Once again, Coach Ronnie Bray guided the Blaze to a Top 10 finish at this season’s TSSAA State Wrestling Tournament. The Blaze finished this season’s tournament in 9th place with a Blackman all-time high of 99 points scored. The strong finish helps to reinforce Blackman’s place among the top teams in Division 1-AAA.
Blackman finished the weekend with three state medalists. Senior state champion Matthew Sells won his second state title at 160 pounds. Sophomore Landon Fowler was Blackman’s second finalist and finished as state runner-up. Junior Daniel Bradford went 5-1 and earned a 3rd place finish. Having three state medalists is quite an accomplishment for any team. In the last 4 seasons, Blackman has taken home 11 state medals – 4 in 2014, 3 in 2015, 1 in 2016, and 3 in 2017.
Day one of the tournament is a dream killer for many. Almost all wrestlers have a personal goal of wrestling in the state tournament. On Thursday, when the tournament begins, 448 wrestlers strap up their headgear. By the end of the night, HALF are eliminated. Blackman had nine state qualifiers and out of nine, four were eliminated on Thursday night.
At 106 pounds, Sophomore Evan Smart got a tough draw and lost his first match to Gabe O’Callaghan from Bartlett. It was the 2nd loss to O’Callaghan this season. In his next match, Evan bounced back with a 1st period pin over Jacob Carroll from Powell but ended up losing another tough match with eventual 4th place finisher Te’Nario Thomas from East Hamilton.
At 138, Freshman Brooks Sacharczyk opened his first state tournament with a major decision win over Josh Hanson from Powell. In his second match, Brooks lost a close 9-7 decision to Ravenwood senior Nicholas Freeman. The loss dropped him to the consolation round where he faced Beech sophomore Jeremiah Herron. In another extremely close match, Herron edged Brooks in a 4-2 decision ending his tournament run.
At 182 pounds, Spencer Layne also ended up with a tough draw. His first match was against Brentwood junior CJ Grissim. Grissim got the jump on Spencer and ended up winning by pin. In his second match, Spencer faced Chris Humpherys from Mount Juliet. The two battled back and forth and ended up a 1-1 match that went into the 4th overtime period (Ultimate Tie Breaker). In the UTB period, Spencer was penalized a point for an illegal mat return and the match ended 2-1 in favor of the Mt Juliet wrestler.
At 220, Dylan Heath won his first match against Keenan Sloan from Hardin Valley. Dylan lost his second match against Soddy Daisy’s Ty Boeck to send him to the consolation rounds. There he faced Garrett Smith from Rhea County. Rhea County has been producing some tough guys lately and Smith is one of them. Although Dylan had a good match, he lost by fall in the second period.
At 145, Sophomore Jalen Brown had perhaps the toughest draw of the tournament. He won his first match on Thursday before losing to #1 ranked and 4-time state champ Knox Fuller from Bradley. Brown won his third match by fall on Thursday night which kept him alive into consolation round 3 on Friday morning.
At 285, Junior Jamil Hughes started Thursday with a win over Debusk from Knoxville Central before taking a loss to undefeated Michael Kramer from Wilson Central. (Tough draw once again) Like Brown, Jamil’s second match was against a top seed. Jamil bounced back and earned a hard-fought decision over Bradley Central’s Chris Cash 14-12. The win sent Cash home and allowed Jamil to wrestle on Friday morning.
At the end of day 1, the Blaze had three undefeated wrestlers who all advanced to the championship quarter-finals. Daniel Bradford had two pins over Kingsbury and Jefferson County. Landon Fowler had a fall over Kenwood and a decision over last season’s 4th place medalist Jay Graham from Rhea County. At 160, Matthew Sells had a pin over Tennessee High and a major decision over Cleveland.
On Friday morning, Blackman still had 5 wrestlers in the tournament. For the two guys in the consolation rounds, it is a tough road to hoe. If you lose your second match at state, you have to win 4 in a row just to place and any loss from this point on puts you out of the tournament.
Jalen Brown started off on Friday with Caleb Eachus from Cleveland. Eachus has been wrestling for a long time but he didn’t have much for Brown as Jalen won a major decision 12-4. Jalen’s next match was against Tennessee High freshman prodigy Jared Harter. Harter is a tough competitor and he won the match against Jalen by a 11-6 decision. That loss ended Brown’s season and put him out of the tournament.
At heavyweight, in his first match on Friday, Jamil Hughes pinned Sevier County’s Luke Ellis. Jamil’s next match was a tough loss to Coppinger from Heritage. He fought very hard but wasnt able to get the win. Jamil had a great season!
Blackman had three wrestlers in the quarter-finals. If you win your quarter-final match you are guaranteed a state medal.
At 132, Daniel Bradford had a tough quarter-final match with Alex Pergande from Wilson Central. The match started off tight but Bradford opened things up in the later periods and won a 7-1 decision! This set him up for a semi-final match with last year state champ Ryan McElhaney from Bradley. Daniel was in on several shots with McElhaney but the Bradley wrestler showed his poise and experience and handed Bradford a 11-0 major decision. With the loss, Daniel was forced into the consolation bracket to battle for 3rd, 4th, 5th , or 6th place.
