No one has to remind Baylor wrestling coach Ben Nelson what the final day of the TSSAA state traditional tournament will be like, but he made sure his Red Raiders understood what will be at stake Saturday in Franklin.
"I told our guys, 'Your whole wrestling world has come down to one 24-hour period between tonight and tomorrow night. It is important to leave with no regrets," Nelson said Friday in a phone interview with the Times Free Press from the Williamson County Ag Expo Center. "This individual tournament gets emotional when wrestlers reach their goals. When they fall short it hurts. This sport has a way to make you into a tough person in life."
Baylor holds a comfortable cushion in the Division II team standings as it looks to break a tie with Father Ryan for the most traditional titles in state history. Each program has 15. There are eight Red Raiders among the 28 area wrestlers overall who advanced to the finals, with the title matches for all classifications scheduled for 5:30 p.m. EST.
Baylor's most individual champions in a single season is six.
Also in D-II, McCallie has six finalists. Class AAA powerhouse Cleveland and Class A/AA's Signal Mountain each has four.
In the Class A/AA 120-pound final, undefeated Signal Mountain junior Daniel Uhorchuk (17-0), after missing the first half of the season with a tear in his shoulder, will face Hixson's Trevor Lewis (47-6) in a matchup of reigning state champions.
Three other title matches will include an area wrestler: Cleveland's Bentley Ellison versus Bradley Central's Ethan Wilson at 106 AAA, Baylor's Omaury Alvarez versus McCallie's Alex Whitworth at 160 and McCallie's Chase Looper versus Baylor's Connor Duffy at 182.
Whitworth, a varsity wrestler since his eighth-grade season, is a junior going for his fourth state championship. T.J. Duncan (McCallie) and Zach Watson (Baylor) are the only local wrestlers to win five state titles in their prep careers.
Baylor senior Noah Horst (132) is trying to become a four-time individual state champion and, counting events outside of the TSSAA, has won his weight class in the state every year since age 4.
The Red Raiders lead the D-II team points race with 182.5. Christian Brothers (144.5), Father Ryan (138.5) and McCallie (131) round out the top four.
Cleveland, leading Class AAA with 205 points, has its sixth team state championship in the three years nearly sealed. Wilson Central (165) is second and Bradley Central (134) is third.
Pigeon Forge leads A/AA with 156.5 points, ahead of Signal Mountain (102.5), Greeneville (101) and Hixson (100.5).
Three other local AAA teams have one wrestler competing for a title: Soddy Daisy's Hayden Maynor (33-3 overall at 182), East Hamilton's Jasom Brumlow (37-1 at 195) and Walker Valley's Jadon Langford (34-2 at 285). Brumlow and Langford each won his semifinal and fourth match of the weekend with a 4-3 decision.