In old-school fashion with a good measure of rough-and-tumble like that taught for years by Luke Worsham and Dave Spencer, Baylor and McCallie went toe-to-toe in wresling Friday night.
Before hundreds who flocked to McCallie's standing-room-only gym, favored Baylor rallied by winning five of the last six matches for a 31-30 victory and extended its win streak over the Blue Tornado to double digits. In taking their 10th consecutive victory, the Red Raiders rebounded from a deficit that reached 19 points.
"The atmosphere, the enthusiam -- there are very few wrestling events like this in the country, and we're very fortunate to be a part of it," Baylor coach Ben Nelson said.
"It was an exciting match and that's what you want -- like the state duals last year when we'd score and then they'd score," McCallie coach Mike Newman added.
The crown jewel in the victory came from Baylor sophomore Ryan Parker, a defending state champion whose 3-2 decision avenged a McCallie Invitational loss to defending state champion Nathan Hoodenpyle. The victory came on a penalty point, awarded to Parker when Hoodenpyle was penalized for fleeing the mat to avoid a takedown.
"Going into the match I was thinking revenge. I don't have anything against the kid, but he beat me," Parker said. "We were down and I knew I needed to win. That's all that mattered to me. It made my team happy, but I didn't want to win on a penalty point. I wanted the takedown."
That wasn't the only matchup of former state champions. In another of the critical matches, Baylor's Tate Robinson (a TSSAA champion for Christian Brothers in 2011) won 6-4 in overtime over McCallie's Adam Connell, who in three weeks will be shooting for his third state title.
"The kids for both teams gave everything they had for their team. That's what you want to see," Newman said. "They came out on top tonight, but there's a lot more wrestling to do and I feel really good about where we're at right now."
Baylor won eight of the 14 bouts and might have won a couple more if the Red Raiders coaches hadn't decided to hold out 113-pound Michael Murphy and 195-pound Emory Norred because of injuries.
"We didn't wrestle well as a team. We got out of a great dual meet against a great team with a win," Nelson said. "We had a couple of guys that stepped up and carried the team."
McCallie made the most of its opportunities with bonus points in four of its six wins -- pins from Addison Cornell (113) and Griffin Davis (145), a technical fall from Ethan Dendy (120) and a major decision from James Westbrook (126).
"I thought every kid really fought hard and gave their best effort," Newman said. "In a setting like this it's real easy to get caught up in all the hype, but I thought our kids came out focused."
Baylor's much-needed bonus points came in a flurry -- consecutive pins from Donovan Sutherland (152), Bryson Popp (160) and Cayman Seagraves (170) to set the stage for Parker's heroics.
"We knew we had our horses sitting there for the last few matches," Nelson said. "Those guys have been doing that all year. It's unfortunate we have to rely on them to do that, but they stepped up and did it again."
Baylor lost a team point after the final bout when Parker celebrated just a little too much while still on the mat. He was somewhat put out with himself, but Nelson said afterward that his celebration might have been one of the few times such a display was "warranted."
However, Nelson immediately followed by saying it would be discussed in the near future.
Contact Ward Gossett at email@example.com or 423-886-4765. Follow him at Twitter.com/wardgossett.
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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