Cleveland three-peats again in state wrestling

Bradley Central's Knox Fuller, top, wrestles Cleveland's Colton Landers in their TSSAA state wrestling championship 126 lb match on Saturday, Feb. 14, 2015, at the Williamson County Agricultural Expo in Franklin, Tenn.

FRANKLIN, Tenn. -- It's a three-peat times two.

After winning its third straight Class AAA state duals championship two weeks ago, Cleveland High School secured its third straight Class AAA traditional championship Saturday night.

Bradley Central, Baylor and Hixson were forced to settle for runner-up plaques.

The disparity of championship finalists (9-6, Father Ryan) and the resulting point spread was simply too much for Baylor's late finals charge in Division II, and Hixson fell just points shy of winning its second A/AA championship. That decision wasn't certain until Pigeon Forge 220-pounder Alex Breeden's major decision put his team just beyond the Wildcats' reach.

Cleveland finished with 205.5 points to 198 for Bradley Central as the two schools in Cleveland left the rest of the AAA schools in the dust. Third-place Wilson Central had 121.5 points and fourth-place Soddy-Daisy had 105.5.

The Division II team battle had the largest margin of victory, 11.5 points, with Father Ryan throwing up 249 to outlast Baylor. McCallie finished third with 161.

Cleveland's Blue Raiders beat predictions. Most felt the coveted team title might go to the final match of the three-day weekend.

It didn't. Following 132-pound Chris DeBien's securing of his fourth state championship, fellow senior Ezra Taylor locked up the team championship with a 4-3 decision over Ravenwood's Chris Rowland.

"It's great to win an individual title, but for that win to win for the team and put everything into it for my brothers makes it special," Taylor said. "I couldn't ask for a better way to end my senior season and my wrestling career."

photo McCallie's Will Patton raises his hands after winning his TSSAA state wrestling championship 152 lb bout against Father Ryan's Marcello Morris on Saturday, Feb. 14, 2015, at the Williamson County Agricultural Expo in Franklin, Tenn.

After winning his fourth crown, DeBien ran to hug head coach Jake Yost and then his father, Eric Phillips, his former coach and now the Blue Raiders' athletic director.

"I love Coach Yost, but I was saving the best for last," DeBien said with a bashful smile.

Yost was all smiles, even when asked what he could do for an encore. The Blue Raiders have done nothing but win state titles since he succeeded Phillips as head coach.

"You know, Chris is Cleveland's first four-time state champion, and I'm awfully proud of him, but this group of seniors is the most decorated group of wrestlers in Cleveland history," he said.

The Blue Raiders had eight in competition Saturday, and each placed at least fourth.

Pigeon Forge overcame a tough setback that occurred Friday. It had a top wrestler and an assistant coach ejected from the tournament, and that cost the team seven points.

"They did a good job of putting everything back together. They could have easily folded the tent," said Hixson coach Garrick Hall, who has all but two wrestlers returning from this year's state runner-up group, including all four of the Wildcats' finalists.

While he wasn't overjoyed at finishing second, Baylor coach Ben Nelson was delighted with the way the Red Raiders wrestled.

"What can I say? We came up short although we won five (individual) championships," he said. "The kids wrestled hard. I'm really proud of the team effort."

Contact Ward Gossett at or 423-886-4765. Follow him at