FRANKLIN, Tenn. — Ben Nelson teaches physics at Baylor, but he hasn't figured out a way to turn back the clock and keep his three senior wrestling captains.
Stuart Doster, John Mackey and Alex Manley have combined for 509 wins and nine Division II state championship finals appearances.
Manley, who's looking at Stanford, Virginia and Indiana as college possibilities, took over this year as Tennessee's all-time wins leader. He enters the TSSAA Division II tournament at Williamson County Agricultural Expo today with 225 wins against just 14 losses in a five-year varsity career.
Doster is the eighth and last of a family that has given Baylor a plethora of championships. He has provided three state titles himself and is considering Hofstra, the University of Tennessee at Chattanooga and Indiana.
Mackey made a name for himself in football and will continue in that sport at Furman. He has provided the ultimate in the team-first philosophy all coaches teach by dropping 30 pounds to move into the 215-pound weight class so bigger teammate Barrett Gouger could be the Red Raiders' heavyweight.
"They're so different in many ways," Nelson said of the captains. "Stuart has the family tradition, and he's the last of a long line and has probably been the most successful. John is just a force of nature. He's such a big, strong, athletic kid, but he has moved from raw athlete to complete wrestler. And Alex is Mr. Consistency. He's always solid in position. He's a solid athlete, a solid student and he's never too high or too low."
With the three as leaders, Baylor is the favorite to win its third traditional state championship in the last four years.
"We have come together and we have tried to emphasize team and to do the best we can to fill the shoes of the guys we've had in the past," said Doster, whose brother Reed pushed him into wrestling. "Mackey is very team-oriented. He sacrificed to go to 215, and it was definitely his choice.
"I think when I look back on these last few years I will remember being part of an awesome family. It has been amazing being part of this team. It really is more like family."
Manley said he couldn't ask for better teammates.
"Both of them are more vocal than me, and Stuart especially does a good job of including the younger guys," Manley said. "Both are obviously pretty good wrestlers. Mackey dropping to 215 made us a stronger team. He was a favorite to win at heavyweight, and I think Barrett has a chance to win."
While Mackey might be the most athletic of the group, he admires the others' wrestling capabilities.
"Both of those guys have a lot of wrestling skill, and guys are usually willing to listen to them because it's obvious they know what they're talking about," he said. "I'm glad to be a captain with them. Each of us has different ways to encourage guys to work hard, and in the end we have been able to get the job done."
Ward Gossett is an assistant sports editor and writer for the Times Free Press. Ward has a long history in Chattanooga journalism. He actually wrote a bylined story for the Chattanooga News-Free Press as a third-grader. He Began working part-time there in 1968 and was hired full time in 1970. Ward now covers high school athletics, primarily football, wrestling and baseball and University of Tennessee at Chattanooga wrestling. Over a 40-year career, he has covered ...