FRANKLIN, Tenn.–The multitudes of mats placed precisely along the floor of the Williamson County Agricultural Exposition Park look like a disoriented, elongated chess board ripe for the next strategist to take over.
Luckily for Whitwell’s Jaren Thames, he prefers, and almost enjoys, playing three or four moves ahead, mentally pinning his opponents to the mat. And that’s good for a sophomore who looks a little undersized standing next to the ‘Colossal Quartet.’
“It helps to have a supporting cast around me,” Thames explains. “My mentality is to make people better in the wrestling room that are near my weight. It’s good experience for me to wrestle bigger guys. It makes me stronger, which I really need.”
The first move on his 120-pound chess board was a matchup against Martin Luther King’s Sevaughn Orr where both wrestlers went tit-for-tat the entire match.
“I was telling Jaren that we do not want to take this kid to overtime,” Tigers head coach John Weiss said, referring to the matchup. “I knew that the kid he was wrestling was tough, and in those situations, he was quick on his feet. Jaren had enough to hip him over, and he came up cheering, hooping and hollering.”
And if you were surprised by the move, Weiss will take no credit for the miracle hip-over-body takedown in the overtime period.
“Sometimes, it’s better to be lucky than good,” Weiss said. “Jaren is a fantastic athlete. That move happens sometimes, but you definitely want to avoid that situation. Sometimes, being a better athlete gets you the win.”
Thames, would meet up with top-seeded Dylan Pendley from Forrest, falling by an 11-4 decision. Even if Thames never makes a tournament, this will not be the last time he’ll see Pendley.
“His match in the semifinals against Pendley, that’s going to be a match to watch over the next year,” Weiss said. “Now, we’re in a region with his team. He’s been the one to beat in this tournament, and he gave Jaren everything he wanted.”
Thames sits in the semifinals, paired up with Hixson’s Jacob Newman for a shot at the third place match. Either way, Thames is a medalist, with at least 6th place locked up in 120-pound bracket. Orr is still in contention to match up with Thames in either the 5th- or 3rd-place matches.