Rockets strike gold with three state titles

Wednesday, February 20, 2019
Senior Wesley McCoy gets the first round pin over Red Bank’s Caden Cline as Forrest coaches Chris Slaughter and Jason “Shooter” Hill celebrate in the background.
Tribune photos by Anthony S. Puca

Forrest sent 10 grapplers to the TSSAA Class A-AA Wrestling Championships this weekend at the Williamson County Ag Center in Franklin and after two grueling days, Jeff Gross, Wesley McCoy, and Nick McClendon captured state titles.

Noah Hill finished as runner-up and Cole Geeting medaled with a fifth place finish for the second year in a row.

“Both our seniors started us off and got big wins and what can I say about McClendon, he has just been amazing,” Forrest coach Chris Slaughter said. “Its bitter sweet, I want to see all these guys win and I want them to know that I love them and when they leave, whatever they pursue in life I want the best for them.”

The Rockets also made history when freshman Anna Allbert became the first girl wrestler to medal at the state tournament when she finished in sixth place in the 170-pound weight class.

“Wow is all I can say about that,” Slaughter said. “I hope what this means is the student body gets the wrestling bug and kids come out and say I want to do that, and I want to be a part of that program.”

“I want 20 girls on our wrestling team, I want 30 guys on our wrestling team, and I want to be able to have JV states and I hope that bug bites and bites hard.”

Two-time defending state champion and four-time region champion Jeff Gross swept through the first day of action Friday as the number-one seed, coming up with a 15-2 technical fall win over Upperman’s Patrick Lair in round one before pinning CJ Dyer from Pigeon Ford in the second round.

The Forrest senior took on Ryan Hart in the 138-pound semifinals and pinned the Hixon grappler 30 seconds into round two to set up a Region 3A-AA Tournament championship bout rematch with Signal Mountain sophomore Kevin Muschel.

“This has truly been a blessing,” Gross said. “This team has given so much to me and I had the best four years of my life wrestling with this team, it’s just been awesome.”

Gross took that match in a close 3-0 win and Saturday’s state title bout was no different as Gross led 2-0 after the first round and 4-1 after two close rounds.

Forrest senior Jeff Gross puts three fingers up in victory after capturing his third straight state wrestling title Saturday at the TSSAA Class A-AA State Wrestling Championships at Franklin.

Muschel closed the gap, but the experienced Gross used all of his outstanding abilities and a lot of wile to outlast Muschel 4-3 and claim his third consecutive state title and finish the season with a stellar 43-1 record.

“Just coming back from the flu and getting back in there and wrestling, I felt a lot better this week,” Gross said. “I went out there and had a game plan to attack him in the first period and I took him down and then rode him out in the second period, that’s what I planned on. He got a couple stalling points in the third and I was a little gassed because of the flu, but I was able to stick it out and get the win.”

Some people say the third time is the charm.

For senior Wesley McCoy, it was the fourth.

“This feels amazing, I’ve been working my whole life towards this,” McCoy said. “I took second last year and came up a little bit short, but worked hard over the summer, kept getting better and pulled it out this year.”

McCoy is a four-time state tournament participant that had second and third place finishes under his belt and he made a huge step in moving to the top of the podium in the 160-pound weight class when he swept through the first two rounds, beginning with a lightning quick 18 second pin over Chattanooga Central freshman Alijah Heyward in round one.

McCoy followed that up with a 10-3 win over Greenville’s Robert Freeman before advancing to the championship final versus Red Bank junior Caden Cline.

McCoy (26-2) has a history of competing in close matches and he had an early 2-0 lead before pinning his ears back with a lot of pressure on Cline to come away with a fall with five seconds remaining in the first round.

“He (Cline) stuck me in Chattanooga about two weeks ago, so I came back and got the pin in the first period, so that feels pretty good,” McCoy said. “I had to keep my promise to Jeff that he wouldn’t be the only one up there.”

Rocket junior Nick McClendon entered the state tournament with an undefeated record and seemed to be a man on a mission as the back-to-back Region 3A-AA champion was taking no prisoners along the way.

Forrest’s Nick McClendon raises his arms in victory after capturing the state title in the 170-pound weight class to cap off an undefeated season.

“This feels good, to be honest with you, I want to come back and do this again next year,” McClendon said about winning the title. “I had to fight through a bunch of adversity and stick through it and be persistent and go win. Focus was the key to winning that match.”

Greenbrier junior Gavin Ledbetter lasted a little over one round before taking a fall in the opening round and Fulton senior Josh Gardner and Whitwell junior Jacob Roberts never made it out of the first round with McClendon, who swept his way into the finals versus returning state champion Isaiah Brooks (42-5) from Gibbs in a battle of number-one seeds.

