Gross wins back-to-back state titles, Rockets finish second

Thursday, February 22, 2018
The Forrest Rockets wrestling team poses with the team plaque after winning the second place at the TSSAA State Wrestling Championships last weekend at the Williamson County Expo Center in Franklin.
Tribune photos by Anthony S. Puca

The Forrest Rocket wrestling team sent a school record eight grapplers to the TSSAA State Individual Wrestling Championships and seven of the eight earned medals, while the team turned in its best ever finish with second place behind Gibbs.

The seven Forrest medalists from left are Nick McClendon, Wesley McCoy, Jeffrey Gross, Andrew Carlisle, Bryton Spitzley, Austin Geeting, and Cole Geeting.

“We knew it could happen,” Forrest coach Chris Slaughter said. “We watched all throughout the year and tried to make sure we got all our guys in the right spots and made sure we had the full lineup in to be able to pull them in and bring the numbers and it just kind of happened for us.”

“It was no secret, these guys knew we were coming and I talked to the Pigeon Ford coach earlier today and he said we were right on the right road.”

The Rockets finished with one state title, two runners-up, plus one third, fourth, fifth, and sixth-place medalist.

Forrest senior Bryton Spitzley (right) gives some words of advice and support for freshman Cole Geeting before Geeting’s first-ever state tournament bout Friday morning.

“These guys showed up and put it all on the line,” Slaughter said. “We talked about putting your heart on the line and leaving it all out on the mat and these guys did that, they just left it all out there, so I couldn’t be more proud of them.”

Rocket junior Jeff Gross won the 126-pound weight class to finish the season undefeated at 26-0 and claim back-to-back state titles.

Forrest junior Jeff Gross is making his mark on high school wrestling after a dominating 2017-2018 season in which he posted an undefeated 26-0 record that was capped off Saturday night with his second Class A/AA state championship.

“It’s not easy winning back-to-back,” Slaughter said. “It puts that target on your back and he definitely had that target.”

Gross, who won the title last season at 113-pounds, displayed his prowess, hard work and dedication to the sport with an outstanding performance at the Williamson County Expo Center in Franklin last weekend.

“It feels awesome,” Gross said. “I worked my butt off getting ready.”

In the first two rounds Gross came up with blowout wins that resulted in technical falls over a pair of returning state medalists before recording a first-round pin over Alcoa’s Ryan Wimbley in the semifinals Friday night.

Gross came into Saturday night’s championship match versus Fairview’s Riley Bennett knowing the Yellowjacket freshman was coming with a game plan and it was going to be a war.

“He had a lot of improvement since the last time I wrestled him, he had a great game plan, but I just stuck to mine and came out on top,” Gross said. “I was going out there to attack him.”

“The Fairview kid had a great plan going into it and knew exactly what he wanted to implement and he did a good job of that, but we overcame that adversity and got that takedown when we needed it,” Slaughter said. “To my understanding, that Fairview young man dropped a couple of weight classes just to have the competition.”

He was right and he was ready as the two grapplers wrestled to a 0-0 tie after the first two rounds before Gross made his move.

Gross chose the down position in the final round and came up with a huge escape for one point and then took Bennett to the mat for two more points.

“I knew I had to get on the bottom and he wouldn’t come after me on my feet, so I just worked my takedown and I got up 3-0 and just went from there and wrestled smart,” Gross said.

The Forrest fans celebrate for state champions Jeff Gross as time runs out in the title bout Saturday night.

Bennett was able to get a rare takedown on Gross, but could not score again and the match ended in a 4-2 win and back-to-back titles for Gross.

“I just stayed smart and worked for my escape and won 4-2,” Gross said. “That was the best match I had all season. It was a great season, I had fun.”

Senior returning state medalist Drew Carlisle finished in third place last year in the 182-pound weight class and made another run for the title last weekend when he pinned his first opponent before coming away with an incredible performance versus Chris Taylor from Elizabethton in round two.

“Carlisle is just a great kid to have around, he’s fun, keeps things lighthearted and I just can’t say enough good things about Carlisle,” Slaughter said. “

Carlisle and Taylor finished the first round of their bout in a 0-0 tie and both wrestlers tallied three points apiece in round two before Taylor edged his way in front, only to see Carlisle come back to tie at 5-5.

Jeff Gross (left) and Forrest assistant coach Jason “Shooter” Hill (right) help an exhausted Drew Carlisle (center) after Carlisle came up with a huge last-second 6-5 win over Ethan Olinger from Pigeon Forge in the quarterfinals.

