CLEVELAND, Tenn. — There is precious little time for Cleveland to celebrate or commiserate.
The Blue Raiders, who nailed down win No. 20 Wednesday at Walker Valley, move straight into the Region 3-AAA duals championships tonight. They'll host these Mustangs -- whom they bested 46-18 -- rival Bradley Central and Soddy-Daisy.
"It's easily four of the top 10 teams in the state and maybe four of the top six or seven," Cleveland coach Jake Yost said.
The tournament will begin in the Blue Raiders' main gymnasium at 6. They'll battle Bradley Central while Walker Valley takes on Soddy-Daisy in semifinal matches. A championship match, if it takes place, is scheduled to start at 7:30. Admission is $5 per person.
"This was a big match before a big match -- Cleveland tonight and Soddy-Daisy tomorrow night," Walker Valley coach Alan Morris said.
Cleveland is ranked No. 2 and Soddy-Daisy No. 3 in the latest state rankings, but Bradley came in at No. 8 and Walker Valley No. 10.
"There's no doubt two of the best teams will be left at home next week," Yost said.
The two semifinal winners tonight secure berths in for the state duals Feb. 1-2 in Franklin.
Yost felt his club had its hands full in nailing down the school's 12th straight 20-win season but the Blue Raiders still locked up the win with three matches remaining. Ethan West (182) secured the victory with his 25th win in 26 matches, pinned Chazz Fulford in 1:56. For good measure, the Blue Raiders closed out with wins in three of the four final matches thanks to Oleg Stukanov (195) and Koran Kennedy (285).
"I thought we did well, but I also thought Walker Valley fought hard and made us earn point," Yost said.
The Blue Raiders won nine of the 14 bouts and picked up bonus points in seven of those. Joining West and Kennedy with pins were Chris Debien (113), Austin Oliver (126), Ezra Taylor (132) and Aaron Lopez (160). Austin Stevison (120) added a major decision.
"I'm happy we won the meet but I'm not really happy with a couple of the matches. We're winning at 106 and get pinned and I thought we could've gotten [a win] at 145."
The 145-pound match, a three-period sudden victory duel, went to Walker Valley's Lawrence Cotton.
"Lawrence is probably one of the most dedicated and hard-working guys in the room. He's a perfect example of hard work paying off," Morris said.
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 ...