FRANKLIN, Tenn.–It was a frustrating day for Whitwell head coach John Weiss, not because his wrestlers performed poorly, but because of the tough slate a State Tournament brings.
The ‘Mastermind’ that is Jaren Thames and the ‘Sophomore Sensation’ of Warner Ashworth are heading to the podium Saturday night, but whether they stand at 3rd or 6th is still up in the air.
“All five of the kids wrestled so much harder this year than they did last year,” Weiss said. “I think having Daniel Mikel and Will Carter as two-time state qualifiers, they kind of knew what to expect when they entered the building and they wrestled their tails off.”
Anytime you jump from the Regionals to Franklin, there’s big shift in talent, and the brackets load up with stiff and stout grapplers.
“Everybody had some pretty tough draws,” Weiss explained. “The 195-pound weight class was loaded. You had some kids in there that I had no idea who they were, and they’ll end up medalling high.”
For Weiss and the future of the Whitwell program, Friday night was a glimpse into the newly-founded Region 3-A/AA with programs from Chattanooga and Nashville alike.
“We got to see some new region opponents,” Weiss explained. “Forrest is looking great, and I’ll look forward to some of the matches that we’re going to have with them. I’m proud of Jaren and Warner. It ends tomorrow, but it will end up on a high note.”
Thames sits in the medal rounds awaiting fierce competition along with teammate Warner Ashworth who took on some tough wrestlers of his own today.
“With me being hurt during the State Tournament last year, it’s been a really incredible experience,” Ashworth explained. “I got outwrestled pretty well during my second match against Ethan Olinger. I realized that after that match, if I lost one more, I would be out of this tournament, and I knew that I couldn’t go home with nothing.”
Going into the match up with Olinger, a Pigeon Forge wrestler, Ashworth knew he had his mat laid out for him as Olinger currently sits in the finals match.
“Coach Weiss has been telling me for about a year or so to be a more patient wrestler,” Ashworth said. “I don’t need to go out there and blow everything I’ve got in the first 30 seconds. So that’s what In was thinking before that matchup.”
Sophomore Will Carter ended up a match away with a pinfall by Boyd-Buchanan’s Will Watkins. Junior T.D. Argo fell two matches shy with a pin by Northview Academy’s Preston Valentine, and Daniel Mikel ended his high school career with a trip to the big mat dance after losing by a 5-2 decision via Boyd-Buchanan’s Kell Stott.
“They have put this program in a great spot for Whitwell history,” Weiss said. “No matter what happens tomorrow, we’re in a good position for this program as far as being state placers.”
Thames will take on Hixson’s Jacob Newman in the 120-pound consolation semifinals, while Ashworth tries to tackle Chattanooga Christian’s Alex Hundley. The consolation semifinals start at 10 AM Central time on Saturday February 18th.