Tucked away in a drawer are Matthew Cate's first three shots at a state wrestling championship. There are two bronze medals and one silver.
What the Baylor senior seeks is obvious -- that elusive state championship -- and this year he's seeded No. 1 at 152 pounds in the Division II state tournament that begins Friday at the Williamson County Agricultural Expo in Franklin.
Cate isn't alone. Other past medalists who've yet to get a championship include teammates Houton Clements and Spencer Craig, Notre Dame's Jack Boone, Soddy-Daisy's Turbo Smith and Blaike Henry, Bradley Central's Tyler Schuch, Cleveland's Austin Oliver, McCallie's Alex Elsea, Tim Westbrooks and Tye Youngblood and Red Bank's Logan Sharp.
The Division I tournament begins Thursday, running both the round of 32 and the round of 16 before the financial-aid classification begins its chase under the same roof.
Cate sacrificed a shot at an undefeated season when the Red Raiders needed him to move up two weight classes in the state duals meet for third place against McCallie. He lost in the final three seconds to 170-pound McCallie wrestler Elliot Berz, who has dropped to 160 for this tournament.
"It was tough, but I think it was the right thing to do. I was willing to do it because it helped the team," said Cate, whose father Forrest was a salty Baylor wrestler in his day.
The bump may also have been a help. An unbeaten streak often is a pressure that coaches don't mind relieving with a loss.
"I don't know what my record is -- 30-something-and-1 -- but while I tried not to think about it I knew the target was always there," Cate said. "There was pressure, but it's something I tried not to worry about. There are more important things than a record."
Such as a fourth state medal -- specifically, the long-sought gold?
"Hopefully," he said.
His hopes go beyond the individual feat. Baylor has an eight-year string of winning either the state duals or the traditional state championship. Last year the Red Raiders won both.
"I'd love to have an individual title and a team title," Cate said. "We haven't talked about it, but everyone knows what they need to do to win the state championship."
Teammate Clements said such Cate thoughts are typical.
"Every time we come in the [practice] room I have to have my mind right. He brings it every single time," Clements said. "We have a relationship where we beat each other up, but as soon as practice is over we're the best of friends. I remember when I tore my Achilles' during football one of the first people to text me on the ride back from MBA was Matthew. He's a competitor but he's also one of the nicest guys I've ever been around."
The Red Raiders lost in the 2012 duals semifinals by a single point to Christian Brothers, which then won the state title by routing Father Ryan.
The title streak has not been mentioned by the coaching staff, however.
"We're going to do out and do the best we can," head coach Ben Nelson said. "If it's enough, that would be awesome. If not I'll know that each has done the best he can."
They know Cate is capable of leading the team in typical Baylor tradition.
"He's absolutely consistent -- dependable, a great leader, a wrestler with solid fundamentals," Red Raiders assistant Schaack Van Deusen said. "He represents Baylor beautifully."
Nelson has leaned on Cate.
"He's the type person you want as a team leader," Nelson said. "He's responsible. He looks out for the younger guys, and he always respects the other guy from the top kid in the state to the worst. He does his job, walks off the mat and gets ready for the next match."
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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