FRANKLIN — For the better part of Thursday afternoon, Bradley Central held a reasonably comfortable lead over rival Cleveland. But as the curtain drew to a close on Day 1 of the TSSAA Traditional …
FRANKLIN — For the better part of Thursday afternoon, Bradley Central held a reasonably comfortable lead over rival Cleveland. But as the curtain drew to a close on Day 1 of the TSSAA Traditional State Wrestling Championships, the Blue Raiders cut into the lead in a big way, closing the once double-digit margin to 2 1/2 at day’s end.
The good news for the Bears is, the 78.5-76 Thursday lead could increase dramatically after nine of 13 Bradley wrestlers survived the first two rounds of the tournament. Four Bears fell to the consolation bracket. All 13 Bradley wrestlers still have a shot at medals.
Friday’s consolation rounds will be huge for the Raiders after losing eight in the Round of 32. Cleveland came through with seven winners in the consolation rounds and will be looking to make up more ground on Day 2 where state tournaments can be — and often are — won and lost.
“We've got six in the quarterfinals. We were hoping for a little bit more, but this week is all about the kids. The six guys we are putting in the quarterfinals have to win one more match to stamp their spot in the top six. The other seven in the ‘wrestlebacks’ have to wrestle hard and win, depending on where they are, four or five matches to place in the top six,” said Blue Raiders coach Josh Bosken. Everybody is still in it, we just have to wrestle hard.
“They are focused. There's a few guys with personal issues that are messing with their heads a little bit, but that's why wrestling is a great sport. You've got to fight through adversity and persevere through moments like this. Hopefully we can do that.”
Knoxville Halls sits in third place with 57.5 points followed by Tennessee High with 57.5 and Independence with 54.5.
The Bears started the tournament with a solid field of 13 wrestlers who won 12 first-round bouts. At the end of the day, only one Bear fell out of the competition leaving 12 Bradley wrestlers to battle toward the medal rounds.
“So far, so good. I felt like we were a little flat in the first round. Maybe it was nerves or jitters, I'm not really sure. We were still 12 of 13. We didn't get some bonus points I thought we would get, but for the most part the second round was a lot better,” said Bear coach Ben Smith as the long day wound down.
“In the second round we won a couple of toss-up matches I was worried about. We got a lot more bonus points the second round and that was huge. We were 10 of 12 the second round. We've got 10 shots in the morning to win matches that put you in the medal round, and that's pretty good.
Smith also conceded Friday's round is a very big day.
“It's huge. We've got chances to keep coming back to score some points. I like our draws. I hope they show up rested and ready to go in the morning.”
The Walker Valley Mustangs made it through the Round of 32 with 3 of 4 wrestlers advancing in the winners' bracket.
Chandler Davis (106) won by pin in the first round, but fell to the loser's bracket in the Round of 16. Davis remained alive with a consolation win in Round 2.
Dillon Clark (138) earned two decisions and needs a quarterfinals win to earn a medal.
Mikel Gregory (160) moved forward with two pins and also remains in the hunt for gold.
“You come here every year and there are always some pleasant surprises and some shocks. Right now, we've only got one that's out. We only brought four this year. We lost in the second round at 106 but he is still alive. We still have our two seniors still alive in the championship bracket,” said Mustangs coach Al Morris.
“We've just got to take care of business. This time of the year, you hurt for the ones who don't achieve their goals, but you've got to keep moving forward. You've got to help your wrestlers stay focused so the ones still alive can continue to advance.”
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