OOLTEWAH — The preliminaries are over, the participants ready and the stage is set for the annual "brawl for it all" in Franklin at the Tennessee State Wrestling Championships after Saturday's …
And for the first time ever Cleveland, Bradley Central and Walker Valley finished 1-2-3 in the region tournament with the Blue Raiders walking away with the championship. The Bears wrestled to second-place, and the Mustangs earned the third spot.
Cleveland racked up 260.5 points while Bradley ended the day with 213. Walker Valley took third with 112 points.
East Hamiton and Ooltewah rounded out the top five with 75 points apiece. Soddy-Daisy (66), Rhea County (63), and McMinn County (20) filled out the rest of the field.
The local wrestling communities will once again be well represented as 35 wrestlers from Cleveland, Bradley Central and Walker Valley will be battling for state titles at the Williamson County AG Expo Park. Cleveland and Bradley will both send 14 wrestlers, while Walker Vally will have seven entrants.
The Raiders sent a dozen wrestlers to the region championship matches with nine earning gold medals Saturday.
Trae McDaniel (106 pounds), Jackson Bradford (113), Logan Whiteside (132), Cael Laxton (138), Grant Lundy (145), Austin Sweeney (152), Zach Brezna (160), Dylan Jones (182) and Wilson Benefield (220) all won region championships for Cleveland.
Burns Meagher (120), Ashton Davis (170) and Titus Swafford (285) wrestled to a second-place finish. Garrett Stevenson took third at 126 and Isaiah Perez earned fourth place at 195.
"We sent 12 guys to the finals, and had nine champions. It was a pretty good day," said Blue Raiders coach Joey Knox.
"The (14 qualifiers) will certainly help us in the team race. We have to wait until the brackets come out and find out where we're at. We'll do a little scouting and game plan and go from there. We had a couple of surprises, but all in all we wrestled OK, we wrestled pretty good."
Wesley DeVaney (120), Daniel Mroz (126) and DJ Gibson (195), all won first place for Bradley Central.
Ethan Wilson (106), Glen O'Daniel (113), Gavin Hughes (132), Sebastian Hernandez (138), Seth Gerena (152) and Tyrone McDonald (182) all earned silver.
Trey Johnson (170) took third, while Parker Falls (145), Austin Lynn (160), Gavin Sewell (220), and Austin McClure (285) ended the tournament in fourth place.
"We had a good day today. I'm pretty pleased. I know we ended up second as a team, but we were within a dozen points or so after the semis. Were basically heads up with Cleveland and some of those kids we don't have answers for," acknowledged Bear coach Ben Smith.
"We came here with 14 wrestlers and we are leaving with 14. Nobody got hurt and we seem to be healthy, as healthy as any team can be this time of year. I'm super excited to have 14 kids going to Franklin. That's 14 kids who can score points. I didn't know if we could win a state title in the duals. I think we can win a state title in a traditional event with this team. We've got 14 chances to put points on the board and go after our 27th state title."
In perhaps the biggest surprise of the tournament, Walker Valley' 285-pound wrestler Jadon Langford pinned the No. 2-ranked wrestler in the state to earn his championship medal.
Mario Acevedo (113), Ethan West (145), Joey Vecchionne (152), Michael Teasley (160), won third place, while Alex McCord (120) and Kallum Lowe (195) took fourth.
"We had some guys today that exceeded expectations and we're proud of them. We said of we could get seven wrestlers in the state tournament, that would be a good tournament for us. The fact we made it a Bradley County sweep with Cleveland, Bradley and Walker Valley the top three teams, that felt pretty good," said Mustang coach Al Morris, who was obviously pleased with the day's results.
"Im proud of my sophomore heavyweight (Langford). He wrestled the No. 2-ranked heavyweight in the state and pinned him. I'm really happy with that performance. I'm really happy with the whole team's performance. This is it now. Everything is over with. Now we've just got to prove ourselves."
Knox nor Smith stepped onto the limb to predict the championship results, but with 28 wrestlers coming from Cleveland and Bradley Centra,l percentages favor another state title coming back to Bradley County.
"It could be," said an optimistic Smith. "They are like us, but a little bit better. They (Cleveland) have some kids who could be and should be in the finals. But, they've got a lot of kids like us who should place and win two or three matches. Those kids score a lot of points for the teams. They've got the opportunity and we've got the opportunity to set up a showdown again."
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