published Monday, February 3rd, 2014

Heavyweights key in Tennessee state duals wrestling titles

They did it at different times but in similar situations and the heavyweights led to victories for champions Cleveland and Baylor in the weekend's Tennessee state duals in Franklin.

Cleveland was in the semifinals opposite Ravenwood and had dropped two of the first three matches. It looked like they might drop three of the first four when John Gaither scored a takedown and pulled out a one-point win.

Baylor was in the finals battling Father Ryan and already had pulled an upset with Jon Schmissrauter's victory at 220 pounds. It looked, though, as if Ryan was going to offset that win with a victory at 285.

Will Thomas somehow escaped getting pinned and got a pin of his own to give the Red Raiders a 9-0 start.

"He was fighting. I was hoping he had another 30 seconds of fight in him or he could get to the edge of the mat," Baylor coach Ben Nelson said. "We were counting on bonus points there and for them to win would have been a huge swing. Will did it the hard way but he did his job."

They talk inside and out of the Cleveland program about the Blue Raiders' ability to get on a roll.

"Ravenwood really has us with our backs to the wall early," coach Jake Yost said. "As a wrestler you have choices when that kind of stuff happens. You let it shock and awe you or you find a way to fix it. I felt like Gaither helped us find a way to fix it. His going and getting a takedown in the last five seconds to win lit a spark."

Cleveland went on to handily beat Ravenwood and then spanked Wilson Central for the second year in a row to nail down the Class AAA championship.

Baylor, meanwhile, bumped off rival McCallie Friday evening and Nelson knew then his team was up for the challenge of avenging a mid-January loss to Father Ryan.

"The guys showed their focus when we wrestled so well against McCallie," Nelson said. "After that I was confident that they were plugged in and ready to do it."

Both, though, have to refocus this week with regional tournaments and next week with the traditional state tournaments.

"The titles are different. The whole situation is different. With the duals, everybody on the whole team is there and everybody's involved. In the traditional, it's still a team thing but everybody can be concerned about reaching his personal goals whether it's winning two matches, making it to the [awards] podium or winning their weight class," Yost said. "We're now to the point where you want every kid to be a little selfish and take care of himself. If they all do that then a team title will take care of itself."

Both celebrated Saturday night, Baylor hitting Steak & Shake before heading home and Cleveland chowing down at Franklin Italian restaurant Buca di Beppo on school principal Autumn O'Bryan's dime. Both also took Sunday off.

The region 4-AAA tournament will be Saturday at Walker Valley, the Division II East/Middle regional will be Friday and Saturday at Baylor and the Region 3-A/AA regional will be Friday and Saturday at Hixson Middle School.

Contact Ward Gossett at wgossett@timesfreepress.com or 423-886-4765. Follow him at Twitter.com/wardgossett.

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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