Cleveland Blue Raiders, Soddy-Daisy Trojans loaded for 2014

Cleveland Blue Raiders, Soddy-Daisy Trojans loaded for 2014

February 18th, 2013 by Ward Gossett in Sportspreps

Soddy-Daisy's wrestling team looks to be in good shape for next season despite losing Jacob Stevens, who was named outstanding wrestler at the TSSAA Division I wrestling tournament over the weekend. (Contributed Photo by Lynnae Roberts)

Photo by Contributed Photo/Times Free Press.

It's bad but not unexpected news for the 2014 Tennessee high school wrestling field.

While Blackman has the most returning qualifiers, it's defending champ Cleveland and runner-up Soddy-Daisy with the most returning medalists.

Blackman has 10 wrestlers returning from the 2013 tournament that concluded Saturday night.

Cleveland has eight returnees and Soddy-Daisy seven, but the state champs have five medalists including a champion, a runner-up, a third and two fifth-place finishers. The second-place Trojans return a third- and three fourth-place medalists.

"I feel really good about next year because of what's going to be in the room," Cleveland coach Jake Yost said.

The Blue Raiders left a ranked 40-match winner at home this year due to injury who'll be back and back-ups, again because of injuries, at 126 and 132 got a large amount of experience.

"We have other kids in the room who have been doing good things, and our big guys at 220 (John Gaither) and heavyweight (Koran Kennedy) are back. Both of them grew by leaps and bounds this season," Yost said.

Rising junior Chris Debien, now a two-time champion, anchors the Cleveland contingent. The 113-pounder is joined by runner-up Ethan West (182), third-place finisher Josh Hamilton (152) and fifth-placers Tristan Blansit (106) and Austin Stevison (120).

West is a former two-time Georgia state medalist that won a title in 2012 and Stevison won a title in 2012 and placed third in 2011.

Soddy-Daisy's contingent will be headed by rising senior Gage Richmond (145), Austin Houser (113), Tucker Russo (126) and Garrett Alexander (170). Third over the weekend, Richmond is a two-time medalist, having finished third in 2012. Houser, a rising junior, is a two-time medalist, while Russo and Alexander just completed their first full-time starting seasons.

The Trojans may be hard-pressed to replace state champs Jacob Stevens, who was named outstanding wrestler, and Blaike Henry, a part of the tournament's best match but they had some youngsters pick up valuable experience after coach Jim Higgins dismissed three starters prior to the state duals.

"I think there are guys in the room that will step into the role that Jacob and Blaike had but they were pretty much guaranteed bonus point guys," Higgins said. "Tucker can step in there as can Williamson and Richmond led the team in points last year. There's talent in the room and we have some youngsters coming up from the middle school."

A team that could challenge Cleveland and Soddy-Daisy is Class AAA state duals runner-up Wilson Central with eight returnees (two runners-up and a fourth-place finisher) from the 2013 event. Also, according to its coaches, Wilson Central has a medalist that missed this past season due to an injury.

Based on returning qualifiers other teams to watch are Collierville, Clarksville, Franklin, Knox Halls and Ravenwood.

The state next year will introduce the A/AA tournament and, based on returning qualifiers from this year's tournament, the early favorites should include East Ridge, Gibbs, Grace Christian Academy, Pigeon Forge, Seymour and Signal Mountain.