published Saturday, February 16th, 2013

Cleveland clinches TSSAA wrestling title early

Jacob Stevens of Soddy-Daisy tries to maintain a hold on Nick Insalaco of Wilson Central.
Photo by Lynnae Roberts
Jacob Stevens of Soddy-Daisy tries to maintain a hold on Nick Insalaco of Wilson Central. Photo by Lynnae Roberts

Chattanooga-area championship finalists

106 -- Toribio Navarro (Bradley Central)

113 -- Chris Debien (Cleveland)

120 -- Jacob Stevens (Soddy-Daisy), Packy Mullin (Notre Dame)

132 -- Hayden Hamilton (Cleveland)

152 -- Larry Dickerson (Central)

160 -- Robbie Clark (Bradley Central)

182 -- Ethan West (Cleveland), Blaike Henry (Soddy-Daisy)

195 -- Billy Raulston (Walker Valley)

FRANKLIN, Tenn. — Jake Yost wanted to keep it quiet, making sure he was away from his Cleveland High School wrestlers before uttering a word.

With championship finals and consolation bouts for third and fifth places still to be wrestled, Cleveland has won the 2013 TSSAA Division I championship.

"We don't tell the kids it's locked till we hoist the trophy," Cleveland assistant Eric Phillips said as Yost nodded his head in vigorous agreement.

It's Cleveland's second traditional title in three years. Phillips was head coach for the 2011 title, and Yost was one of the assistants.

The Blue Raiders actually clinched with consolation matches to reach the medal rounds still under way Friday evening. By night's end, they had boosted their leading score to 190.5 points. Beech was second with 121 and Soddy-Daisy was third with 112.

"They take care of business. They take advantage of every opportunity put in front of them, and they fought as a team," Soddy-Daisy coach Jim Higgins said.

"It doesn't seem logical," Yost said when asked if anybody could run the Blue Raiders down. "As far as effort and hustle our guys have done a good job."

The field tried its best and did pare Cleveland's list of finalists to four -- 113-pound Chris Debien, 126-pound Austin Oliver, 132-pound Hayden Hamilton and 182-pound Ethan West.

"We caught some tough kids today," Yost said. "[Soddy-Daisy's Tucker] Russo at 126 is a beast, the kid that beat us at 160 (Tanner Reynolds, Ravenwood) is very much a wrestler, and the kid we beat at 182 (Cordova's Jordan Davis) is a really tough kid."

The 126-pound match was a heartbreaker for Soddy-Daisy as Oliver held on to win 10-8 thanks to at least three stalling calls on Tucker that were booed soundly by the partial Trojans section at the Williamson County Agricultural Expo.

"Everybody told him that they hated it for him," Higgins said. "Once everybody calmed down, my focus as a coach and mentor is to train him to meet the pain head-on and to be as sharp as he can be at the journey's end."

Whether Soddy-Daisy can regain second place is up to its two finalists, Jacob Stevens (120) and Blaike Henry (182), and the four Trojans in the consolation rounds.

"To be honest, we haven't talked about team scores," Higgins said. "This is the time for the kids to be selfish. If they perform and score bonus points, the team points will come out OK."

As bonus points go, Cleveland had recorded 26 tournament pins to 15 for Beech and 12 each for Soddy-Daisy and fourth-place Ravenwood.

Of course, almost everyone from Cleveland was keeping an eye on the race between Walker Valley and Bradley Central. Walker Valley's Mustangs, with two finalists in Caleb Langford (138) and Billy Raulston (195), were in sixth, while the Bears were in eighth with 69.5 points. Bradley also had two finalists in Toribio Navarro (106) and Robbie Clark (160).

Central also stepped into the limelight. Thanks to 152-pound Larry Dickerson, the Pounders have their first state finalist since 1992.

Notre Dame's Pack Mullin (126) was the only other finalist from the Chattanooga area.

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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