By Tate Russell
sun sports writer
FRANKLIN - Justin Carlson was on his back twice and was taking a beating form East Ridge's Josh Kilgore, but with 1.5 seconds left in the second round he turned the tables and pinned Kilgore for a win.
The pin sealed the match for the Greene Devils in the semifinals of the TSSAA Class A/AA State Wrestling Duals Tournament. They finished with a 44-36 victory over East Ridge and punched their ticket to the state finals for the first time in eight years.
Greeneville will square off against Pigeon Forge Saturday at 7 p.m. CST at the Williamson County Expo Center.
"He was starting to win but I couldn't give up," Carlson said of his pin. "I had to get the win so I just reversed and then pinned him. This is huge. This is the biggest thing in our season, to make it to the state finals as team, and it's wonderful."
Greeneville coach Randy Shelton said, "It's been eight years since Greeneville has been in the duals finals and it's unbelievable to be back. I'm so proud of these kids."
In a back-and forth contest, it was only appropriate that the team that won the last match would advance. Carlson (145 lbs.) was on the ropes early and was on the verge of being pinned at the end of the first period but was saved by the clock.
In the second period, Kilgore wasn't as lucky. With less than eight seconds remaining, Carlson took the advantage and pressed Kilgore's shoulders to the mat with one and a half ticks remaining to close it out for the Greene Devils.
"Justin Carlson never gave up and got a gutsy win for us," Shelton said. "He had two chances to give up when he was on his back and I don't know if the team willed him not to or what happened, but he was gutsy and he did it."
The Greene Devils got behind 30-12 halfway through the weight classes after East Ridge's C.J. Baker (220) and Will Garner (285) each earned pins. But the Greene Devils would rally.
Joseph Campbell (106) and Cody Creel (113) each earned valuable wins on forfeits, and the Greene Devils got rolling. Jon Boatman (120) made quick work of Elpidio Somaycu, pinning him in 1:07. Josh Vance (126) and Rob Shelton (132) each earned pins to put Greeneville up 39-30 with two wrestlers remaining.
"We had to have kids step up and not let them pin us. Josh Vance and Rob Shelton did that for us and won two outstanding matches," Shelton said.
Robert McAvoy would not let East Ridge (138) go down without a fight, earning a win over Alex Perez to make it a three-point contest with one match to go, setting up the dramatic finish.
Jared Bond (170) and Marshall Brown (185) were huge for the Greene Devils early on. Each grappled their way to first-round pins and accounted for the only points the Greene Devils would earn through the first seven weight classes.
Just making the semifinals was a big accomplishment for Greeneville as they took down No. 2 seed Hixson 39-30 earlier in the night.
Brown said, "We just came out on fire, we finished on fire and that let us come away with the win."
Greeneville had seen Hixson earlier in the year at their own Greeneville Invitational Tournament, where the Wildcats took home the tournament title while the Greene Devils finished second.
The Greene Devils started strong with Carlson earning the first win of the match in a tight 4-3 decision.
Bond and Brown went with back-to-back pins to match their later performances and pushed Greeneville out to an early lead. Zach Reaves(195) and Reese Valk (285) picked up two more wins for the Greene Devils.
"Being a senior captain, I wanted to get my guys going and with that win and I think I did," Brown said.
As the match transitioned to smaller wrestlers, Atlas Fagundes (106) picked up a pin in just over a minute, and Boatman (113) needed just 11 seconds to finish off his opponent. From that point Hixson had to pin out and that was too stiff a task for them.