CLEVELAND, Tenn. -- Corey Gatlin had probably never been in the role of hero in his young athletic career, but that was the case here at Bradley's Jim Smiddy Arena Thursday night.
With his team trailing the McCallie Blue Tornado by a 30-27 margin, it all came down to the Bradley 170-pound wrestler to determine the outcome of the match.
He didn't let down the spirited crowd as he got a first-period pin to lift his team to its fifth dual-meet victory in six matches. It was the season-opener for McCallie.
But in a match where both teams had seven individual wins, Bradley pulled the match out of the fire with Gatlin's pin with seven seconds on the first-period clock.
"We're still learning how to win, but I hope a match like this will make us push a little harder in the practice room," said Bradley coach Ben Smith shortly after the non-district battle ended.
"Corey had a good weekend at the Archer Duals and I had a good idea that we could win that last match, but you never know how he'll react. There are times when he hits a home run and other times when he strikes out, but he told me before he walked out there that he was ready to go," he continued.
"We knew we had to win the close matches, but with four guys in our lineup who had never started in a varsity match before, there were a few nerves. But I have no doubt that a match like this will make both teams better.
"We knew that McCallie would be tough and it was a big match for us to open up with a home," he added.
"There were a lot of good battles out there tonight as we were strong where they were strong. We just needed some mat time, but I just told our guys that I wanted them to go hard for the entire six minutes," explained McCallie coach Mike Newman after a brief chat with his team.
"It's real early and we're still trying to get better, but that match at 126 was an awesome battle and great for both kids. But this was a great atmosphere for the sport and I had a lot of fun," he added.
There were six lead changes and two ties along the way. McCallie had three pins and four regular decisions while Bradley had two pins, two forfeits and three regular decisions.
Ariel Long posted an 8-7 decision at 182 to give the Blue Tornado the early 3-0 lead before Brett Brown was awarded Bradley's first forfeit at 195.
Jay Roberts had a first-period pin and River Henry an overtime decision to give McCallie a 12-6 lead before Bradley rallied with three straight wins, including a quick pin from T.J. Hicks at 106, a forfeit to Toribio Navarro at 113 and a decision by Ryan McElhaney at 120.
McCallie then went on a three-match win streak with James Westbrook getting a 3-2 win over Knox Fuller at 126 in a battle of defending state champions.
That was clearly the best match of the evening a Fuller scored a takedown 25 seconds into the match and made it stand until Westbrook earned three points for a near-fall midway through the third. That was the difference in the match.
Trent Maddox then had a 1-0 decision at 132 before Ethan Dendy got a 57-second pin at 138 as the Blue Tornado regained the lead at 24-21.
Back-to-back decisions from Donnie Beyers and Caleb Adkins at 145 and 152 gave Bradley the three-point edge at 27-24 before Will Patton's second-period pin gave McCallie the lead for the last time.
Things could have gotten interesting if Gatlin had won by a decision as several levels of criteria would have been needed to determine the overall winner, but Gatlin made that a moot point with his biggest win of the year so far.
McCallie will be on the road Friday for a big dual-meet tournament in Ohio where they will face state champions from Ohio, Pennsylvania and West Virginia among others. Bradley will also be on the road as the Bears will travel to Woodstock Ga. to participate in the Wolverine Classic.
It will be another good early-season test for the Bears, who finished as the runner-up at the Archer Duals last weekend.
BRADLEY 33, McCALLIE 30
(Match started at 182 Pounds)
106 -- T.J. Hicks (Brad) pinned Shalin Naik, :23;
113 -- Toribio Navarro (Brad) won by forfeit;
120 -- Ryan McElhaney (Brad) dec. Ryan Ward, 4-0;
126 -- James Westbrook (M) dec. Knox Fuller, 3-2;
132 -- Trent Maddox (M) dec. Hunter Parker, 1-0;
138 -- Ethan Dendy (M) pinned Stephen Scott, :57;
145 -- Donnie Beyers (Brad) dec. Sam Harrelson, 7-0;
152 -- Caleb Adkins (Brad) dec. Anders Heald, 7-1;
160 -- Will Patton (M) pinned Clay Bandy, 3:35;
170 -- Corey Gatlin (Brad) pinned Walker Daughtery, 1:53;
182 -- Ariel Long (M) dec. Edward Elkins, 8-8;
195 -- Brett Brown (Brad) won by forfeit;
220 -- Jay Roberts (M) pinned Tripp Storrs, 1:41;
285 -- River Henry (M) dec. D.J. Adams, 9-7 in overtime.
(Email John Hunt at email@example.com)