qualified 13 and that excited everybody. But, the fact of the matter is eight of those 13 were guys that came out of the back half of the bracket. There were four thirds and four fourths; those guys are going to catch first and seconds from other regions," Smith explained. "We knew we would have some tough first-round matches. We won six of those. We thought if we won seven, it would be a good day. Five of those six won in the second round to make the quarterfinals. There are a lot of teams here that don't have five wrestlers in the tournament. We've got five in the quarters and we've got good matches."

Ryan McElhaney (106), Toribio Navarro (113), Knox Fuller (120), Nathan Adams (170) and Zach McFarland (195) head into today's continuation of the championship search.

Hunter Parker (126), Stephen Scott (138), Caleb Adkins (145), Brett Brown (182) and Jerry Johnson (285) will be looking for consolation points.

Smith said the Bears can make up a lot of ground on Day 2 with a large number of team points on the consolation round table.

"Everybody up to this point has scored a point. The bulk of our 13 are back half of the bracket guys and hopefully now we can get in, do some work and make up some ground. It's disappointing because you see a big number of wrestlers and you expect Bradley wrestling to freight train through the first three rounds, but we're not quite there yet," he said.

"We've got a chance to make up a lot of points, that's the kind of team we are. We've got a couple of big horses that are going to score some points in the front half of the bracket, but we've got quite a few guys left in the back half who are going to win some matches. Two or three wins in the back half will make up for a quarterfinal win."

Walker Valley headed to the state tournament with an equal number of Mustangs as the Raiders. Six Mustangs battled through the first day to stay in the championship bracket. Two more Mustangs continue forward in the consolation brackets.

"We pretty much did what we thought we would do. There were a couple first round matches we actually thought we would win, but we weren't ready," said Walker Valley coach Al Morris. "Some of that had to do with youth and inexperience, we just have to learn from it. Now we just have to keep moving on."

Drake Haney (106), Tyrus Hamrick (145), Lawrence Cotton (160), Billy Raulston (182), Ric Kennett (195) and Zach Miller (285) are wrestling in the front brackets for the Mustangs.

Ryan Hager (152) and Xzavier Beckingham (220) are still alive in the consolations.

The Mustangs ended Day 1 with nine pins, an area Morris has constantly looked for his team to improve.

"That's an area we have wanted to improve on all year. I've never been satisfied and honestly, I'm still not, although we've done better about pinning," he said. "We had so many opportunities to pin people and we let them get away; sometimes that might be your match."

The Bears are tied with tournament leader Wilson Central with 14 pins. The Blue Raiders won 11 matches with pins.

Morris is also counting on a big day from the consolation round wrestlers.

"We're going to let these guys know there are a lot of points to be made up in the consolation rounds," he said. "They are disappointed (to be there). They are in the consolation round and they are going to have to suck it up and go as far as we can. Individually whatever you can do is going to help with the team."

With a big second day, the Blue Raiders can take a big step toward locking up a second consecutive state championship. Yost said he expects the tournament to stay close until attrition takes its toll and a leader emerges.

"We are looking to have our guys go and compete hard. If they go out and compete hard, good things will happen," he said. "It's going to be a close race until placement points start getting awarded and people start dropping out of the tournament. Until then it's hard to build any type of a lead."