The No. 1-ranked Bradley Central Bears and the No. 3-ranked Cleveland Blue Raiders had Jan. 13 circled on their respective calendars as the day to find out if the Raiders would finally break the 17-year winning streak enjoyed by the Bears. Mother Nature, however, had different ideas and decided the match between the two top-ranked Tennessee schools could wait a few more days to further increase anticipation and expectations.
The match, rescheduled for Monday at 7 p.m. in the Raider Dome, promises to live up to its billing as one of the premier wrestling events in the state. The Raiders plan to capitalize on the large number of expected fans by offering VIP tickets for $20. The price includes priority seating and concessions. Tickets may be purchased by calling Josh Bosken at 513-646-4435.
But, before either team can turn its attention fully toward the other, both face tough battles with other respected foes tonight. The Bears are putting their home winning streak, as well as their overall winning streak on the line against Soddy-Daisy while the Raiders square off against Walker Valley in “The Stable.”
“We go against Walker Valley and you always have to take them real seriously,” Phillips said. “But obviously, Cleveland and Bradley look forward to wrestling each other. They are what I expected, a tough Bradley team. They are good. We look forward to seeing them on Monday.”
Logsdon said his focus along with that of the Bears will have to be put on hold until later tonight, after the final whistle against the Trojans.
“The rivalry has a whole lot of tradition and history behind it. What’s difficult is right now is, we can’t even look forward to Cleveland. We can’t even think about them because we have a huge match with Soddy tonight,” said Logsdon as the Bears were warming up for Tuesday’s meeting with Ooltewah. “We cannot look past Soddy. It is at home and it’s big. It’s unfortunate. Cleveland is in the back of our minds and we know it’s coming but right now we are thinking about Soddy-Daisy.”
When the Bears and Raiders meet up in the Raider Dome on Jan. 24, 16 wrestlers ranked in the top six in the state will square off to see who walks out of the circle with bragging rights. Out of those 16, eight are ranked No. 1 or No. 2. Four wrestlers step in ranked at No. 3 with two at No. 4 and two at No. 6.
Three Blue Raiders, although unranked, are listed on the Others To Watch (OTW) list and could play a significant role in the final outcome of the brawl. They are Joel Simpkins (119), Brandon Strickland (130) and Jordan Hines (285).
The last win by Cleveland in any wrestling event against the Bears came in a dual event in 1993 — Steve Logsdon’s sophomore year as Bears’ head coach — and the Raiders are anxious to break the spell. The Bears, on the other hand, take tremendous pride in the record and will be out to extend it for one more season.
The Raiders finished ahead of the Bears with a win in the 1994 traditional state tournament and a second in the ’95 traditional.
“Us and Cleveland have a real history. It goes back a long way when Cleveland just dominated Bradley back in the ’70s. We never won a match against Cleveland until the early ’80s. My junior year in 1983 we edged past Cleveland,” said Logsdon. “Then it went back and forth for a while and a rivalry started developing. Back in the day Bradley was the stepchild of wrestling. Enter Turner Jackson and it started turning around. He was the catalyst for all of this (Bradley wrestling success).”
Cleveland head coach Eric Phillips said the Blue Raiders use the rivalry as motivation for what can be accomplished with hard work and discipline. He said there is no lack of respect toward the Bears by the Blue Raiders.
“It’s a respect thing. Bradley’s kids, what they have done with that program and the number of championships they have won is something we talk about in our room as a matter of greatness,” Phillips said. “It’s been a great accomplishment and they have set a real high standard and a bar for us to shoot for.”
When the two powerhouses finally do reach the moment of truth, wrestling fans should be in for yet another tremendous show of strength and determination from a myriad of top wrestlers in the state.
For the Bears, senior Ethan Hames, No. 2 at 125 pounds, is slated to match up with No. 4 ranked Haden Hamilton, a sophomore. Senior Bear Bradley Colbaugh, also ranked No. 2, will go against unranked junior Chuck Norwood at 152 pounds.
Cleveland and Bradley also boast two of the top grapplers at 135 pounds, Cleveland senior Marvin Lopez (No. 1) and Bradley junior Tyler Schuch (No. 3). Only one will leave the circle victorious. At 140 pounds, Cleveland’s Aaron Lopez will meet up with Bradley Central’s Tyler Pitts who is ranked No. 6 in Tennessee.
The Bears hold an advantage on paper in the higher weights with No. 1-ranked Tucker Bolton going against unranked Seth Snyder. Bolton, a renowned power at 215, will put his remarkable 21-0 record on the line against a much-improved Snyder who fought the state’s No. 3-ranked wrestler at 215, Billy Swanson for a full three periods before falling 3-2.
“There will be some great matchups. Any time you have a rivalry, it brings it up a notch anyway. Then you have a rivalry with a lot of great matchups,” said Phillips. “It is going to be exciting. It is going to be fun. Those guys are going to come ready to wrestle and hopefully we will be ready to wrestle.”
Isaiah Nichols (CHS) vs. Jacob Bailey (BC) should also be one to watch at 160 pounds. Nichols has already beaten the No. 1- and No. 2-ranked wrestlers at 171 pounds. Nichols took Ooltewah’s Goose Manning (No. 1) in three overtimes and out-pointed Soddy’s Blaike Henry (No. 2) in four overtime periods.
Last season, Bailey came back from a pin by Cleveland’s Bailey Jones in their first meeting and fought Jones, who would go on to win a state championship at 160 pounds, to overtime.
“They want the same thing we want. I know Eric Phillips and I know their kids and their system. Cleveland has been state runner up the last six or seven state tournaments. They are well aware of that and we are well aware of that,” said a respectful Logsdon. “The point is, they are highly motivated. They want to take that gold trophy to their house on Raider Drive. My job is to try and keep it on South Lee Highway.”