CLARKSVILLE, Tenn. - Bradley Central exploded into the Tennessee state duals wrestling semifinals, giving up just 21 points in a pair of Friday evening victories.
The Region 3 champions were joined only by Region 3 runner-up Cleveland as Region 4 champion Soddy-Daisy was upended by midstate power Independence.
"Like most any tournament, the deeper you go the better competition you're going to see," said Bradley coach Steve Logsdon, whose team will square off with Independence in the noon semifinals. The other semifinal will feature Cleveland against upstart Mt. Juliet.
Independence built a 34-3 lead on Soddy-Daisy and then forfeited out the last five matches to win 34-33. Cleveland clubbed Glencliff 49-21 and then bumped off hometown favorite Clarksville 32-28, forfeiting the last two weight classes.
While Cleveland and Bradley await the semifinals, Soddy-Daisy hits the gym for its first round of consolation meets at 10 a.m. The A/AA duals begin at 10 also with Hixson wrestling Harpeth and defending champ Notre Dame taking on Montgomery Central.
Bradley was the talk of the tournament, getting through both of its meets easily. The Bears shut out Hendersonville 67-0 and then slugged Dobyns-Bennett 50-21 after Logsdon threw a handful of B-teamers into the battle. They finished well before anybody else in both rounds. Tournament talk, though, quickly turned to Cleveland's emotional comeback over the hometown favorite Wildcats and Independence's dismantling of Soddy-Daisy.
The Bradley-Independence meet could be intense.
"Independence - they really pump them up over here where they wrestle," Logsdon said. "They do that little chant 'state champs' before they wrestle and to the best of my knowledge they haven't yet won a state championship. Maybe they're talking about the future. Maybe they're talking about tomorrow."
The draw to start matches at 130 in the first round couldn't have been much worse for Soddy-Daisy, whose strength is definitely in the lower weights.
"I was disappointed that they forfeited out and we didn't get to show what we were capable of doing, but I don't blame them," Henry said. "We had to pull an upset early and we didn't. This was an opportunity for somebody to step up and be a hero and nobody did. Our seniors had an opportunity tal walk away with something special and they didn't."
Henry was more than disappointed. He was frustrated.
"You either come ready to wrestle or you don't. We didn't," he said. "You can credit Independence, but we didn't work to try and shave points and we didn't work to win the extra points. We had a chance to go toe-to-toe with these guys and didn't."
Cleveland fell behind early but took the lead over Clarksville and then hammered away in the lower weights.
"It's a big win any time you win in this gym - their gym - on their mat right in front of their crowd," said Cleveland coach Heath Eslinger who had a rather intense exchange with Clarksville coach Jeff Jordan during the heavyweight match when the breathless Wildcats wrestler took an injury time. Eslinger, whose team is in superb physical shape, chided Jordan for delaying the match.
"My kids don't take injury time. We don't let them. It was nothing personal (with Jordan) but my kids are ready to wrestle for six minutes," he said.
Cleveland has what could be a tough test with Mt. Juliet, which surprised once-beat Science Hill in the round of 16 and then bested Brentwood 57-12.
"We came here with one aim and it's three steps to get there. Mt. Juliet is on a roll," Eslinger said. "But our aim is to get to the championship final and win it. I hope Soddy-Daisy comes back and finishes third, and I hope its Bradley and Cleveland in the finals. But I also hope it's Cleveland one, Bradley two and Soddy-Daisy three."