In one of the most exciting moments of the event, Carlisle ripped his way free of Taylor with one second remaining in the match to earn an escape point and the 6-5 victory.

In the finals, Carlisle faced a tough task, taking on Greenville’s Trent Knight, who was the returning state champions at 170-pounds.

Carlisle came out of the first round with a 2-0 lead, but fell behind 4-2 in the second round.

“I was watching video and studying before I wrestled and I knew it was going to be a tough match,” Carlisle said. “I couldn’t fight my way off the bottom, he was just too good with his legs when he was on top.”

Neither grappler scored in the final round as Carlisle ended his short, but successful Forrest career with a runner-up spot on the podium.

Senior Drew Carlisle’s return trip to the state tournament was a successful journey as the senior finished in second place in the 182-pound weight class.

“I feel real good about second, I would’ve felt good about first, but I placed second and I feel good about it, it was better than last year, so I improved from last year,” Carlisle said. “I’ve had so much fun coming to Forrest, I feel really good about the way it turned out and I had a great wrestling season.”

Wesley McCoy turned in an outstanding effort for the Rockets, coming in second place in the 195-pound weight class.

The Wesley McCoy 2017-2018 season looked to be a lost one as the junior returning state medalist suffered a shoulder injury early in the season and was on the shelf until the Harpeth Invitational in early December.

McCoy didn’t wrestle again after that until January and finished with a 7-1 record the rest of the way.

McCoy medaled at 160-pounds last season and took on an ultra-tough task at the region and the state championship at 195-pounds, sometimes giving up as much 20 pounds in a bout, but he was more than up to the task, claiming the Region 3A/AA title at Sequatchie County prior to the state tournament.

“It feels amazing, I’ve been working really hard since I got back from my injury and been putting a lot of work in at practice getting ready for this,” McCoy said. “Wrestling people twenty pounds heavier than me is hard, but I just gave it my all.”

McCoy dominated his first two opponents on a pair of pins before coming away with an exciting 6-4 overtime win over Gibbs senior Elijah Lawson in the semifinals.

“We knew what we had in McCoy, he’s a fighter and a scrapper,” Slaughter said. “This was a good experience for him to capitalize on and come back strong next year.”

Two-time returning state medalist Noah Evans from Alcoa stood in McCoy’s path of a state title and Evans used his experience and weight advantage in a 9-4 win in the title bout.

“We both wrestled a good match, he (Evans) was a good wrestler,” McCoy said. “Nobody expected us to come in here and place second as a team, we worked really hard all season for this and wanted to prove a point.”

“We will just keep working harder and harder and get first next year.”

Nick McClendon battled back from a tough one-point defeat Friday night and finished third in the 170-pound weight division.

Nick McClendon was also the region champ at 170-pounds and had an easy time the first two rounds, garnering a forfeit in the first round before pinning Jacob Kieta from Pigeon Forge in round two.

In Friday night’s semifinal round, McClendon lost a controversial 8-7 match to Greenback’s Zach Malone before the Rocket sophomore bounced back on Saturday, pinning returning state medalist Allen Ashworth from Whitwell in the consolation semifinals and then taking home the third place medal with a pin over Pigeon Ford’s Jacob Kieta.

Austin Geeting finished his senior season with a 19-5 record and a fourth place finish at the state tournament.

The Geeting brothers made their mark on the tournament with returning state medalist senior Austin garnering a fourth place spot and freshman Cole coming in fifth place in his maiden voyage.

Austin Geeting won his first two matches before losing by one point in the semifinals to fellow senior Alexander Richardson from Alcoa.

Geeting bounced back with a 3-1 win in the consolation round before being eliminated by returning state medalist Daniel Hodges from East Ridge.

If the freshman Cole was nervous coming into the event you would have never known it as he pinned Justice Dykes from Polk County in the opening round and in round two, Geeting eked out a 4-1 win over senior Dylan Chase from Sullivan East.

Forrest freshman Cole Geeting (top) finished in fifth place in the 145-pound bracket.

Geeting stumbled in Friday night’s semifinals, falling in a major decision.

Signal Mountain’s Preston Worley beat Geeting by one point Saturday morning, but he bounced back to win the fifth place match 6-2 over Bransen O`Dell from Greeneville.

Forrest senior Bryton Spitzley finished third at the Region 3/AA Tournament and started out with a hot hand on Friday at the state tournament, winning by a pin over Noah Mayo from Cheatham County in his opening match and taking a close 5-4 decision in the quarterfinals to secure a spot on the medal stand.

