On Saturday at the Williamson County Ag Expo Center, Science Hill came within a whisker of advancing to the finals of the TSSAA Class AAA state wrestling duals for the second year in a row. From there came another slim defeat, preventing the Hilltoppers from achieving a top-four finish.
“Our kids wrestled hard today,” said Hilltoppers coach Jimmy Miller. “We wrestled hard, we wrestled tough and we just came up short. Some of the matches didn’t end up the way we wanted them to and, long story short, we’re coming home with nothing.”
The Hilltoppers, who defeated Tullahoma and Arlington on Friday, fell 33-32 to Bradley Central in Saturday’s semifinals. Science Hill then moved into the consolation semifinals and wound up on the short end of a 37-35 match with Centennial.
“A point away from back-to-back state finals, that’s tremendous,” Miller said. “In the same aspect, it’s a super-tough loss to a team that had beaten us early in year. We lost a good match to Bradley early in January by 10 points. To make that difference up and to be there in the end, it’s huge for our kids. They realize how close they were and we just didn’t bounce back very well in that consolation semifinal match. I just couldn’t get them ready for the next match.”
Tyler Seeley gave Science Hill its first individual win against Bradley Central, pinning Gavin Hughes in 1:50 in the 132-pound weight class.
The Hilltoppers dominated the middle weights as Joseph Frye scored a pinfall in 2:41 at 145 and Jared Harter needed just 39 seconds to register a pin at 152.
Blake Blevins (160) and Chase Diehl (170) kept the momentum going. Blevins quickly scored a third straight pin (1:33 mark) and Diehl followed with a 10-4 decision over Larry Johnson to hand Science Hill its first lead at 26-24.
William Mooney extended the lead with a pin in 2:31 in his 182 match. After Bradley Central won at 195, it set the stage for a final match at 220 to decide it all. Gavin Sewell pulled out a tough 7-4 decision over William Rogers for the three points needed by the Bears.
Science Hill victories against Centennial included 19-4 technical falls by Braxton Mann (126) and Frye. Harter (160) prevailed by pinfall in 1:47, Rogers did the same in 3:16, Diehl captured a 21-10 majority decision and Jack Tevis (285) got the job done with a 5-1 decision. Javelle Gillespie added a win by forfeit at 113.
After graduating 13 seniors from last season’s state runner-up squad, Science Hill certainly raised eyebrows with this year’s achievements.
“Coming off a state runner-up performance, we knew we would be back against the wall,” Miller said. “We still had a lot of good kids and that showed today. To come up a point short of the state finals after graduating 13 seniors is a huge accomplishment for our kids. Unfortunately, that’s not what they wanted. They did not want to come up a point short, but we did, unfortunately. Then we dropped down to the consolation bracket and just didn’t bounce back.
“It’s a tough day for us, an immensely tough day for us — but we’re going to do what we do. We’re going to come back on Monday and get our butts to work, try to get better and try to put together the best (individual) regional tournament we can next week in Jefferson County. We’ll be back in two weeks (for the state individuals) and see what happens. I feel for my kids. It’s heart-wrenching. To be so close when no one gave us a shot … no one gave us a chance down here.”
Upending Arlington 38-34 on Friday was particularly impressive for the Hilltoppers.
“We beat a great team,” Miller said. “We had a great night.”
Science Hill’s coach summed up Saturday’s results as one of “life’s lessons.” The ’Toppers finished with a 23-8 mark.
“The kids are hurting, the coaching staff is hurting,” Miller said. “I feel like we put ourselves in the best position we could. We just didn’t come out on top today, that’s all there is to it.
“We have to learn how to respond ... and we will. We’ll respond, we’ll come back on Monday and we’ll be ready to go. We’ll bounce back and have a great week of practice.”
Cleveland repeated as state champion, rolling past Bradley Central 56-9. Wilson Central downed Centennial 51-25 for third place.