CLEVELAND, Tenn. — The gem that has become Cleveland High School wrestling might have flaws, but rival Bradley Central can attest that a jeweler's loop would be necessary to spot them.
Second-ranked Cleveland handed the 10th-ranked Bears their second loss of the season, winning 12 of 14 matches in a sparkling 60-9 beatdown.
"There were situations where opportunities presented themselves and we took advantage," first-year Cleveland coach Jake Yost said after the Blue Raiders rose to 17-2. "This is our best total effort to date, but that doesn't mean we don't have things to take care of."
The 51-point spread, according to those with extensive knowledge of wrestling in Bradley County, is the largest victory for Cleveland in the series in more than three decades. The Blue Raiders have posted wins over the Bears in back-to-back years for the first time since the early 1990s. Cleveland also won in their region duals matchup late last season.
The hosts allowed Bradley a two-point decision at 170 pounds, where Robbie Clark moved up a weight class for an 8-6 decision, and a forfeit to 106-pounder Toribio Navarro.
The rest belonged to Cleveland, including nine pins, five of which came in the first period.
Securing the pins were Chris Debien, Austin Stevison, Haden Hamilton, Ezra Taylor, Josh Hamilton, Aaron Lopez, Ethan West, Oleg Stukanov and Kran Kennedy. Austin Oliver, Joel Simpkins and John Gaither added decisions.
"Five or six years ago that was us," Bears coach Ben Smith said with grudging admiration. "And this match was won two or three years ago when they were hungry and we were relaxing because we were Bradley. This one could have been 74-0 or 41-7, but what goes in the middle is effort."
That's what left him shaking his head.
"Maybe on paper we weren't supposed to do anything, but I always expect to win," Smith said. "And if we don't win, I at least expect us to fight. We got that from four or five guys. We have to have maximum effort even when we're outgunned -- at least fight off our backs. All you can do tonight is admire [Cleveland's] performance."
Cleveland's two losses are to third-ranked Soddy-Daisy and top-ranked Christian Brothers last month. Bradley's previous loss was to Maryville Heritage.
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 ...