Raiders ready to defend state title
by RICHARD ROBERTS Banner Sports Editor
Jan 30, 2014 | 864 views | 0 0 comments | 31 31 recommendations | email to a friend | print
LOOKING TO defend their TSSAA State Duals title, the top-ranked Cleveland High Blue Raiders will try to flip the competition on its head at the 2014 state championship tournament this weekend at the Williamson County Agricultural Exposition Arena in Franklin.  Banner file photo, RICHARD ROBERTS
LOOKING TO defend their TSSAA State Duals title, the top-ranked Cleveland High Blue Raiders will try to flip the competition on its head at the 2014 state championship tournament this weekend at the Williamson County Agricultural Exposition Arena in Franklin. Banner file photo, RICHARD ROBERTS
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To paraphrase a famous creed, neither snow, nor rain, nor gloom of night, will stay the Cleveland Blue Raiders wrestlers from the swift completion of their appointed rounds at the upcoming state duals championships.

Though snow did put a stop to Tuesday's session of final preparations for Friday and Saturday's tournament, Cleveland coach Jake Yost feels missing a practice or two should not make a large difference in the performance of the Blue Raiders.

"We will be ready. This is one of those things we work all year for. We didn't have practice Tuesday because of the weather, but we are going to try to get together today (Wednesday) sometime if the roads permit," Yost said Wednesday morning. "Regardless, if we miss a couple of practices it's not going to affect us. That's not going to make a difference; we've been working out all year and missing two workouts isn't going to hinder our performance."

The Raiders, who won the 2013 state duals title with a 78-4 beatdown of Wilson Central, square off against Hendersonville Beech in the opening Round of 16 at 4:30 Friday afternoon at the Williamson County Agricultural Exposition Arena, in Franklin.

Opening round winners will wrestle again at 8 Friday evening in the state quarterfinals, with consolation and state semifinal action beginning Saturday morning and afternoon. The state championship meet will begin at 8 Saturday evening.

Yost said the Raiders, who lost six wrestlers to graduation from last year’s state title team, will face an unfamiliar foe in the Beech Buccaneers. The story will be the same with Halls or Bartlett if Cleveland successfully makes it past Round 1.

"We haven't seen them at all. I really don't know much about any teams on our side of the bracket," Yost admitted. "The only one we've even seen is Ravenwood when we saw them at the Brentwood tournament."

Cleveland will send new wrestlers to the mat at 126, 132, 145, 160, 170, and 195. But according to Yost, there is little need for concern since several of the wrestlers participated in last year's duals and all of them made the trip to the "Cow Palace."

"Pretty much all the guys on the team besides freshmen made the trip last year. They've been there, they know what it's like. Some of them even competed. Some of the guys that didn't start wrestled matches in the state duals last year," he said. "As much as you might call it a younger team, they've got experience."

Experience will be a key element in the Raiders' plan to bring another state championship back to Cleveland. Lack of knowledge about the individual skills of the opposition should not play into the performance of the Blue Raiders on the mat — if they do what they have trained for all year, the Cleveland coach feels.

"If we do what we are supposed to do, I feel we can beat any of the teams in the bracket. We're just going to go out there and worry about us. I'm not so worried about anybody else. If we do what we're supposed to do, we're hard to beat," said Yost. "We don't spend a whole lot of time worrying about anybody else. If we just do what we're supposed to do, everything else will take care of itself."

On the other end of the bracket, Yost predicts a semifinal matchup with powerhouse Soddy-Daisy and Wilson Central, with Soddy making it to the finals to face the Blue Raiders. The Trojans open against Heritage while the Wildcats kick off against Jefferson County.

"I think it will definitely be a semifinal matchup with Soddy-Daisy and Wilson Central," said the Cleveland coach. "Wilson Central beat them last year, but they beat them because Soddy-Daisy had to kick three of their kids off the team the night before. I think it's going to be a really close duals matchup. I would pick Soddy-Daisy, but I don't know for sure who would win (if it comes down to those two teams).”

He also said he doesn't think the No. 1 seed enjoyed by the Blue Raiders will affect them at all when it comes crunch time on the mat.

"I don't think it affects them positively or negatively, really. We continually tell them to concentrate on the process. Concentrate on doing the right thing and everything else will take care of itself," he said. "I feel pretty confident we will be tough to beat."