Lord of the rings?

Hall hoping to add wrestling title to football crowns

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By Stefan Cooper
Sports Editor
Blount Today

Knoxville — Landon Hall is assured of leaving Maryville High School later this year with at least three state championship rings.

It’s a precedent setting fourth, this one in wrestling for the football linebacker, the Rebel senior covets, though.

Hall is part of a Blount County contingent 11-strong, comprising six region champions, that began competition in the Tennessee Secondary School Athletic Association State Wrestling Tournament on Wednesday in Chattanooga.

Region II champions Jacob Holley, Rian Burns and Pete Evans of William Blount and Blake Ridenour and Nic Shields of Maryville are each favorites to medal by the tournament’s end on Friday at the University of Chattanooga’s McKenzie Arena. Region runners-up Kramer Drollman, William Blount, Evan Frisco, Maryville, and Cody Blackford, Alcoa, could also likely return with hardware from high school wrestling’s big show.

It’s on Hall’s able shoulders where Blount County’s hopes best lie. The 189-pound region champion became the first Rebel wrestler in school history to reach the state finals last season. There, he fell 3-1, to Soddy-Daisy’s Tyler Roberson in overtime.

The memory of it still burns.

"It definitely motivates you," Hall said. "You want to win. You want to get revenge in a way."

Hall dispatched Pigeon Forge’s Dustin Campbell by pin in 1 minute, 50 seconds in winning the region championship last Saturday at Catholic High School. After sparring briefly, the Rebel leader unleashed a stunning-quick burst after a restart in putting Campbell’s shoulders to the mat.

Roberson and Hall, who met during the state team duals two weeks ago, are in opposite sides of the brackets in Chattanooga. Roberson edged Hall, 3-0, in Clarksville. Both wrestlers looked even better than they did a year ago, Maryville coach Mark Humphrey said.

"Landon’s gotten bigger and stronger," he said. "He’s definitely improved, but then the kid he lost to has improved, too. He’s done the same thing Landon’s done. He’s put on a lot of muscle."

Hall and Roberson contested the 171-pound championship at state a year ago.

"We’re hoping we’ll see him again in the finals," Humphrey said.

There isn’t pressure to reach the state finals on Friday, Hall said. It’s all about wrestling one match at a time.
"You know what you’re capable of, what you can do," he said.

Hall and Evans have both balanced impressively the rough and tumble of football with the rigors of wrestling this season.

Evans, a defensive lineman on the William Blount football team, has trimmed his gridiron playing weight of 240 pounds to 225 for wrestling. Hall has reduced his football frame by 11 pounds from 200 to 189.

For Evans, who bested Caleb Leonard of Halls, 3-2, on Saturday, the subtraction is double-edged. The maximum weight for a super heavyweight in high school wrestling is 285 pounds.

"Since I’m not as big, speed and agility are a big help," Evans said. "I can take some shots other guys can’t."

William Blount coach Gary Thomas said last week’s region showing has him encouraged this weekend. Holley scored a technical fall over Maryville’s Evan Frisco in 3:02, with Burns shutting out Bearden’s Jacob Coffin, 7-0. Drollman would fall, 13-11, to Greenback’s Gary Sluder in overtime, with the Cherokee 112-pounder pulling even in regulation at the third-period buzzer.

The Drollman/Sluder bout was named the meet’s best match.

"I was pleased with the guys," Thomas said. "We had four guys in the finals. Three guys first and one second, that’s pretty good.

"I just told the kids the night before, ‘It’s up to you now. It’s what’s in your mind and what’s in your heart.’"

Evans, super quick, can make a run to Friday, Thomas said.

"He’s got a really good chance," he said. "His speed is going to have to carry him through the tournament. He’s got a great shot. As a heavyweight, if you can get that first shot, it can make a big difference."

Perhaps last weekend’s most dramatic showing came with Shields securing a 6-3 decision at 140 pounds over Seymour’s Isaac Legg. The Rebel junior aggravated a torn labrum in his left shoulder, an injury first suffered last season, during Friday’s preliminaries. The three-time region champion wrestled Saturday with the shoulder heavily wrapped.

"It made it real tough for Nic when he hurt his shoulder," Humphrey said. "In the semifinal match, his arm was completely
numb. The trainer said he couldn’t hurt it any further. It was whether or not he could take the pain."

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