At 152 pounds, sophomore Landon Fowler continued to impress. His quarterfinal match with last year’s 5th place medalist Bryson Henley was a tight one. Landon came out on top 2-1 in a very close match. Henley was the 2nd state medalist that Landon had to defeat. The win against Henley set him up for another bout with a state medalist…..state champion Trevor Rippy from Beech. That match was certainly a test for Fowler. The match opened with a takedown by Rippy and a reversal from Fowler with short time left in the 1st period. In the second period, Rippy rode out Landon for no change. (Score 2-2) In the 3rd period, Rippy chose down and while Landon was working to turn him, the stars aligned and Rippy slipped out from a merkle into a headlock. PIN! The win propelled Fowler to the championship match on Saturday!
At 160, Matthew Sells had to face Mt. Juliet’s Dylan Quinn in the quarters. Sells beat Quinn a couple of weeks before at the state duals so he was hoping for a repeat. He didn’t have to wait long as he was able to secure a takedown and force Quinn to his back for a 1st period pin. Next for Sells would be a semi-final match with Walker Valley’s Mikel Gregory. Gregory finished 3rd last year at 152 and has been tough all season. Matthew was ready to wrestle and ended up winning a solid 9-1 major decision to send him to the championship match once again.
Saturday morning weigh-in is a who’s who of wrestling in the state of Tennessee. Only 84 wrestlers from each class remain and anyone who weighs in has already earned a state medal.
Blackman’s day started off with Daniel Bradford. The best Bradford could finish would be 3rd place and it was obvious that it was not going to be an easy road. His first match was against Stewarts Creek wrestler Gabe Rogers. Daniel and Gabe split matches earlier with Gabe winning the first meeting at GP West and Daniel winning the second at the region championships. It was once again Daniel’s day as he earned a very tough 4-2 decision. That win put Daniel into the 3rd and 4th place match with Knoxville Halls Chase Brown. Brown was the #2 seed and Brown was a 4th place medalist last season. He was prepared to give Daniel a fight. A solid reversal in the 2nd period and a takedown in the 3rd gave Daniel the win and 3rd place in the tournament!!
After all the 3rd through 6th place medalists are decided, there is a long intermission until the finals begin on Saturday night. The Blackman faithful showed up early and once again, we were sitting front row for the action. 😉 It was so exciting for everyone as this was the first time in history that Blackman has had TWO finalists! The decision had been made to start the championship finals matches at 145 so this meant that Fowler and Sells would not have too much time to worry about how their matches would go.
The wrestlers were introduced at 4:45 and it wasn’t long before it was time to get things going.
Landon’s championship match was against Bradley Central’s Austin Mathews. Mathews placed third at least year’s tournament and only had about 4 losses this season. He is known to be a strong and resilient wrestler and well coached. Landon has exceptional technique and has hidden strength so the match up was a good one! The match started as a battle of strength and neither wrestler was able to score in the first period. In the second period, Fowler chose down and Mathews tried to go to work. About 45 seconds into the period, Mathews was able to lock up a cradle and he was able to score a 3 point near fall. Landon was able to fight off his back and he got a reversal. It wasn’t long before Mathews had a reversal of his own. At the end of the 2nd period, Landon was able to secure an escape and the period ended 5-3 Bradley. In the 3rd period, Mathews chose down and Fowler worked tirelessly to turn him. Fowler has more pins this season than anyone on the team but he was unable to get Mathews to his back. Fowler gave up a meaningless escape as time expired and Mathews won the match 6-3. It was a solid effort on Landon’s part and no shame in coming up a little short to the Bradley senior.
Although there was much disappointment, there was not any time for Coach Bray and Coach Sacharczyk to fret over the loss. Sells was next at 160 and he had a big challenge of his own in Bradley Central’s Caleb Adkins. Adkins is also incredibly strong and isn’t known for a lot of flashy moves but he is solid and dangerous if you find yourself out of position. The match started with Sells picking up an inside single and lifting it high. As he has working for the trip, Adkins hit a funk roll and ended up with Matthews’s ankle. The result was an early takedown for Adkins. Sells was able to earn a quick escape and after some hand-fighting and positioning, the period ended 2-1 Adkins. Adkins chose down and was eventually able to get the escape. We have to give Adkins credit. You can tell that he had prepared for this match and he knew what to do to slow down Matthew’s offense. He was good defending the underhook and keeping Matthew from taking too many shots. The second period ended 3-1 Adkins. Matthew chose down and earned a quick escape. With 1:15 left, Sells caught the inside single once again and was able to finish for the takedown. Now it was 4-3 Sells. For what seemed like an eternity, Matthew rode Adkins out and after many stops for out of bounds, time finally expired! Sells wins 4-3! The win sealed up his second straight state championship and he earned the distinction of being the only two-timer in Blackman’s history.
As is always the case in wrestling, the tournament was full of extreme highs and extreme lows. For those who are really invested in the sport of wrestling, it is gut-wrenching to see a kid who has worked for years come so close and come up short. At the same time, there is nothing more elating than seeing another realize his dreams. The work that these guys put in is unbelievable and those who don’t know wrestling will simply never understand.
All in all, it was a great ending to a great season! Seven of our nine state qualifiers will return next season and Fowler and Bradford will be highly ranked. In addition, Blackman will continue to have an aggressive off-season training program to help those who want to chase their dreams.
Pictures from the TSSAA State Tournament can be found on our PHOTOS page. NOTE: We use Flickr for image hosting. If you download the Flickr app from the App Store or from the Google Play store, you will have a better experience. With the app, you can download pictures and viewing is a bit easier. As always if there are any images you wish to print, send a request to firstname.lastname@example.org and indicate the name of the picture you need. We will send you a higher resolution image suitable for printing.
Until next season!! Go Blaze!!!