McClendon caps great year with state title
Forrest grappler Tyler McClendon became the first-ever Rocket wrestler to capture a state title when he finished his dominant senior season with flair, pinning Chattanooga Central's Trumond Martin in the second round of the TSSAA Class A/AA State Wrestling Tournament at the Williamson County Ag Expo Center in Franklin on Saturday.
"This feels great, I can't believe I won the state title in my first appearance," said McClendon. "I would like to thank the coaches and a couple of the guys at practice like Cage Hargrove, who worked with me all year and taught me new stuff and the coaches who taught me new stuff. I would also like to thank the TSSAA for having this and the kids out here wrestling, they did great."
McClendon, who went undefeated in state tournament action in the 195-pound weight class, finished the 2013-2014 campaign with a 38-1 record with his only loss coming at the Red Hawk Invitational on Jan. 4 to Keydexon Brown from Smyrna.
The Region 3A/AA Wrestler of the Year and No. 1 seed at the state tournament earned a first-round bye before pinning Pigeon Forge's Christian Sisto in his first bout.
McClendon came back with a tough 4-2 decision over McKenzie Martin from Hixon, guaranteeing the Forrest wrestler a spot in the finals versus Trumond Martin.
Martin, the No. 1 seed from Region 2 A/AA, won his first two matches before coming away with a close 5-3 win over East Nashville's Javon Cross to clinch his spot in the finals.
"We knew he (Martin) was quick, but I felt like Tyler was stronger and we wanted to try to get him down on the mat where I felt we would have the advantage," said Forrest head coach Kyle Stacey.
The two finalists stepped to the mat for their chance at glory and the first round turned into a match of wits with neither grappler grabbing the upper hand, surveying each other's strengths and weaknesses.
"I was just trying not to go down and not to get behind too early because I hate trying to fight from behind," said McClendon. "The kid I was wrestling is extremely good and he was ranked ahead of me all year, so I was just waiting for my chance to wrestle him."
In the second of the three-minute regulation rounds, Forrest won the toss and McClendon chose the down position.
"We knew he (Martin) was good on his feet and that's the reason we chose down in the second period," said Stacey.
"Tyler was patient on the bottom, kept working and finally got a hold of him."
The grapplers began to spar and it was Martin who got a good hold on the Rocket star before McClendon turned the tables in his quiet aggressive style, pinning the Pounder standout with 39 seconds remaining in the period.
"He almost had me there for a minute on the bridge, but I rolled him and I was just in the right spot at the right time," said McClendon, who is currently being recruited by Middle Tennessee State University.
McClendon will certainly get some more looks after his dominating run to the state title.
"Maybe I can get a little more scholarship money now to help pay for my education," said McClendon.
Hargrove (38-7), who is also being recruited by MTSU, was making his third consecutive trip to the state tournament and finished his prep career with a six-place podium finish in the 120-pound weight class.
"If you want to lose, you want to go down fighting and that's what Cage did," said Stacey. "He is a five-year wrestler and has had a great year, a great career, and he has been a great leader. You couldn't ask for a better wrestler or a better kid."