FRANKLIN, Tenn. - Bradley Central was in a familiar position Thursday. The Bears were looking over their shoulders to see who appeared to be their biggest threats at the Tennessee state high school wrestling tournament.
The three-time Division I defending champions saw some familiar faces -- some from across town at Cleveland and some from across the river at Soddy-Daisy.
With 77 points, Bradley held a 14-point lead after two rounds over second-place Soddy-Daisy, which in turn had a two-point advantage on third-place Cleveland. The next closest team and one trying to keep the big three from pulling away was Clarksville with 44 points.
Surprising Blackman was fifth with 42.5 points and was followed by Pigeon Forge (37), Houston and Science Hill with 36 each, Ravenwood with 35.5 and Franklin and Gibbs with 29.5 apiece.
Ooltewah was in 12th place with 27 points, but the next closest Chattanooga-area teams were No. 24 Red Bank (18.5) and No. 25 Walker Valley (18). State A/AA duals champion Central was 35th with 13 points, Hixson and Notre Dame were in a six-way tie for 40th with 11 points, East Hamilton had 8, East Ridge and Tyner 7 apiece, Rhea County 6.5, Signal Mountain 5 and McMinn County and Sale Creek 4 each.
Region 3 champion Bradley advanced nine wrestlers to this morning's quarterfinals, and the Bears' remaining five were still alive in the consolation rounds. Cleveland, runner-up in Region 3, brought 13 and all were still in the tournament. Region 4 champion Soddy-Daisy, which got 13 in the tournament, still has 11 going today with eight in the championship round.
"Our performance wasn't as good as we're capable of doing, but it wasn't exactly horrible," Trojans coach Steve Henry said. "We didn't do so well, but I'm sure the coaches at Bradley and Cleveland are saying the same thing."
Henry met with his team as soon as the Trojans got to their hotel. He laid out the scenario and explained to them that they were in second place but that the first- and third-place teams had more wrestlers going in either the championship or consolation rounds.
"I told them straight out that we have to keep distancing ourselves from the rest of the field and continue trying to get to the top," he said. "I'd love to see Bradley and Cleveland chop each other down a little bit and us step ahead while they're fighting, but I really think the race is down to three teams already."
Soddy-Daisy took a hit in the second round as heavyweight Alex Seeley gave up a reversal with seven seconds left and lost 2-1. Bradley took unexpected championship-round hits at 130 (Jericho Crutcher) and at 140 (Tyler Pitts).
"Those two surprised me. We looked pretty good, but in a couple of our wins we looked a little sluggish," Bears coach Steve Logsdon said.
He wasn't surprised that a three-team race had developed.
"Based on tournaments we have been in and the tournaments [Cleveland and Soddy-Daisy] have been and based on dual-meet performances, I thought it would be three teams and I still think that," he said. "We have some good matches in the morning and all of us [coaches] will probably have a few more gray hairs before tomorrow night is over. We're watching them and they're watching us."
Cleveland lost one that really hurt when Isaiah Nichols (160) dropped his first-round match.
"That one hurts. It was a heartbreaker for Isaiah," Blue Raiders coach Eric Phillips said. "The 119-pound match [Joel Simpkins] was one we thought we might get, but the kid who beat him [Ravenwood's Jacob Freeman] was third in the state last year. And we almost got one at 215 [Seth Snyder].
"It's going to come down to who can keep their train on the track the longest. I told the kids to get a good night's sleep and come back tomorrow and shock the world."
Area Division I quarterfinalists
Bradley Central: Dakota Bromley (103), Jacob Climer (112), Aaron Hutson (119), Ethan Hames (125), Tyler Schuch (135), Bradley Colbaugh (152), Jacob Bailey (160), Tucker Bolton (215), Patrick Benson (285)
Central: Cody Stacks (125)
Cleveland: Austin Stevison (103), Austin Oliver (112), Marvin Lopez (135), Aaron Lopez (140), Jesse Jones (189), Jordan Hines (285)
Hixson: Logan Vandergriff (125)
Notre Dame: Jack Boone (119)
Ooltewah: Goose Manning (171), Jay Rudwall (215)
Red Bank: Chris Palacio (103), Zach Sharp (140), Logan Sharp (145)
Rhea County: Eric Beddingfield (171)
Soddy-Daisy: Jonah Smith (103), Jacob Stevens (112), Kyle Eustice (119), Campbell Lewis (130), Turbo Smith (152), Blaike Henry (171), Brett Ervin (189), Billy Swanson (215)
Walker Valley: Cole Dias (145)