The Blackman wrestling team finished in fourth place at the TSSAA State Dual Championship last Saturday night. The two-day tournament is held every year in Franklin at the Williamson County Ag-Expo Center. Since the school opened in 2000, Blackman has had multiple individual state champions and state medalists but this is the school’s first time placing at the state dual tournament.
Blackman has come close twice before. Last season, the Blaze won their first two matches, lost to eventual champions Cleveland, and lost again in the blood round to Wilson Central who ended up in third. And back in 2013, the Blaze grapplers went 3-2 losing in the blood round to Heritage and effectively tying for fifth place.
It was a long time coming for Blackman Head Coach Ronnie Bray. “We have come close (to placing) in the past.” said Bray. “All of our kids stepped up big this weekend. Our seniors did their jobs well and our freshmen looked like seasoned vets.” Bray continued.
Blackman did have impressive outings from several of their younger wrestlers. Freshman Justin Brown was 4-1 on the weekend with an extremely impressive win over Burns Meagher from Cleveland on Friday night. “To me, one of the best matches of the weekend was Justin Brown beating Meagher.” said Bray. Brown’s win allowed the Blaze to tie score with state champion Cleveland.
Other freshman standouts were Mason Sells (5-0) and Grant Myers (3-1). Sells was reliable with three pins and two decisions. He stayed in control after almost losing a 6-0 lead to win an exciting back and forth affair with Bradley’s Taron Patterson. Myers was also impressive staying focused and providing three pins (and valuable bonus points) with only one loss in a gritty performance against Bradley senior Ethan Wilson.
Sophomore standout Justin Bradford was 5-0 as well with three pins, a tech fall and a tough decision over Bradley’s Easton Lipsey. “Another great match was Bradford wrestling up and pinning Ables from Centennial.” Bray said. Sophomore Adin Heathcott showed his toughness as well and had a good weekend going 3-1 with a big win over junior Javelle Gillespie from Science Hill.
Not to be outdone by the younger guys, Blackman’s veterans carried a heavy load and came through big for the Blaze. Junior Alex Rose was 3-1 on the weekend. Rose’s most impressive match was a first period pin over Centennial’s Presley Dittmer in just 41 seconds. “That was an important win. He did a great job.” said Bray speaking of Rose’s match.
Blackman’s senior captains were dependable and took care of their responsibilities. Senior Brooks Sacharczyk had a great weekend going 4-0 with three pins and a dominating win over Tyrone McDonald of Bradley. Newberry signee Bowdy Boyce also had a solid outing going 5-1 for the Blaze while wrestling up to heavyweight in two important matches. Boyce had big wins at heavyweight over Steele from Centennial and Austin McClure from Bradley.
Both Anthony Gomez and Jaylan Hughes saw limited action on Saturday due to the starting weight draw. Blackman did so well on Saturday that by the time it came to Gomez’s and Hughes’s weight classes, the duals were already wrapped up. It just didn’t make sense to wrestle them and risk injury.
Gomez won his match over Knox Watson from Bradley giving the Blaze a much needed pin for his only match of the day. Hughes had a great weekend and was 2-0 on Saturday with decisive pins over Science Hill and Houston.
In a world where both coaches and parents expect so much from the seniors and other leaders, it is easy to not be impressed when they are out there just “doing their job”. The Blaze seniors have stepped up all season and have provided good examples for the younger guys.
And while we are talking about stepping up, Junior Jayden Hemphill turned out to be the belle of the ball! Hemphill has been working hard this season as he has been forced to backup Boyce at 220 and wrestle up to 285. His efforts paid off at the right time. Hemphill’s best match was a triple overtime thriller at 285 with Daniel Laramie from Houston. Laramie had an obvious size advantage but Hemphill got an important escape and a takedown at the buzzer. He also had his first win by technical fall by outscoring Kaden Cater from Centennial 17-2. Hemphill made such a splash that the reporter Jeff Neal from the Murfreesboro Post wanted to talk to him first!
Other Blackman wrestlers who deserve a nod are Sophomore Adam Tibitoski who went 2-0, Josh Chew (1-2), and David Wilkinson (1-2). Cole Hays had some tough luck at 152. That weight class is tough this year. He went 0-3. Hugo Chavez took one for the team and got pinned in his only match by Cleveland super stud Trae McDaniel. (We owe you one Hugo!)
And last but not least, another great performer was Senior manager and head bookkeeper Grace Heath. Grace has been involved with wrestling all her life and she loves the Blaze! She took the ACT test on Saturday morning and then hurried straight to the venue without eating lunch because she didn’t want to miss any of the action.
All in all, it was a great weekend for Blackman Wrestling. Blackman wrestlers and coaches will spend the following two weeks preparing for individual region and then finally the TSSAA Individual State Tournament.
Catch the Blaze in action this Friday at Oakland High School for day one of the Region 5-AAA Tournament.
Pictures from the State Duals can be found on our PHOTOS page.
To see all-time results from the state duals, check those out HERE.
Match #1 Champ. Round 1 – Blackman defeated Sevier Co. 75-6
Match #2 Quarterfinal – Cleveland defeated Blackman 40-30
Match #3 Cons. Round 2 – Blackman defeated Science Hill 43-36
Match #4 Cons. Round 3 – Blackman defeated Houston 46-24
Match #5 Cons. Semi – Blackman defeated Centennial 41-30
Match #6 3rd Place Match – Bradley Central defeated Blackman 42-24