McClendon came into the championship match with 11 pins, one forfeit, one technical fall, and one major decision, never really being involved in a close match all season.

On the flip side, Brooks had 47 bouts this season and many were close decisions and after the first round of the title match on Saturday, McClendon had a 2-0 lead on a late takedown.

An exciting second period saw McClendon leading at 5-2 entering the final round as both wrestlers turned up the heat, but it was McClendon who prevailed with a 7-3 win.

Nick’s older brother Tyler won the first ever state title in any men’s sport at Forrest when he captured the 195-pound weight class in the 2013-2014 campaign with a 38-1 record.

“Now I have to beat Tyler and get number two,” a smiling McClendon said. “This feels really good for my family and for the school, it just makes me really proud.”

“Congratulations to Jeff and Wesley finishing out their senior year in style and I know Noah Hill will be back for more.”

Sophomore Noah Hill continued his season long roll at the state tournament with three straight wins, beginning with a second round pins over Carter’s Bradley Daugherty in round one and Chris Biggs from Cheatham County in the second round.

Hill (36-4) punched his ticket to the 195-pound weight class final with a close 12-9 decision over Gibbs senior and number one seed Michael Myers (39-10) in the semifinals.

Hill came into the 195-pound championship match versus Elizabethton’s Jonathan Morton in prime form after three straight wins at the Region 3A-AA Tournament, followed by his three falls leading up to the title tilt.

Forrest sophomore Noah Hill (left) grapples with Elizabethton’s Jonathan Morton in the 195-pound title bout, won by Morton on a late third round fall over Hill.

After a scoreless first period, Hill came up with five points in the second period, before Morton turned the tables in the third period, coming up with a late 8-8 tie and pinning Hill with 19 seconds remaining in the bout.

“I’m disappointed, I know I can try a little harder and there is always next year,” Hill said. “It was amazing, the atmosphere was crazy here, so I’m gonna keep pushing and pushing and get back here next year.”

Cole Geeting finished in fifth place last year and started off Friday’s session with a 6-3 win Hixson’s Kaleb Mayes.

In the quarterfinals, Geeting went the distance again, this time losing 8-1 to Fairview’s Mario Pukl.

Cole Geeting (top) came back to claim a fifth-place spot on the medal stand when he won a rematch over Fairview’s Mario Pukl.

Geeting had to battle his way through the consolation bracket if he wanted to medal and he did, coming up with a pin John King (Whitwell) before securing a spot on the podium with a 14-11 slugfest win over Elizabethton’s Kilroy Hill.

Greenville’s Bransen O`Dell pinned Geeting in the second round, setting up a rematch with Pukl in the fifth/sixth place bout.

The two grapplers sparred the entire match with the first period ending in a scoreless draw before Getting came up with three huge points in round two.

“It really is hard work just to be here, so I’m just kind of speechless right now,” Getting said. “I’m going to do some freestyle wrestling right after this and hope to have a successful path doing that. Next year I’m coming for it.”

Pukl came back in the final round, closing the gap on Geeting, but the Forrest grappler prevailed in a very close 6-4 win.

Allbert’s road to the medal stand did not begin well as she lost on a fall in round one to Mazzy Wilson from Stone Memorial.

Anna Allbert (left) became the first Forrest girl to medal at the state tournament.

Allbert came up huge when she pinned Jefferson County’s Ella Tallent to secure a spot on the medal stand.

“It was insanely hard and being a freshman and doing it was really hard,” Allbert said. “Walking in here yesterday and looking around and wondering whether I’m gonna lose it, whether I’m gonna win, or whether if I can even place,” Allbert said. “Then when I heard that whistle blow in my second match and looking up and seeing that I won, everything just washed over me all at once.”

Although Allbert was pinned in her final two matches of the state tournament, her spot in Forrest history was secure.

“This is crazy, just crazy, it’s all kinds of emotions at the same time,” Allbert said. “Wrestling is my life now and everything I have will go into this and I want to keep going and excel next year and get first place.”

Asked how her finish will spur on other girls to excel in what they do, Allbert said, “I say to them, go for it, just do it, do what you think what you can, because giving up on what you think you can do will get you nowhere.”

Braiden Vanderploeg won two 106-pound consolation matches before being eliminated and Forest Ozburn (113) and Carson Blackwell (145) won one match, while Jesmarie Negron lost both their bouts in the 125-pound girls’ weight class.

TSSAA State Championships Results for Forrest

A-AA 106

Braiden Vanderploeg (16-10)

Championship Round 1 - Jaden Tincher (Millington Central) 29-14 won by decision over Braiden Vanderploeg, (Dec 10-5).

Consolation Round 1 - Braiden Vanderploeg won by fall over Brant Bournes (Livingston Academy), (0:27).

