CLEVELAND, Tenn. -- Central had three starters out of the lineup but the Purple Pounders rolled out their best effort of the year. It just wasn't enough.
In a battle of defending state wrestling duals winners, AAA champ Bradley Central rallied in the night's final match to foil A/AA champion Central's upset bid 37-34. The teams won seven matches apiece the difference came down to a pair of no-contest victories.
"Thank goodness for forfeits," Bradley Central coach Ben Smith said as he literally wiped sweat from his brow. 'We got outhustled, and we got outfought. That's what hurts."
The meet started at 132 pounds and Bradley Central never saw the lead until the final match. They entered that finale at 126 pounds down 34-31 and their fate fell on the shoulders of Jericho Crutcher. One of a a limited number of Bradley veterans, he came up with a second-period pin to cap his team's furious rally.
Central had the Bears on the ropes, leading 34-7 entering the final five bouts, but Bradley Central won them all. The Pounders forfeited at 106 and 120 and the Bears coupled those six-point victories with pins from heavyweight Patrick Benson, Dakota Ream (113) and Crutcher for the come-from-behind decision.
"We laid it on the table. We challenged our guys all week about heart," Central coach Marquis Dotson said. "I'm proud of them."
The Pounders went up 12-0 on decisions from Mike West (132) and Joe Stegall (145) and a pin from Logan Griffin (138) before Bradley got on the board. The Bears closed the gap to 12-7 on a hard-fought 4-3 decision by Tyler Schuch and a major decision from Jacob Bailey. Schuch actually had to score a reversal in the last 30 seconds to nail down his win.
But Central went on another roll, scoring four straight bonus-point victories -- a major decision from Larry Dickerson (170) and pins from James Hughes (182), Sam Sledge (195) and Trumond Martin (220) -- before Benson stopped the bleeding.
The Pounders were without 126-pounder Cody Stacks, who's out with a broken arm until after Christmas; 120-pound B.J. Rice, who has a shoulder injury; and 106-pound Cody Bowman, who is sidelined with a neck injury.
"You put those guys in there and maybe it's a different story. Those, though, are the breaks of sports," Dotson said. "You have to give Bradley credit. They showed why they're Bradley."
It wasn't the kind of showing Smith would have envisioned for his first home meet as head coach.
"I told their coaches, 'You guys won that match.' I feel like I let the Bradley [fans] down," he said. "It was a good win in a way because we showed some guts and some perseverance. We fought back, yes, but we never should've been in that hole. I hope we can learn from it.
"Half our guys were ready to toe the line, and I can just hope that the other half rise to that attitude."