published Wednesday, January 16th, 2013

Baylor's Red Raiders edge Soddy-Daisy wrestlers 35-33

Baylor fans celebrate as Red Raider 138 pound Brandon Brunner pins Soddy Daisy's Austin Williamson Tuesday at Soddy Daisy.
Baylor fans celebrate as Red Raider 138 pound Brandon Brunner pins Soddy Daisy's Austin Williamson Tuesday at Soddy Daisy.
Photo by Connor Choate.

What Baylor called a needed shot in the arm, host Soddy-Daisy referred to as a kick in the pants.

In a battle of two weakened state wrestling giants, the visiting Red Raiders pulled out a 35-33 victory Tuesday.

Wrestling with seven starters out of the lineup, Baylor got initial points in many of the individual matches, won the close matches and racked up bonus points in four of their eight wins against the Trojans, who were missing four starters.

"I told the kid to wrestle as hard as we could and that if we did that we could win the dual," Red Raiders coach Ben Nelson said.

Michael Murphy (106), Nick Standefer (132), Brandon Brunner (138) and Ryan Parker (170) were responsible for the bonus points. Parker earned a technical fall; the other three got pins.

"After we didn't get bonus points from [Brandon] Popp and [Emory] Norred, the guys pulled together," Nelson said. "Everyone fought."

Popp and Norred were among the night's victors, Popp getting his team a 3-0 advantage and a lead it would never relinquish. It was a 3-2 decision over Branndon Hunt, one of the handful of close ones the Red Raiders pulled out.

Parker followed Popp with his technical fall that boosted Baylor to an 8-0 advantage before Garrett Alexander pulled the Trojans within a pair at 8-6.

However, the Red Raiders responded with a backbreaking four straight wins -- decisions from Ermory Norred (195), Jon Schmissrauter (220) and Will Thomas (285) before Murphy's pin boosted the lead to 23-6.

"The effort was there in every match, and effort is one of those things you can't coach," Nelson said. "It gave us a quality win over a tough opponent, and it's huge for our morale."

The coach pointed to the heavyweight match -- Thomas' 5-3 win over fellow first-year wrestler Cody Grant -- as a turning point.

"He's a buddy of Brunner's and he wanted to wrestle to help him get ready for football. He's becoming an asset," Nelson said.

The Red Raiders tiptoed around any emotional lifts they might give the Trojans, giving up forfeits at 120 to two-time state champion Jacob Stevens and at 126 to sophomore sensation Tucker Russo. But they bumped Standefer up a weight class to 132 and Brunner to 138 and got pins from each.

By the time the Trojans got to their middle-of-the-lineup stoppers -- Gage Richmond (145) and Turbo Smith (152) -- the match was out of reach.

"I hope it's a wakeup call. I think it needed to happen," Trojans coach Jim Higgins said. "Wrestling tells on you and exposes your weaknesses. We had guys out of the lineup, but so did they. We had guys sick, but so did they."

Missing four regular starters wasn't the issue or an excuse, Higgins emphasized.

"It was about pride, who wants it worst, and I can't say the 14 that were out there or were supposed to be out there want it," Higgins said. "Our problem stems from complacency in the practice room and a lack of interest in what I thought we had been working toward. I have not seen what the coach of a quality wrestling program should be seeing."

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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