published Sunday, February 17th, 2013

Cleveland Blue Raiders roll with three individual champs

Cleveland 113-pounder Chris Debien wrestles Beech's Christian Lozano
Saturday at the 2013 Tennessee state regular wrestling tournament.
Photo by Lynnae Roberts
Cleveland 113-pounder Chris Debien wrestles Beech's Christian Lozano Saturday at the 2013 Tennessee state regular wrestling tournament. Photo by Lynnae Roberts

FRANKLIN, Tenn. — For the first time in Cleveland High School state wrestling tournament history, the Blue Raiders secured three state individual state championships.

They locked up the TSSAA Division I team title Friday but were able to slap an extra layer of icing on the celebratory cake Saturday night.

Cleveland scored 232 points and managed eight medalists in winning the title over stubborn Soddy-Daisy.

"There's no denying they're good," Soddy-Daisy coach Jim Higgins said. "They have great athletes and great coaches, and that usually makes for a really good combination."

In the end it wasn't close, the Trojans finishing with 146.5 points while holding off third- and fourth-place finishers Ravenwood (122) and Beech (121).

Wilson Central was fifth with 113 points, Walker Valley sixth (99), Maryville Heritage seventh (91) and Bradley Central and Clarksville eighth (87.5). Cordova rounded out the top 10 with 65 points.

Cleveland's three champions were Chris Debien (113 pounds), Austin Oliver (126) and Haden Hamilton (132). Only two other teams had more than one winner, and those were Soddy-Daisy and Bradley Central.

Bradley's winners were Toribio Navarro (106) and Robbie Clark (160).

Soddy-Daisy secured other individual honors beyond the gold medals earned by Jacob Stevens (120) and Blaike Henry (182). Stevens was named the tournament's outstanding wrestler, and Henry's victory over Cleveland's Ethan West was judged the tournament's best match.

Stevens secured his third state title and fourth state medal. His finals pin of Cordova's Byron Smith was his fifth bonus-points performance in five matches. He followed a first-round forfeit with three pins and a technical fall.

"He's always been exciting to watch. He never lets you down in entertainment value," Higgins said of Stevens' unique style. "I haven't figured out yet how he finds so many ways to get a cradle, but I'm so happy to see him go out with a pin."

Henry got his first state title after runner-up finishes the past two seasons.

Caleb Langford became Walker Valley's second individual state champion in any sport and first in wrestling with his win over Wilson Central's Austin Richard. Langford, who's headed for the U.S. Marine Corps, joins Bradley Davis, a 100-meter track champion, as the Mustangs' state titlists. His effort was a key in Walker Valley securing its first top-10 team finish.

"We're not where we want to be, but I at least feel we can be mentioned in the same conversation with Cleveland, Bradley Central and Soddy-Daisy," Mustangs coach Alan Morris said. "We're not satisfied with the [sixth-place] finish. It is, though, something we can build on."

Central's Larry Dickerson won the 152-pound title, giving the Purple Pounders their first individual state champion since Kevin Johnson in 1992. It also was the first state champion for coach Johnny Lennon, who joined the Pounders from Signal Mountain before this season.

about Ward Gossett...

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 ...

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