It's likely that Francisco Rodriguez will think twice before scarfing an extra cheeseburger at lunch on the day of a wrestling meet.
The East Hamilton junior was huffing and putting and perspiration poured from his body, but the 220-pounder came through with a 7-6 victory over Tyler Montgomery that pushed the Hurricanes over the top for a 40-36 win Tuesday at Signal Mountain.
"That guy is tough," Rodriguez said of Montgomery. "I knew coming in that he was one of the best in the region."
Montgomery pushed the Hurricanes' single-season wins record-holder to the limit and just missed the upset on a non-call many felt was a takedown in the waning moments of their match.
The win pushed the season record to 32-3 for Rodriguez, who also became the school's first tournament champion in early December when he won the Central Invitational.
As close as the meet was -- Signal surrendered four forfeits and East Hamilton one -- the key match took place long before the 220-pound bout.
"I didn't really like the way the matchups shaped up," Hurricanes coach Ryan Cooper said afterward. "We got a big win from Chansler Williamson at 145. That was a pivotal match. He lost to that kid early in the season."
Williamson, a second-year wrestler and one of two seniors in Cooper's room, avenged a loss to Anthony Cauzillo by scoring a pin with 55 seconds remaining.
Despite the forfeits, Signal made a strong run by bunching an injury default win for Cale Shelton (152), pins from Brock Pressley (160) and Joe Drennan (170) and a forfeit for Harrison Hall (182). A pin from Austin Stephens (195) gave them a 36-31 lead, setting the stage for Rodriguez, who needed no more than a decision since the final Signal forfeit was still to come.
"We made a run, won some individual battles," said defending region champion Pressley. "I was told this was a 'growth' year for our team, and that's sometimes frustrating."
It has been a growth year as the team adjusts to coach John Lennon and he adjusts to them.
"Coach Lennon is not a real nice coach in the wrestling room, and a lot of people took offense," Pressley said. "It's nothing personal. He's a nice guy, but in the wrestling room he bears down."
Said Lennon: "I look at where we are, and things are coming together. We are right now where I hoped we'd be in December. We're competitive. It just took us a while to get here."
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 ...