Knoxville Landon Hall is assured of leaving Maryville High School later this year with at least three state championship rings.
Its 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 tournaments end on Friday at the University of Chattanoogas 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 wrestlings big show.
Its on Halls able shoulders where Blount Countys 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-Daisys 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 Forges 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 Campbells 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.
"Landons gotten bigger and stronger," he said. "Hes definitely improved, but then the kid he lost to has improved, too. Hes done the same thing Landons done. Hes put on a lot of muscle."
Hall and Roberson contested the 171-pound championship at state a year ago.
"Were hoping well see him again in the finals," Humphrey said.
There isnt pressure to reach the state finals on Friday, Hall
said. Its all about wrestling one match at a time.
"You know what youre 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 Im not as big, speed and agility are a big help," Evans said. "I can take some shots other guys cant."
William Blount coach Gary Thomas said last weeks region showing has him encouraged this weekend. Holley scored a technical fall over Maryvilles Evan Frisco in 3:02, with Burns shutting out Beardens Jacob Coffin, 7-0. Drollman would fall, 13-11, to Greenbacks 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 meets best match.
"I was pleased with the guys," Thomas said. "We had four guys in the finals. Three guys first and one second, thats pretty good.
"I just told the kids the night before, Its up to you now. Its whats in your mind and whats in your heart."
Evans, super quick, can make a run to Friday, Thomas said.
"Hes got a really good chance," he said. "His speed is going to have to carry him through the tournament. Hes got a great shot. As a heavyweight, if you can get that first shot, it can make a big difference."
Perhaps last weekends most dramatic showing came with Shields securing a 6-3 decision at 140 pounds over Seymours Isaac Legg. The Rebel junior aggravated a torn labrum in his left shoulder, an injury first suffered last season, during Fridays 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 couldnt hurt it any further. It was whether or not he could take the pain."