As the only two wrestling programs in the TSSAA to win four consecutive state duals championships, Bradley Central and McCallie take ultimate pride every time they step on the mat.
Receiving a jolt of energy to begin a new season with high expectations again, Bradley's Bears fought past a short-handed Blue Tornado bunch 48-22 on the road in a rare dual meet Tuesday.
"I believe this is the first time we have wrestled in this building in 20 or 30 years," Bradley Central coach Ben Smith said. "We didn't wrestle private schools for a long time. They have put a couple whippings on us in the past in the Cleveland Duals, and we wanted to win this. But I know they will be a different team in February and we will, too."
McCallie forfeited three matches and was missing nearly half a dozen starters who will be trying to help the football team to a state title this Thursday in Cookeville.
The dual started at 195 pounds, and senior captain Ethan Wilson got the Bears to a 21-0 lead with a first-round pin. After falling just one match shy of the 106 state final last year, Wilson looks to be set up for an outstanding season wrestling in the same weight class.
"Ethan has been 75, 85, 100 pounds, and now he is a solid 110-112," Smith said. "He is a great kid. I only named one captain for this team, and he is it. I am seeing outstanding leadership from him in the room. He is strong and a little buzz saw. Now that he is finally at the right weight, he is going to be such a great spark for this team, and I am really proud of him."
A pair of battles stuck out at the 120- and 170-pound weights.
Three-time Blue Tornado state champion Alex Whitworth landed a takedown in the final minute of the third period to win a 4-3 decision over a powerful Tyrone McDonald at 170. The Bears also received a valiant fight from freshman Luke Belcher. He fell 4-2 in sudden victory to reigning Division II champion Jack Braman, who picked up near-fall points in the fourth overtime.
"Braman had an immaculate state tournament last year and beat two really good kids to earn the title," Smith said. "I knew for Luke, who is a pretty highly touted freshman for us, that's a big pill to swallow for your first match. He hung in there. Those are the matches we want to learn how to win and what we came down here for."
Having cruised to a state title at 120 last year, McCallie's Emory Taylor picked up quick points early and took a 16-7 major in the 126-pound match.
Blue Tornado coach Jake Yost was thrilled to see senior Rand Holtzclaw and Coen Campbell pick up pins at the 152 and 182 pound classes, respectively.
"I couldn't be happier we are missing six wrestlers because they will play for a state football championship this week," Yost said. "We will have just a couple seniors starting this year, so we will really count on Jack Braman, Emory Taylor and Alex Whitworth to lead us, and they will do a great job."
Contact Patrick MacCoon at email@example.com. Follow him on Twitter @PMacCoon.