McCallie wrestlers sweep state titles for first time since 1993

Staff photo by Patrick MacCoon / McCallie's Jaxon Lane, top, scored all five of his points in the third period to defeat Father Ryan's Tanner Tran for the 106-pound title during the TSSAA Division II state traditional tournament Saturday at Nashville's Montgomery Bell Academy.
Staff photo by Patrick MacCoon / McCallie's Jaxon Lane, top, scored all five of his points in the third period to defeat Father Ryan's Tanner Tran for the 106-pound title during the TSSAA Division II state traditional tournament Saturday at Nashville's Montgomery Bell Academy.

NASHVILLE — McCallie senior Carson Gentle did exactly what University of Tennessee football coach Josh Heupel asked him to do in his final high school wrestling match.

Instead of trying to pry Gentle away to enroll early in Knoxville and get started on his college football career, Heupel encouraged the Volunteers defensive line signee to continue wrestling — and told him to make sure he won it all.

Gentle did exactly that and more as he dominated his way to his first individual state championship by pummeling his competition, picking up first-period pins in all three of his matches during the TSSAA Division II traditional tournament, which wrapped up Saturday after two days of competition at Montgomery Bell Academy.

Gentle, who helped McCallie win the DII-AAA football state championship in December, also helped the Blue Tornado wrestling team sweep the state duals and traditional tournament titles for the first time since 1993.

"This is so special to all of us," said Gentle, who finished the season 25-1 overall at 285 pounds. "The past few years we haven't placed well in a lot of stuff. But this year we had just enough senior leadership mixed with really talented young guys. Hopefully they can keep building on what we were able to accomplish and get even better and better."

Gentle closed the bout with Franklin Road Academy's Bobby Council with a single-leg sweep before throwing his opponent to the mat for the pin just seconds later.

 

Eighth grader Jaxon Lane stepped to the mat next for the 106-pound final and became McCallie's second state champ of the night in what turned out to be awarded best match against Father Ryan's Tanner Tran.

Knotted in a scoreless battle headed into the third period, Lane caught Tran off guard and threw him to the mat for a takedown, then worked on top to pick up three back points and threaten to pin. After closing out a 5-3 victory, Lane ran over to Jake Yost and leapt into his coach's arms in celebration.

"I couldn't have done this without Coach Yost," said Lane, who was 2-4 against Tran going into the match. "He has stayed with me extra in the wrestling room and helped me maintain my weight. I didn't have any pressure on me because we had the state team title already locked up before the finals.

"I can't say enough about our seniors, either. Carson Gentle has been a great mentor to me. Ja'Von McMahan also helped me every day get in better shape and would ride the bikes with me. You can't ask for greater leaders than we had on this team."

McCallie accumulated 243.5 points to win the team title, while rival Baylor finished runner-up with 212 points and four state champions. Baylor, which was third at state duals, lost to McCallie during a regular-season dual but edged the Blue Tornado at the region traditional tournament before falling short Saturday.

The celebration was special for the Blue Tornado, whose three senior starters all made the finals, with James Cross (175) and McMahan (190) finishing as runners-up.

Sophomore Cooper Gentle was also a runner-up at 215, and McCallie sealed the team title earlier Saturday in the consolation finals as Axel Ritchie (113), Dylan Villers (132), Cooper Ledbetter (138) and Zaydan Morgan (144) all finished third. All 13 state qualifiers for the Blue Tornado placed, with Brody Connell (120), Cainan Williams (126) and Cannon Voiles (157) fourth and Braden Ryan (150) fifth.

"The boys did such a great job," Yost said. "Halfway through the semifinal round last night, we were down by 40 points. We were struggling to get going, and James Cross won a huge match in the last few seconds to give us that spark. We rode that momentum, and then we had our guys win seven of eight matches this morning, and then win five of eight in the afternoon before the finals.

"It has been a long time since McCallie has hoisted a championship trophy in wrestling. To be a small part of a great team, coaching staff and school is something so special. We had an amazing group of leaders, and this was huge for our program."

Baylor's four state champions were Titus Norman (144), Hunter Sturgill (157), Max Norman (165) and Jacob Bond (113). Freshman Malachi Puckett (138) and sophomore Oliver Phillips (126) finished second.

Chattanooga Christian School sophomore Ryder Smith made history by becoming the Chargers' first wrestling state champ. He won the 215-pound bracket with a 13-4 major decision.

"I started wrestling for the CCS club when I was 5 years old," said Smith, who was 42-0 this season. "Getting runner-up at state last year really fueled me a lot. Every day I would look at it, and it hurt. Now I have dreams to one day be a great college wrestler, too. I am going to come back in the gym tomorrow and get ready for prep nationals coming up."

Boyd Buchanan had four state runners-up after previously having just three state finalists in program history. The four second-place finishers for the Buccaneers were Nolan Hardeman (113), Connor Payne (150), Austin Johnson (157) and Kaiden Bates (175).

Contact Patrick MacCoon at pmaccoon@timesfreepress.com.

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