BY TATE RUSSELL
SUN SPORTS WRITER
KNOXVILLE - Saturday was a banner day for the wrestling programs at four local high schools.
A total of 13 wrestlers from Greene County, representing every school that offers the sport, punched their tickets to the upcoming Class A/AA State Individual Championships during competition at the regional tournament at Knox Catholic this past Saturday.
Greeneville led the way with eight wrestlers advancing. The top four finishers in each weight class moved on to state.
"It was great today," Greeneville head coach Randy Shelton said. "Getting eight guys to state is wonderful, especially for those young guys who have worked so hard to get better. That's probably the most we have taken to state in three or four years."
Greeneville wrestlers Jon Boatman (126) and Josh Vance (132) highlighted the day by winning Region 1-A/AA titles.
"I was very pleased with Jon and Josh," Shelton said. "They're outstanding kids and a pleasure to coach."
"They'll both go into state as number one seeds and they'll have to wrestle their best. That's all they can do. They will both open with a number-four seed from another region and if they win two matches they will medal."
The region title was a long time coming for Boatman. As a junior at last year's tournament, Boatman figured to be a shoe in to advance and then contend for a state title.
He never got that chance, though. He didn't even get to compete at the region tournament as he missed weight before the event.
"It felt good to get out there and win today, especially after last year," Boatman said. "I guess I had to show everybody that I should have won last year. Now I'm going to state for the third time. It should have been four but I'm pretty satisfied."
Since last year's region tournament, Boatman has been focused on getting back to state and ending his senior year as an individual state champion.
"I was kind of freaking out on the bus ride over here," he said. "I weighed under at school, but I was still scared when I got here. I weighed in again and I was under, but I was still on edge."
"Now at state, I just have to do what I came to do. I still haven't actually been scored on this year except the penalty point and stupid stuff like that. I'm still not going to let anybody score on me, and if they don't score they can't win."
Despite being uncharacteristically nervous, Boatman used two second-round pins to get to the finals Saturday and then took down Alcoa's Ryan Verhulst 2-0 to claim the championship.
Boatman was named the tournament's Most Outstanding Wrestler for the 106-145 weight classes.
Vance, a sophomore, took the mat right after Boatman and claimed his title with a 7-1 decision over Pigeon Forge's Joshua Croley.
Justin Carlson (145), Jimmy Bowman (170) and Bryson Knight (220) all made the finals for Greeneville and finished runner-up in their respective weight classes.
Freshman Evan Grooms (285) brought home a third-place finish, while Joey Campbell (113) and Grayson Reed (120) each finished fourth.
West Greene had a great showing at region as the program qualified three wrestlers for state and continued to show it is taking steps in the right direction after finishing runner-up as a team at the Region 1-A/AA duals tournament last month.
Garrett Gilley (106) was the top performer for the Buffaloes Saturday as he finished second with a strong run to the final match.
Gilley picked up two first-round pins, the second coming in just 16 seconds over Grace Christian's Zach Thorton.
Austin Gilley (113) finished third for the Buffs and Joe Colby (132) came in fourth .
Chuckey-Doak's Dakota Isley (106) got a little bit of revenge on his way to finishing third in his weight class.
The freshman lost to Elizabethton's Seth Malone 7-2 in the opening round. But Malone worked his way through the consolation bracket and pinned Malone in just 26 seconds in the third-place match.
Richie Lowery (220) will represent South Greene at state as he finished fourth. He earned pins in two of his matches.
Pigeon Forge was the highest scoring team in the competition with 263.5 points. Alcoa was second with 175, Greeneville third with 155, Grace Christian fourth with 109.5 and West Greene fifth with 85 points.