Bryton Spitzley made the best of his only state tournament appearance as a Rocket, finishing in sixth place in the 152-pound weight class.

Although Spitzley was unable to win his next two matches, he came up with a big pin over Michael Bowser from Memphis East to finish up his career in style.

The final Forrest wrestler who qualified for the state tournament was Cody Donnelly, who lost in Friday’s opening match, but came up with a pin over Happy Valley’s Cameron Sloane in the first round of consolations.

Donnelly was unable to carry over the momentum and fell in the next round.

Senior Cody Donnelly went 1-2 in his state tournament bouts to finish up his Rocket wrestling career.

“Hopefully this success will bring more people into the program,” Slaughter said. “Maybe some of these young kids up there in the stands seeing this for the first time will bite on that hook and we can get them into the program and get them excited about wrestling.”

TSSAA State Individual Championships Results

Class A-AA Team Scores

1Gibbs 179.0
2Forrest 126.0
3Hixson 118.0
4Signal Mtn.112.0
5Harpeth 108.0
6Pigeon Forge 104.0
7Fairview 89.5
8Alcoa 85.5
9Greenbrier 81.5

Class A-AA 126 Pounds

1st Place - Jeffrey Gross (Forrest)

2nd Place - Riley Bennett (Fairview)

3rd Place - Rolando Lucio (Harpeth)

4th Place - Kevin Muschel (Signal Mountain)

5th Place - CJ Dyer (Pigeon Forge)

6th Place - Ryan Wimbley (Alcoa)

Jeffery Gross (26-0)

Championship Round 1 - Jeffrey Gross (Forrest) over Jack Neely (Chattanooga Central) (TF 15-0 2:09).
Quarterfinals - Jeffrey Gross (Forrest) over Nathan Ford (Greenbrier) (TF 16-1 4:05).

Semifinals - Jeffrey Gross (Forrest) over Ryan Wimbley (Alcoa) (Fall 1:57).

1st Place Match - Jeffrey Gross (Forrest) over Riley Bennett (Fairview) (Dec 4-2).

A-AA 145

1st Place - Matthew Maxwell (Gibbs)

2nd Place - Jonathon Hawkins (Greenback)

3rd Place - Preston Worley (Signal Mountain)

4th Place - Andrew Baiamonte (Pigeon Forge)

5th Place - Cole Geeting (Forrest)

6th Place - Bransen O`Dell (Greeneville)

Cole Geeting (21-5)

Championship Round 1 - Justice Dykes (Polk County) vs. Cole Geeting (Forrest).

Quarterfinals - Cole Geeting (Forrest) over Dylan Chase (Sullivan East) (Dec 4-0).

Semifinals - Jonathon Hawkins (Greenback) over Cole Geeting (Forrest) (MD 12-4).

Consolation Semis - Preston Worley (Signal Mtn.) over Cole Geeting (Forrest) (Fall 2:56).

5th Place Match - Cole Geeting (Forrest) over Bransen O`Dell (Greeneville) (Dec 6-2).

A-AA 152

1st Place - Elijah Davis (Fulton)

2nd Place - Joseph Skidmore (Pigeon Forge)

3rd Place - Kilroy Hill (Elizabethton)

4th Place - Cameron Weaver (Sequatchie Co.)

5th Place - Michael Bowser (Memphis East)

6th Place - Bryton Spitzley (Forrest)

Bryton Spitzley (24-7)

Championship Round 1 - Bryton Spitzley (Forrest) over Noah Mayo (Cheatham Co.) (Fall 4:51).

Quarterfinals - Bryton Spitzley (Forrest) over Tim Buangala (Gibbs) (Dec 5-4).

Semifinals - Elijah Davis (Fulton) over Bryton Spitzley (Forrest) (MD 16-6).

Consolation Semis - Kilroy Hill (Elizabethton) over Bryton Spitzley (Forrest) (TF 17-2 3:54).

5th Place Match - Michael Bowser (Memphis East) over Bryton Spitzley (Forrest) (Fall 3:42).

A-AA 160

1st Place - Noel Leyva (Gibbs)

2nd Place - Alexander Richardson (Alcoa)

3rd Place - Daniel Hodges (East Ridge)

4th Place - Austin Geeting (Forrest)

5th Place - Jonah Bird (Red Bank)

6th Place - Garrett Wright (Greeneville)

Austin Geeting (19-5)

Championship Round 1 - Austin Geeting (Forrest) over Arnold Ramos (Pigeon Forge) (Fall 1:27)

Quarterfinals - Austin Geeting (Forrest) over Will Pendleton (Sycamore) (Dec 8-7).

