by tate russell
sun sports writer
FRANKLIN - It was a tale of two totally different matches on Friday as the Greeneville wresting team advanced to the their second consecutive state finals with their eyes on defending their crown.
The Devils opened the Class A/AA State Duals Championships in Franklin with a dominating performance against White House in the opening round, then gutted out a narrow win over Eagleville in the semifinals to keep their ultimate goal alive.
Coach Randy Shelton's young squad did exactly what it needed to do in the first round
The Devils started quickly and won big, 66-15. The win was good for Shelton's group, the coach said, in the fact that it gave them some much-needed confidence out of the gate.
"We needed to do that. I had kids coming in here all nervous and queasy," Shelton said. "Some were ready to pass out, they were so nervous. It was good for them to come out and get a dominating win to get this state tournament started right."
The match swung on a huge pin by sophomore Bryson Knight (220), who went back and forth with the No. 1 wrestler in the state in their weight class, Corey Cantrell , for most of the first round before pinning his shoulders to the mat with 15 seconds remaining in the opening period.
Going in, the Greene Devils new that the 220 lb. matchup could be big because it gave them a chance to take points from one of White House's top wrestlers, but with the pin, Knight took the wind out of the opponent's sails and gave Greeneville an 18-6 advantage early.
"That pin was huge. That kid was ranked number one in the state. We knew he was good but Bryson just went out there and did an outstanding job," Shelton said.
Cantrell's younger brother Kyle (285) did pick up a pin of Evan Grooms in the next match but with forfeits in the next two matches and their top wrestlers off the board, White House did not stand much of a chance.
Jimmy Bowman (170) came out of the gate ready to go and got things going in the right direction for Greeneville with a pin in just over a minute in the opening match.
White House answered when John Melching (182) pinned Julius Gross.
Freshman Nicholas Foster (195) stepped up to the plate and delivered a powerful performance with a pin over James Whitby before Knight's big-time upset.
The freshman and sophomore combo picking up 12 points in back-to-back matches was huge and are the types of performances Shelton needs from his young guys as they look to claim a second state title.
Dylan Johnson (106) and Joseph Campbell (113) each picked up forfeit wins to give Greeneville a 30-12 cushion.
Freshman Grayson Reed (120) had to work harder than most of the Greene Devils to earn his pin but half way through the second round he put Danny Jeffery on his back.
John Boatman (126) did what he does and threw Robert Huffines all over the mat before picking up a first round pin.
After Boatman's bout Greeneville led 42-12 with five matches to go, meaning White House would have to close with all pins just to tie.
Josh Vance (132) took care of that in just over a minute, earning a pin and clinching the match.
Rob Shelton (138), Justin Carlson (145) and Dylan Malone (160) all finished with pins to create the largest opening round margin of the A/AA tournament.
White House picked up their final three points in the second-to-last match when Elliot Herrmann (152) won by decision 8-7 over Tristan Irvin.
The Greene Devils' semifinal match was far from a blow out but they did enough against Eagleville to win and advance.
The Greene Devils picked up a 42-39 win and moves on to today's state championship match.
The finals will be a rematch of last year's pairing with Greeneville taking on Pigeon Forge. Greeneville lost to the Tigers earlier this season but the young Devils have grown up a lot since then.
"We gutted out a win right there," Shelton said. "We can call it whatever we want to call it but that took guts and some guys had to step up and take that match from Eagleville. Eagleville is a tough squad. They came out ready to wrestle, but we went out and stopped their momentum and refocused to get the win."
Tristan Irving (152) went to the mat in the semifinals for Greeneville with one goal in mind - get a pin. The Greene Devils were up 36-27 with three matches remaining. A pin in any of those matches would have clinched the match for Greeneville.
Irving came out attacking and in just 46 second he picked up the pin that sent Greeneville back to the state finals.
"I just went in with the mentality that I was going to pin anyone they sent out there," Irvin said. "It could have been the 160 kid, I was going to pin him. This is my last year. I've been hurt the last two years and I was going to the state finals my senior year, it didn't matter."
What made it more special is Irvin has battled injuries his whole career and did not get to participate in last year's state tournament. Now his eyes are set on leading his team to a title in his senior year.
"It would mean everything to get a state championship," Irvin said. "I sat for my sophomore and junior year and watched everybody else wrestle and it killed me. I wanted to be out there so bad and I get to do it this year."
What put Greeneville in position to create the victory was a run of pins by the team's strongest wrestlers - their upperclassmen in the 126-152 weight classes .
"I think when I get up and then the people behind me really give us our momentum," Greeneville senior Jon Boatman said. "Our middle weights are where our older guys are. Our solid upperclassman area is right after me in the lineup. When we get up, things get started, and that's what happened tonight."
Boatman (126) got things started for Greeneville with a pin that put Greeneville in front 24-21.
Josh Vance (132) followed with a pin in the first round as did Justin Carlson (145).
The early matches went back and forth with the squads trading pins. Nicholas Foster (195), Bryson Knight (220) and Dylan Johnson (106) earned the pins for Greeneville.