Round 2 - Braiden Vanderploeg won by decision over Hunter Gentry (Pigeon Forge), (Dec 6-4).

Round 3 - Gregory Gomez (Martin Luther King) won by decision over Braiden Vanderploeg, (Dec 5-2).

A-AA 113

Forest Ozburn (24-14)

Championship Round 1 - Leandre Dabney, Jr., (Greeneville) won by fall over Forest Ozburn, Fall 1:22).

Consolation Round 1 - Forest Ozburn won by forfeit over Micah Webb (Sycamore).

Round 2 - Caleb Miller (Hixson) 27-14 won by fall over Forest Ozburn, (Fall 1:46).

A-AA 138

Jeffrey Gross (39-1) State Champion

Championship Round 1 - Jeffrey Gross won by tech fall over Patrick Lair (Upperman), (TF-15-0).

Quarterfinal - Jeffrey Gross won by fall over CJ Dyer (Pigeon Forge), (Fall 2:30).

Semifinal - Jeffrey Gross won by major decision over Rylie Hart (Hixson), (MD 13-5).

1st Place Match - Jeffrey Gross won by decision over Kevin Muschel (Signal Mountain), (Dec 4-3).

A-AA 145

Carson Blackwell (26-13)

Championship Round 1 - Tyree Bass (Sycamore) won by major decision over Carson Blackwell, (MD 14-2).

Consolation Round 1 - Carson Blackwell won by forfeit over Christian Winton (Fulton).

Round 2 - Jaren Thames (Whitwell) by fall over Carson Blackwell, (Fall 1:39).

A-AA 152

Cole Geeting (29-10) 5th Place

Championship Round 1 - Cole Geeting won by decision over Kaleb Mayes (Hixson), (Dec 6-3).

Quarterfinal - Mario Pukl (Fairview) won by decision over Cole Geeting, (Dec 8-1).

Consolation Round 2 - Cole Geeting won by fall over John King (Whitwell), (Fall 4:55).

Round 3 - Cole Geeting won by decision over Kilroy Hill (Elizabethton), (Dec 14-11).

Consolation Semifinal - Bransen O`Dell (Greeneville) won by fall over Cole Geeting, (Fall 3:43).

5th Place Match - Cole Geeting won by decision over Mario Pukl (Fairview), (Dec 6-4).

A-AA 160

Wesley McCoy (26-2) State Champion

Championship Round 1 - Wesley McCoy won by fall over Alijah Heyward (Chattanooga Central), (Fall 0:18).

Quarterfinal - Wesley McCoy won by decision over Robert Freeman (Greeneville), (Dec 10-3).

Semifinal - Wesley McCoy won by decision over Tucker Tatum (Greenbrier), (Dec 12-6).

1st Place Match - Wesley McCoy won by fall over Caden Cline (Red Bank), (Fall 1:55).

A-AA 170

Nick McClendon (15-0) State Champion

Championship Round 1 - Nick McClendon won by fall over Gavin Ledbetter (Greenbrier), (Fall 3:28).

Quarterfinal - Nick McClendon won by fall over Josh Gardner (Fulton), (Fall 1:42).

Semifinal - Nick McClendon won by fall over Jacob Roberts (Whitwell), (Fall 1:34).

1st Place Match - Nick McClendon won by decision over Isaiah Brooks (Gibbs), (Dec 7-3).

A-AA 195

Noah Hill (36-4) Second Place

Championship Round 1 - Noah Hill won by fall over Bradley Daugherty (Carter), (Fall 2:14).

Quarterfinal - Noah Hill won by fall over Chris Biggs (Cheatham Co. Central), (Fall 2:15).

Semifinal - Noah Hill won by decision over Michael Myers (Gibbs), (Dec 12-9).

1st Place Match - Jonathan Morton (Elizabethton) won by fall over Noah Hill (Fall 5:41).

TSSAA State Championships Results for Forrest (Girls)

Girls 125

Jesmarie Negron (5-5)

Quarterfinal - Lexie May (Daniel Boone) 24-10 won by fall over Jesmarie Negron, (Fall 4:28).

Consolation Round 1 - Milla McNutt (Alcoa) won by fall over Jesmarie Negron, (Fall 3:00).

Girls 170

Anna Allbert (4-8) Sixth Place

Quarterfinal - Mazzy Wilson (Stone Memorial) by fall over Anna Allbert, (Fall 1:20).

Consolation Round 1 - Anna Allbert won by fall over Ella Tallent (Jefferson Co.), (Fall 6:47).

Consolation Semifinal - Shelby Zacharias (Creek Wood) won by fall over Anna Allbert, (Fall 2:58).

5th Place Match - Katie McNabb (Sale Creek) won by fall over Anna Allbert, (Fall 3:17).