Bradley wrestling wins 24th championship

RICHARD ROBERTS Banner Sports Editor
Posted 2/20/16

FRANKLIN — After Thursday's Day 1 of the Tennessee State Wrestling Championships Bradley Central head coach Ben Smith was concerned about his team falling victim to the Day 2 curse the Bears …

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Bradley wrestling wins 24th championship

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FRANKLIN — After Thursday's Day 1 of the Tennessee State Wrestling Championships Bradley Central head coach Ben Smith was concerned about his team falling victim to the Day 2 curse the Bears have suffered in past championships.

He needn't have been.

In reality, the Tennessee Secondary Schools Athletics Association could have handed Bears coach Ben Smith the Bears' 24th championship trophy at the end of Friday's semifinals competition.

The Bears walked off the mat with 135.5 points, 58.5 points better then their nearest competitor after quarterfinals and put the championship completely in the bag with 202.5 points after the semifinal rounds. Beech High School, the nearest competitor, was second with 108. Defending champion Cleveland battled back to fourth place with 95 points and Walker Valley was 12th with 67.

Tennessee High (103) and Heritage (88) rounded out the top five.

Bradley picked up 42 more points in Saturday morning's consolation rounds and ended the three-day tournament with a total of 244.5 points after winning five of six championship matches Saturday night. Tennessee High School wound up in second place. Beech and Cleveland ended tied for third place with 117 points and Soddy-Daisy took fourth with 98.5 points. Walker Valley took a step up with a 10th-place finish scoring 80 points.

Smith, who generally tried to remain stoic during the tournament to keep his team grounded found it tough to keep a smile off his face as the night wound down on the second day of the championships as the points piled up for the Bears.

“Five out of six is nice. That's been done a couple of times in Bradley wrestling history. It was nice to do. That will add to the legacy of this team. I am really proud of that,” said Smith who finally allowed himself to relax a bit. “I really hate it for Joshua LaCoe, but he had a great tournament. He beat a defending state champion and just wrestled over his head all tournament. I'm super proud of the five who won capping off a great season and great careers. Five for six is a pretty good showing.”

Lacoe took second place for the Bears at 126 pounds.

Cleveland's Logan Whiteside took third at 120 and the Blue Raiders' Triston Blansit finished in third at 126. Bradley's Austin Mathews took third place at 145 and Walker Valley's Mikel Gregory ended his tournament with a third-place medal at 152.

The Blue Raiders' Bryce Pond took home fourth-place honors at 106 pounds while Bradley Central's Hunter Parker (132) and Austin Mathews (145) also earned fourth-place finishes.

Jack Hicks, of Cleveland, ended with a fifth-place finish at 170 and Bradley Central's D.J. Adams earned the fourth-place medal at 285.

Smith sent nine wrestlers to Friday's round of quarterfinals with eight reaching the semis. Six Bears went on the battle for state titles.

T.J. Hicks, 2015 state champion at 106 pounds, reached the title round at 113, Ryan McElhaney (120) and Joshua LaCoe — who defeated a defending state champion (126) all moved ahead.

Knox Fuller went hunting for this third-straight state title – this year at 138 after winning at 126 in 2015. Donnie Beyer (152) and Brett Brown (195) rounded out the championship wrestlers for the Bears.

The Bears picked up their first state championship medal courtesy of Hicks with a victory at 113 pounds. McEhaney followed with a championship win at 120 pounds.

Cleveland High School, winners of the last three state champions, had only two Blue Raiders reach the quarterfinals this time. Colton Landers (132) and Hicks (170) both advanced to the semifinals with Landers making it through to the championship round.

Landers faced Walker Valley's Joseph Munoz, the only Mustangs to reach the championships, in the title bout in the lone head-to-head matchup of the night.

Munoz, who pinned his way to the bracket to the championship match fought to a 9-5 decision over Landers who earned the second-place medal.

