CLEVELAND, Tenn. – It was an evening of celebration at Bradley’s Jim Smiddy Arena on Thursday.
They recognized former Bradley wrestlers who had won an amazing 22 state team titles before a classic battle between the two top-ranked prep teams in Tennessee.
Baylor came in unbeaten after six matches and ranked first while once-beaten Bradley is currently ranked second in the latest state poll. Those rankings will probably be reversed next week after the Bears improved to 8-1 with the 38-29 victory.
“That was a lot of fun,” said Bradley coach Ben Smith after thinking about what he would say in his post-match interview.
“It’s always a great match with Baylor and we wrestle teams like this to make us better in February. It’s still early, but our conditioning was good and I thought we won the intensity battle.
“Baylor has a great team with a bunch of really good kids, but we ended up coming out on top,” Smith added.
The Bears won eight matches while the Red Raiders were victorious in six.
Both teams had three pins and a technical fall, but the difference was Bradley had one more win by regular decision and the Bears received the only forfeit.
“They were ready to go and did a great job,” said Baylor coach Ben Nelson in praise of Bradley’s team.
“We’re still trying to find our groove, but I knew coming in that we had some real challenges tonight. We knew it would be a dogfight, but we’ll use it as a great learning experience.
“Don’t take anything away from Bradley as they really performed well tonight,” Nelson concluded.
The match began at 152 pounds where Baylor’s Michael Murphy put the Red Raiders on the board with an 8-5 decision.
Austin Matthews evened the score with a come-from-behind 11-9 overtime decision over Baylor’s Riley Westlake.
Caleb Powell then earned Baylor’s first pin for a 9-3 lead before Bradley regained the advantage at 12-9 with a pin from Kevin Gentry at 182 and a thrilling 7-6 decision by Brett Brown at 195.
Three-time defending state champ Ryan Parker earned a technical fall at 220 while a 25-second pin from Cooper Reiniche at 285 gave Baylor the lead at 20-12.
Bryson Bishop had a pin for Bradley at 106 and the Bears took charge with four straight wins.
T.J. Hicks got the forfeit at 113 while Ryan McElhaney had a technical fall at 120. Joshua LaCoe’s 3-2 decision at 126 extended Bradley’s lead to 32-20 with three matches remaining.
Needing to win just one of the final three matches, defending state champ Knox Fuller sealed the deal with a first-period pin at 138 for a 38-23 lead, making the pin by Baylor’s Austin Atchley at 145 virtually meaningless.
“I just wanted to see them go out and really fight in a pressure situation. For the most part, that’s what we did,” Smith added.
“We knew we needed to get bonus points where we could and to win the close matches, but the key was our overall effort. We don’t lose very often in this gym and we felt like we needed to put on a good show on Alumni Night.
“You could see another match like this on Saturday,” Smith concluded, referring to the Cleveland Duals where both of these teams will be in the hunt for the team title.
BRADLEY 38, BAYLOR 29
(Match began at 152 Pounds)
106 – Bryson Bishop (Brad) pinned Clayton Pettway, 1:09;
113 – T.J. Hicks (Brad) won by forfeit;
120 – Ryan McElhaney (Brad) won by technical fall over Hayden Hartline, 3:52;
126 – Joshua LaCoe (Brad) dec. Andy Atchley, 3-2;
132 – Jack Reynolds (Bay) dec. Hunter Parker, 7-5;
138 – Knox Fuller (Brad) pinned Weston Jarnagin, 1:57;
145 – Austin Atchley (Bay) pinned Jordan Moats, 3:35;
152 – Michael Murphy (Bay) dec. Donnie Beyer, 8-5;
160 – Austin Matthews (Brad) dec. Riley Westlake, 11-9 in overtime;
170 – Caleb Powell (Bay) pinned Ed Elkins, 1:50;
182 – Kevin Gentry (Brad) pinned Warren Ashworth, 1:42;
195 – Brett Brown (Brad) dec. Khamari Whimoer, 7-6;
220 – Ryan Parker (Bay) won by technical fall over D.J. Gibson, 5:39;
285 – Cooper Reiniche (Bay) pinned D.J. Adams, :25.
(Email John Hunt at firstname.lastname@example.org)