THOMPSON’S STATION, Tenn.–Thursday’s trip to Independence High School may not have featured opponents that Signal Mountain and Sequatchie County will face at the Region or State Championships, but the bigger programs presented a big challenge coming out of the holiday break.
The Eagles and Indians were two of only four A/AA programs competing Thursday out of 22 boys’ teams. Signal Mountain finished 11th overall in team points and 1st among the four smaller schools
“Our expectations today was to just put points on the board,” Eagles head coach Joe Jellison said. “We weren’t coming here to win a tournament, but we wanted to get in as many matches as possible. It’s good to see different wrestlers here. When you’re a smaller school, you’re sort of in your own little hut. Coming here really gives us an idea of how we matchup with bigger schools across the state.”
Sequatchie County, though, scraped bottom a bit with five of their nine wrestlers hitting the mats as freshmen and no seniors in sight.
“We gained some great experience against these larger schools,” Indian head coach Chris Weaver said. “And that’s the whole point really. Some matches didn’t go as well as I had planned, but for the most part, a lot of our newer wrestlers are learning. They’re picking up the sport really well. I pleased with how we’re wrestling because we’re only going to get better from here on out.”
Both teams experienced growth in numbers this season, including Sequatchie County who picked up three wrestlers since Chattanooga Christian’s Charger Invitational the weekend before Christmas. They now field nine wrestlers with a lot of young stock.
“A lot of our wrestlers are young,” Weaver said. “The majority are freshman, so that’s good going into the next couple of years. We’ve got a real chance with these younger kids. They’re just getting where they need to be at this point.”
The Eagles, too, are young but the woes weren’t as deep. In fact, Jellison has put more emphasis on technique and offensive firepower with younger players to try to and win in a less traditional way.
“This is the first time we’ve had a full team with all 14 slots in four years,” Jellison said. “So, we ended up bumping four eighth-graders this year just so we could fill gaps in the lineup. When you have a full team, you start to win more as a team because you’re not actually forfeiting matches anymore. These kids are starting to win more by putting points up during their matches. We’d rather have kids lose 15-10 than win 2-1.”
And sometimes a pin will do just nicely when points aren’t enough.
“Preston Worley is one of our eighth-graders,” Jellison said. “He was down 7-3 with ten seconds left in the match and ended up pinning the kid. He has a killer instinct in him, and he has a fight that I’ve never seen in the Signal Mountain program. He just fights through adversity.”
Another player fighting through adversity Thursday was one of the Indians’ five freshman.
“Zachary Morgan is doing a phenomenal job,” Weaver said. “He’s got great heart. He’s always out there trying to do the best that he can. HE’s one that’s really picked up wrestling fairly well, but I felt like across the board we’re picking it up, too.”
Overall, Signal Mountain had seven wrestlers medal, including Rachel Dagnan who was the runner-up in the girls’ 148-pound weight class. She lost by pinfall to Northwest’s Lindsey Morrison. She was the highest medalist on the day. The Indians put two in ninth-place matches but were unable to put any higher than that.
Signal Mountain (73.5 Team Points) — Daniel Uhorchuk (106 lbs. | 3rd | 12 Team Points), Sam Wickizer (106 lbs. | 14th), Kevin Muschel (113 lbs. | 1oth), Isaac Tate (113 lbs. | 6th | 5 Team Points), Clay Gallant (120 lbs. | 12th | 1.5 Team Points), Preston Worley (132 lbs. | 6th | 8 Team Points), Nick Leun (138 lbs. | DNP), Will Carter (152 lbs. | DNP), Daniel Dawson (152 lbs. | 4th | 14 Team Points), Will Davis (160 lbs. | 4th | 12 Team Points), Jake Woodlief (170 lbs. | 14th | 2 Team Points), Barrett Buffington (170 lbs. | 16th), Davis Payne (182 lbs. | 14th | 3 Team Points), Mason Hilke (195 lbs. | 12th | 2 Team Points), Riley Daniels (285 lbs. | 8th), Steven Goff (285 lbs. | 4th | 11 Team Points)
Sequatchie County (15.5 Team Points) — Logan Silvers (120 lbs. | 16th)*, Paxton Albright (120 lbs. | 16th),* Jay Brock (126 lbs. | 10th | 5.5 Team Points), Zachary Morgan (132 lbs. | 16th), Will Keener (138 lbs. | DNP), Cameron Weaver (145 lbs. | 10th | 5 Team Points), Gavin Lee (152 lbs. | DNP), Wyatt Blevins (152 lbs. | 14th | 3 Team Points), Evan McGill (182 lbs. | 16th | 2 Team Points)
Signal Mountain Girls (20 Team Points) — Rachel Dagnan (148 lbs. | 2nd | 20 Team Points)
Sequatchie County Girls (0 Team Points) — Stephanie Paige (138 lbs. | 14th)
*7th, 9th, 11th, 13th, and 15th place matches were not wrestled due to time constraints. Silvers and Albright were set to wrestle before time constraints and adjustments were made for the tournament.