CLEVELAND, Tenn. - In the official renewal of one of the area's most colorful wrestling rivalries of the 1980s and '90s, TSSAA Division II power Baylor rebounded from a 16-point deficit to bump off public school power Bradley Central 37-25.
Although the two faced off last year at Science Hill's Fandetti Brawl in Johnson City -- Baylor won by a point -- this was the first scheduled match between the two since 1999 according to Bradley coach Ben Smith, who wrestled as a senior on that Bears team. The two programs quit meeting after an alleged squabble over illegal recruiting.
"This has nothing to do with public/private and has everything to do with me wanting big matches early in the second semester to get us ready for the region duals, the state duals and then to put the kids on the state medals podium," Smith said.
Bradley rallied from a 6-0 deficit -- on a Jon Schmissrauter pin-- with an unexpected decision from heavyweight Jerry Johnson and Ryan McElhaney's 5-3 win over Jack Reynolds in a battle of top-ranked 106-pounders.
"On paper we're not supposed to be in that [heavyweight] match, and I thought it was a toss-up at 106," Smith said. "When you pick up an expected win at heavyweight, that's huge -- a six- to nine-point swing for us -- and then McElhaney comes out of the gate swinging and holds on for a 5-3 win."
The Bears reeled off four more wins on a pin by Toribio Navarro, technical falls from Knox Fuller and Taylor Kazy and a decision from Stephen Scott in the next five matches to go up 25-9.
"It was nerve-racking all the way through," Baylor coach Ben Nelson said. "It was nerve-racking, especially when they start with a lot of their great kids against some of ours that are still developing. I was hoping when we got to the meat of our lineup that we could get some bonus points. Fortunately, we did."
Starting with Tate Robinson's 25-second pin at 145, Baylor went on a six-match tear, tying the meet on that pin, Blake Sutherland's major decision and Bryson Popp's pin.
"From 145 through 160, those are iffy spots for us and it's their murderers row, three top-ranked kids in the state," Smith said. "And two pins and a major later, the match is tied, so we're leaving it up to our 170, 182 and 195, which last year were guaranteed pins for opponents. They're getting better. We just ran out of bullets."
Baylor regained the lead on Cayman Seagraves' technical fall at 170 and put the meet away on Ryan Parker's major decision at 182. Emory Norred finished the night with a 9-5 decision.
Baylor was without 113-pounder Michael Murphy, who is still on the mend from a pre-Christmas injury but is expected back in the next couple of weeks.
Contact Ward Gossett at email@example.com or 423-886-4765. Follow him at Twitter.com/wardgossett.