He isn't even to UT-Chattanooga yet but Chris Debien is making the school look quite good.
The Cleveland High product recently committed to UTC's wrestling program and then proceeded to a runner-up finish earlier this week in the Greco-Roman portion of the USA wrestling national championships in Fargo, N.D.
While Debien finished second at 120 pounds, Baylor's Michael Murphy finished fourth at 106.
"He wrestled like a monster," said Eric Phillips, Debien's father, of Murphy's effort.
"I did well last year [seventh], and I was just hoping to do as well or better. I like Greco," said Murphy, a rising sophomore.
"They work hard," Phillips said of Debien and Murphy. "They seek out the toughest competition. While most kids are going to the lake and water-skiing, these guys seek out training partners. They have made a commitment to be the best they can."
Both begin a three-day competition today in USA Wrestling's freestyle championships.
Debien's future is settled. Following his senior season this year at Cleveland, he'll move on to UTC.
"I remember taking Chris down to some matches at UTC when he was a fifth- or sixth-grader and explaining that they had never had a [Division I] national champion. He said then that he'd like to do that -- be UTC's first DI national champ," Phillips said. "We were talking about [Chris committing to UTC] last year, but I wanted to make sure that was really what he wanted to do and wasn't committing to UTC because that's what I wanted."
Phillips moved from Miami to Cleveland to be an assistant to Eslinger, then Cleveland's head coach, so the family has a very good relationship with the Mocs coach.
"I don't think there's any place I'd rather go, and Heath was a big part of my decision," Chris said.
"I know what kind of man Heath is and what kind of coaches Chris will have, and Chris' decision from my point of view was less about wrestling and more about the environment he'll be in," Phillips said. "We made him think about it for four months, and his mom and I are convinced he made the decision for the right reasons."
Debien, who also finished second in the USA Folkstyle nationals last March, is a three-time state tournament finalist and two-time champion and Murphy is a two-time finalist that won his first state title this past February.
Contact Ward Gossett at email@example.com or 423-886-4765.