Still considered relatively young in "wrestling years," the Walker Valley Mustangs continue to build a successful program.
Walker Valley coach Al Morris felt the time was right and the program has developed enough to host its own tournament and bring in quality programs from across East Tennessee.
"It's an opportunity to bring different teams into our area and see different competition. It's also a fund raising opportunity. Most people do this to help fund their program and hopefully this will help. We've actually had people say, ‘Why don't you do something?’ So, that's a part of it too," said Morris.
"We felt like our program has gotten to the point where we have the support to actually host a tournament. Hosting a duals tournament is actually a little easier than hosting an individual so we went that route."
Eight wrestling teams from across the region converged on Walker Valley High School Saturday and fans filled "The Stable" for the first ever Walker Valley Duals wrestling tournament.
Teams from Heritage, Greeneville, Maryville, Signal Mountain, Tullahoma, Alcoa and Knoxville Halls all took to the mat in day long preliminaries leading to the championship match.
Walker Valley — with four starters out of the lineup with illness and injury — breezed through the early matches with a 66-18 win over Greeneville and a 51-26 victory over Halls. In the final match of the pool rounds, the Mustangs found the going a bit tougher but came out on the top end of a 37-30 score against Maryville. The victory set the Mustangs up in the championship match against Heritage.
At the end of the day, Morris and the Mustangs will go back to the process of program building after a 48-28 win by the Mountaineers.
"The Stable" went dead quiet twice during the championship final, once when the Mountaineers' Jole Payne and Mustang Micah Langford cracked heads. Payne went to the mat apparently unconscious. The gym sent silent again when Walker Valley’s 220-pounder was stunned in the second period with a pin by Heritage's Jed Davis.
After a few tense moments, Payne walked off the mat no worse for the wear but for an injury default. The Mustangs, already down 36-22 would not recover.
"We are 1-2 against that guy now. We just have to learn. The good thing is we get to see him again in the region tournament. We had a game plan and we didn't stick to it, but that wasn't the only match (that didn't go Walker Valley's way)," said Morris. "We've got guys who have to learn to fight. We've got young guys who had to step in today and they didn't respond like we were hoping."
Walker Valley got pins from Drake Haney at 106 pounds, Caleb Langford (138) and Ric Kennett at 195. The Mountaineers pinned seven Mustangs.
Morris said the Mustangs will shake off the disappointment of a second-place finish in their first tournament and will get some rest before beginning preparations for a big meet with Cleveland this week.
"We wanted to win, we want to win every time we are out here competing. This is the first time we have hosted this tournament and we wanted to win it," said an exhausted Moris. "Heritage out fought us. They deserved it. I wish we could see them again somewhere, but we won't in the dual meet more than likely."
"We are going to take the day off tomorrow, rest, go to work Monday and get ready for Cleveland Thursday so it doesn't get any easier."
MOUNTAINEERS 48, MUSTANGS 28
(Meet started at 113)
106 — Drake Haney (WV) pinned Dalton Lopez, 1:14; 113 — Logan Smith (H) pinned Nick Crawford, 1:23; 120 — Matthew Spradlin (H) pinned Braxton Brewer, 0:51; 126 — Michael Diemer (H) pinned Arrie Bramlet, 3:29; 132 — Jose Hernandez (H) pinned Austin Gregory, 0:59; 138 — Caleb Langford (WV) pinned Dexter Watson, 0:11; 145 — Skyler Boring (H) dec. Lawrence Cotton, 10-3; 152 — Ryan Hager (WV) major dec. Jake Traxler, 8-0; 160 — Micah Langford (WV) win by injury default; 170 — Keagan Matlock (H) pinned John Hayes, 1:25; 182 — Schuyler LaRue (H) dec. Chase Gregory, 2-1; 195 — Ric Kennett (WV) pinned Tyler Sheenah, 4:18; 220 — Jed Davis (H) pinned Zach Miller, 3:16; Joey Evans (H) pinned Sam Dworak, 0:47.