published Sunday, February 19th, 2012

Watson five-time state king

FRANKLIN, Tenn. -- Zach Watson prevailed.

The Baylor senior, in one of the more epic matchups of his career, posted a 4-0 victory over Christian Brothers' touted Tait Robinson to secure his fifth state championship and his 200th high school career victory.

It was a telling moment at the end of their 126-pound match when Robinson, who gave Watson fits in the state duals, reached across -- both still on their knees -- and offered his hand in congratulations.

It was one of those moments Watson always will treasure.

"It was a small gesture but it means a lot, acknowledging respect for me as an opponent," Watson said in a fashion that has earned him the esteem of wrestlers and coaches across the state. "I really respect Tait for that because we don't really know each other. But this match was probably the toughest in my career. I think he has two more years, so he has plenty of opportunities and he'll win plenty of matches and championships."

Baylor secure a second-place finish to champion Father Ryan, which won its first traditional title since 2009. Twelve of the 14 Red Raiders medaled and there were two champions in addition to Watson -- Brandon Brunner (132) and Matthew Cate (152).

McCallie actually had more champions with Alex Elsea (113), Adam Connell (120), Alex Ward (138), Eliot Berz (160) and Tye Youngblood (285).

"I couldn't be happier with the guys," McCallie coach Mike Newman said. "These last two days have been as good or better than we've had. We were 10-2 in placement matches on Friday and then won five of six in the finals."

Father Ryan scored 268.5 points while Baylor had 236, McCallie 228.5 and Christian Brothers 228.

The evening belonged, though, to Watson, who was selected Division II's outstanding wrestler after a hectic day.

"He was 'power-puking' earlier today," said Watson's dad, Billy. "I think, though, he settled down after (DI Sports trainer] Nate Bandy told him it was all right to be nervous."

To be honest, Zach later admitted, it was a case of nerves but also a likely reaction to eating foods that he'd abandoned for the season.

"We went to Cracker Barrel. I ate a lot," he admitted.

For the record, he had two sweet potato pancakes, two eggs, turkey sausage, grits and two biscuits with gravy.

"I've never had biscuits and gravy in my life, but it sounded really good."

The best match award went to McCallie's Ward and Father Ryan's Mark Marchetti for their 138-pound bout. Ward won with a 5-4 overtime upset.

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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