“It’s been a long day; it’s been a long week. This is a tough tournament that we put on here. Everyone has a bunch of studs on their team. We schedule things like this on purpose so that we have an idea what the state tournament is going to feel like,” explained Raider head coach Jake Yost.
While the slate of competition was impressive, so was Cleveland’s 6-1 run through the gauntlet. Despite injuries and facing some of the best high school wrestlers the Southeast has to offer, the Raiders only tallied a single loss against fellow No. 1 Christian Brothers in the quarterfinals of the duals by a razor-thin score of 35-33.
“We put a fair effort out there tonight. We made plenty of mistakes that we are going to need to address, but all in all we fought hard in most situations,” expressed Yost.
“We’ve taken some injuries. We took a few last night and took a few today. But, we put the best lineup that we could out there and fought as hard as they could. That’s just part of the learning experience.”
Father Ryan 18
Friday night, Cleveland continued its tradition of welcoming in the wrestling alumni for a night of food, reminiscing and more importantly, fierce competition.
The visiting Fighting Irish took an early lead with decision victories at 126 and 132 pounds.
Top-ranked Haden Hamilton got the Raiders on the board at 138 as he earned a decision victory of second-ranked (DII) Mike Akers.
Father Ryan struck back by getting another pair of decision wins at 145 and 152.
Another of Cleveland’s top-seeded wrestlers turned the match around at 160. Raider Aaron Lopez got the match’s first pin over Nick Naughton to bring the home team within three points.
Sean Potts kept things going with a pin of Hunter Duff at 170 to give Cleveland its first lead of the night. Top-ranked Ethan West (182) and fifth-ranked Oleg Stukanov (195) extended the lead with pins of their own.
Heavyweight Koran Kennedy pinned Father Ryan’s Andrew Holmes, and Christopher DeBien got a decision win at 113 to round out the match.
Cleveland 54, Woodland 21
The Raiders kicked off their tournament Saturday by wrestling Woodland out of Cartersville, Ga.
Potts got things going on the right foot with a pin of Norman Camp.
But, a 12-point swing at 182 and 195 gave Woodland its only lead of the match.
Kennedy, DeBien, Ezra Taylor (138) and Joel Simpkins (145) all won their matches by pinning their opponent.
Taylor Bishop (126) and second-ranked Josh Hamilton (152) both grabbed decision wins in the tournament’s opening victory.
Cleveland 41, Heritage 28
The hits kept coming, as 18th-ranked Maryville Heritage lined up for its shot at the host Raiders.
Mountaineer wrestlers took an initial lead with a decision win at 182.
Oleg Stukanov gave the lead back to Cleveland with a pin over Tyler Coppenger at the six-minute mark, but back-to-back Heritage victories in the 220 and heavyweight class gave the visitors the lead once again.
Freshmen Triston Blansit got the team rolling once again with a decision win over Juan Hernandez at 106. DeBien and top-ranked Austin Stevison (120) followed that up with a pair of technical falls against Dakota Compton and Matthew Spradlin, respectively.
Cleveland put a cap on the match, as Simpkins and Hamilton took the final two contested matches by pinning Heritage’s Christian Jones and Josh Carpenter.
Cleveland 41, Baylor 28
In their last match of pool play, the Blue Raiders squared off against Baylor’s Red Raiders for a chance to advance to the tournament’s quarterfinal round.
A forfeit at 195 and decision wins by Gaither over Robert Norred and Kennedy over fifth-seeded (DII) Jon Schnissrauter gave Cleveland all the lead it would need.
DeBien notched another pin over Jack Reynolds. Stevison got a technical fall on fourth-ranked (DII) Caleb Canada, and Taylor and Lopez both finished stong with pins of their own against Preston Troxel and Aidon Garron.
Christian Brothers 35
The week’s long road led to here. In the quarterfinal match of the Cleveland duals, two top-ranked teams squared off for a shot at the tournament’s title match.
Kennedy put Raider fans on their feet with an opening pin over Phillip Nichols in the heavyweight class.
The Purple Wave took 106 with a pin and 113 with a decision to gain the lead, but a forfeit at 120 and a Bishop pin over John Byers at 126 had Cleveland right back in the match.
Both teams traded six points in the 132 and 145 classes, with Christian Brothers taking the former and Cleveland the latter.
Then, the Purple Tide went on a tear, gaining a decision at 145, a technical fall at 152 and pins at 160 and 182.
Lopez fought back at 170 for some much-needed points in a decision win over Christopher Henry, and Stukanov and Gaither gave the team a fighting chance with decision wins at 195 and 220 against Michael Edwards and KenDrick Morgan, but the lead was just a little to large to overcome, forcing Cleveland to settle for the 35-33 loss.
Christian Brothers went on to lose in the championship match to Pope out of Marietta, Ga., by a score of 45-21.
“I’m happy with how things turned out, not ecstatic. We left a lot of points out on the mat and it cost us a dual. Different matches, we had different guys step up. We saw good things from most of our guys. We also just have some things we need to work on moving forward,” Yost said.
Up next, Cleveland will face off against the Ooltewah Owls and McCallie on Tuesday before setting its sights on defending state champion Soddy-Daisy on Thursday.