The SMHS Wrestling team won the A-AA Region 3 Championship on Thursday night when they defeated Alcoa by a score of 48-30. This is the third year in a row that the Panthers have won this title to make the trip to the state duals.
“I could not be happier. We (the coaches) have been nervous for two weeks," said Coach Brian Parker. "We knew that Alcoa had the ability to beat us if we did not perform, but our kids laid our worries to rest when they wrestled like we told them they needed to in order to win.”
The match started at 220 pound, with Chase Eichner getting a pin in the third period. This was followed by Alex Norris getting a first period pin at Heavyweight.
“Chase’s match was a close for two periods which was nerve-racking." said Parker. "Chase had finally had enough and threw the kid with a head toss for the pin. He wrestled tough and his confidence in his wrestling finally showed.
“Alex just went out there and took care of business," added Parker. "He has made tremendous strides since the season began. Pins at these two weight classes were huge for us.”
With a 12-point lead going into the 106-pound match, the Panthers won by major decision with Cody McCarl. McCarl dominated the match through the first two periods, but the Alcoa wrestler caught him on his back in the third period. McCarl pulled out the win despite the close call.
With a 16-point Panther lead, the Tornadoes rolled off three pins in a roll at 113, 120 and 126 pounds to take the lead at 16-18.
“These classes are three of Alcoa’s toughest among others," said Parker. "Chandler, Christopher and Brenden fought as hard as they could, but they just could not beat their experience.”
The Panthers took back the lead at 132 pounds only to lose it again at 138 pounds. Dakota McAdoo (132) went back and forth with a tough kid before pinning him in the second period, while Ismael Matias (138) lost to Alcoa’s best kid by pin in the second period.
“Dakota’s match was pivotal for us," said Parker. "We knew if we could win this match, we could win the whole thing. Dakota’s experience and patience paid off here.”
With the Tornadoes having the lead at 22-24, the Panthers moved into the heart of line-up. Darrin Rosser eased some of Coach Parker’s anxieties with a first-period pin of a kid who has only been pinned twice in over 40 matches.
“This was a huge pin for us," said Parker. "This kid is very dangerous due to his strength and athleticism, but Darrin made him look like a rookie. It was awesome.”
The Panthers rolled off a major decision and a quick pin at 152 and 160, respectively, to increase their lead to 38-24. At 152, Anthony Giattino worked hard for a pin but had to settle for 10-0 win, while Cody Caruthers disposed of his opponent in a minute and twenty seconds.
“We can always depend on Anthony and Cody," said Parker. "Anthony’s kid did a great job defending our pin, which was very frustrating for him, but he got the job done.”
With a 14-point lead, the Panthers just had to win one of the last three matches to take the region title. They did just that in the very next match, as Landon Barlow won a major decision, 15-5, at 170 pounds.
“Landon is tough on his feet, so he worked to take this kid down over and over," said Parker. "Alcoa knew they had to try and head toss Landon to beat him and they almost did. He did a great job pushing away and shooting to seal a win and a team victory.”
With the region championship in their pocket, Justin Johnson added to the victory with a second-period pin at 182 pounds. The Tornadoes won the final match (195) by pin over Brandon Burnett, but it was too little, too late.
“It was nice to know that Justin was there if we needed his pin for the win," said Parker. "He just gets better and better each day. Brandon also fought hard against one of Alcoa’s better kids.
“I told all these guys that everyone just had to perform the way we already knew that they could to beat Alcoa," he added. "Well, that is exactly what they did and I could not be more proud of them. Now if I can get that same effort out of them next week, we may just be in the state finals!”
The Panthers head to the state duals at the Williamson County Ag Expo Center in Franklin on Friday. Their first match will begin at 3:30 p.m. against Eagleville.