Landers, Munoz and Bradley's Hunter Parker all cleared the quarterfinals round at 132, the only local trio to make it all the way to the semifinals. Landers came out as the winner over Parker in their semifinals head-to-head matchup.

“I am so proud of Jo Munoz,” said Mustangs coach Al Morris. “If anybody every doubted that hard work pays off, there's that kid. He's the hardest working kid I've ever been around. Both of those guys (Munoz and Landers) are great wrestlers and great competitors. Joe stepped it up big time and I couldn't be happier or more proud of him.

“I'm also proud and happy for Mikel Gregory who finished third. He lost to the No. 1 seed at 152 and came back and gutted it out for third. That was great for him,” Morris continued. “We came here with seven wrestlers and it looks like we will finish in the top 10 which is a milestone for our program. This was a fairly young team and they performed well.”

Cleveland coach Jake Yost and the Raiders also came to Franklin with a young team and headed home with a third-place finish after coming back from deep in the points standings.

“We got five on the podium and those guys did a really good job. They put us in a situation to take home some hardware. We fell a little short of that but we have four of those five guys coming back next year. All eight guys that came over scored team points for us. For a young group they did a really good job and I am very proud of them,” said Yost. For a young group like that they did a good job and I am proud of them.

Fuller earned his third straight first-place medal and the third state championship for the Bears with a narrow 2-1 win at 138 pounds and Beyer wrestled to a 3-2 victory at 152 to earn a fourth state championship for the Bradley wrestling team. Brown put a cap on the grueling three-day ordeal with a final Bradley Central championship at 195, the fifth of the night for the Bears.

“We had very few moments in this tournament where I thought we got out-fought. That feels really good. We found a lot of bonus points and found a lot of people's backs. We got a lot of wins at the end. The overall effort and fight from the team was fantastic. And I think the score reflects that a little bit. There were very few spots where anything out of character happened. Very few things happened that would make me say this was not a highly successful tournament,” said a pleased Smith.”

“We want to keep getting better and better from here. We've some work to do. We've got a lot of depth. We've got a good group coming up but we graduate a lot of hardware. But we return a lot of hardware. It will be interesting. The whole state is getting better, everybody around us is getting better. We're not going to stop doing what we're doing and that is work hard. We'll see what happens, but right now we're going to enjoy this one.”

Outstanding wrestler went to Joseph Munoz from Walker Valley.

Best Match went to the 152-pound final between Donnie Beyer and Chris Rowland.

CHAMPIONSHIP FINALS

106 — Charles Wheaton (Soddy-Daisy) dec. Brayden Palmer (Beech), 4-2 ; 113 — T.J. Hicks (Bradley Central) major dec. Calvin Martin (William Blount), 11-0; 120 — Ryan McElhaney (Bradley Central) dec. Kyle Burns (Bearden), 7-2; 126 — Juan Hernandez (Heritage) dec. Joshua LaCoe (Bradley Central, 6-3; 132 — Joseph Munoz (Walker Valley) de. Colton Landers (Cleveland), 9-5 ; 138 — Knox Fuller (Bradley Central) dec. Dewey Pendley (Tennessee), 2-1; 145 — Michael Diemer (Heritage) Trevor Rippey (Beech); 152 — Donnie Beyer (Bradley Central) dec. Chris Rowland (Ravenwood), 3-2; 160 — Matthew Sells (Blackman) dec. Alex Jeffers (Dobyns-Bennett), 9-3; 170 — Zach Linton (Wilson Central) dec. Tate Holmes (Anderson County)8-4; 182 — Caleb Rippy (Beech) pinned Josh Booker (Jefferson County), 3:37; 195 — Brett Brown (Bradley Central) Tyler Reid (Ooltewah), 5-2; 220 — Hunter Bagley (Science Hill) dec. Tyler Barber (Stewarts Creek), 2-1 2OT ; 285 — Nick Boykin (Riverdale) pinned Logan Townsend (Jefferson County), 0:39.

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