Semifinals - Alexander Richardson (Alcoa) over Austin Geeting (Forrest) (Fall 4:00).

Consolation Semis - Austin Geeting (Forrest) over Garrett Wright (Greeneville) (Dec 8-2).

3rd Place Match - Daniel Hodges (East Ridge) over Austin Geeting (Forrest) (Fall 2:19).

A-AA 170

1st Place - Isaiah Brooks (Gibbs)

2nd Place - Zach Malone (Greenback)

3rd Place - Nick McClendon (Forrest)

4th Place - Jacob Kieta (Pigeon Forge)

5th Place - Robert White (Fairview)

6th Place - Allen Ashworth (Whitwell)

Nick McClendon (27-2)

Championship Round 1 - Nick McClendon (Forrest) over Caleb West (Upperman) (For.).

Quarterfinals - Nick McClendon (Forrest) over Jacob Kieta (Pigeon Forge) (Dec 6-3).

Semifinals - Zach Malone (Greenback) over Nick McClendon (Forrest) (Dec 8-7).

Consolation Semis - Nick McClendon (Forrest) over Allen Ashworth (Whitwell) (Fall 1:20).

3rd Place Match - Nick McClendon (Forrest) over Jacob Kieta (Pigeon Forge) (Dec 10-5).

A-AA 182

1st Place - Trent Knight (Greeneville)

2nd Place - Andrew Carlisle (Forrest)

3rd Place - Ethan Olinger (Pigeon Forge)

4th Place - Chris Taylor (Elizabethton)

5th Place - Jackson Hash (Red Bank)

6th Place - Darian Smith (East Ridge)

Andrew Carlisle (26-4)

Championship Round 1 - Andrew Carlisle (Forrest) over Nolan Morris (Polk County) (Fall 2:24).

Quarterfinals - Andrew Carlisle (Forrest) over Ethan Olinger (Pigeon Forge) (Dec 6-5).

Semifinals - Andrew Carlisle (Forrest) over Chris Taylor (Elizabethton) (Fall 3:03).

1st Place Match - Trent Knight (Greeneville) over Andrew Carlisle (Forrest) (Dec 4-2).

A-AA 195

1st Place - Noah Evans (Alcoa)

2nd Place - Wesley McCoy (Forrest)

3rd Place - Elijah Lawson (Gibbs)

4th Place - Michael Moore (Greeneville)

5th Place - Anthony Collins (Greenbrier)

6th Place - Tristan Mann (Fairview)

Wesley McCoy (10-2)

Championship Round 1 - Wesley McCoy (Forrest) over JT Pierce (Chuckey-Doak) (Fall 1:23).

Quarterfinals - Wesley McCoy (Forrest) over Benjamin Kuberg (Hixson) (Fall 2:49).

Semifinals - Wesley McCoy (Forrest) over Elijah Lawson (Gibbs) (SV-1 6-4).

1st Place Match - Noah Evans (Alcoa) over Wesley McCoy (Forrest) (Dec 11-4).

A-AA 220

1st Place - Toby Lynch (Greenbrier)

2nd Place - Jacob Miller (Nolensville)

3rd Place - Grant Brace (Alcoa)

4th Place - Oliver Hunter (Grace Christian Academy-Franklin)

5th Place - Joel Griffin (Gibbs)

6th Place - Kaleb Penny (Sale Creek)

1st Place Match: Toby Lynch (Greenbrier) 33-0, Sr. over Jacob Miller (Nolensville) 42-4, Jr. (Dec 6-4).

3rd Place Match: Grant Brace (Alcoa) 41-4, Sr. over Oliver Hunter (Grace Christian Academy (Franklin)) 20-5, Sr. (Fall 0:35).

5th Place Match: Joel Griffin (Gibbs) 28-9, Jr. over Kaleb Penny (Sale Creek) 28-11, Jr. (Fall 4:37).

Cody Donnelly (Forrest) (9-11)

Championship Round 1 - Grant Brace (Alcoa) over Cody Donnelly (Forrest) (Fall 1:35).

Consolation Round 1 - Cody Donnelly (Forrest) over Cameron Slone (Happy Valley) (Fall 2:05).

Consolation Round 2 - Kaleb Penny (Sale Creek) over Cody Donnelly (Forrest) (Dec 5-4).