Bradley Central hit Region 3 wrestling like a tsunami with reclassifications a year ago.
Last Saturday, Shawn Morgan hit back.
The Maryville senior shocked Central’s Patrick Benson, 6-4, in the region championship match at Stone Memorial. Benson entered the state’s No. 1-ranked wrestler at 285 pounds, having already defeated Morgan (42-2) once this season. The previous meeting had been close, though. After falling, 11-6, to Benson at the Bradley Central Invitational earlier this season, Morgan, unranked, arrived at the regional tournament ready to turn the tables.
“After the match at Bradley Central, I had a good idea of what I needed to do to win,” Morgan said.
In securing Blount County’s lone region crown, Morgan headlines an area contingent 12 strong making its way to the TSSAA state wrestling tournament at the Williamson County Agricultural Exposition Arena in Franklin. Wrestling begins Thursday and continues through Saturday’s finals.
Morgan represents Blount County’s best chance to reach Saturday’s final bout because last weekend’s upset of Benson was really no upset at all, Maryville coach Mark Humphrey said.
Central sent 12 wrestlers through to the finals after joining the region a year ago. Six were crowned region champions. Eight Bears reached last Saturday’s finals.
Those numbers withstanding, Morgan’s victory was neither surprising nor lacking in preparation, Humphrey said.
“It wasn’t that much of a surprise,” he said. “We felt like he had a good shot at it. I really think Shawn certainly has a shot at a medal (at state) and maybe winning it. Ever since last season was over, he has worked extremely hard.”
A late-season shoulder injury derailed Morgan’s chances a year ago. Afterward, the Rebel champion adopted a rigorous training schedule and took part in some of the nation’s most prestigious amateur tournaments.
“I’ve trained since the state tournament (last season),” Morgan said. “Even on vacation I tried to find a gym.”
When his heavyweight returned to the Maryville mats this fall, Humphrey said, Morgan was stronger, fitter and focused like never before in finishing strong.
“He was obviously a lot stronger,” Humphrey said. “He put on 15 pounds, and he was in great condition for a heavyweight.”
Avenging the previous losses to Benson is a confidence booster heading to state, Morgan said.
“It showed me I could do it,” he said.
It also helps keep this weekend in prospective, an approach Morgan said he recently shared with his father, Eric.
“I said, ‘No matter what happens up there, I couldn’t have any regrets,’” he said.
Also making the trip to Franklin is William Blount sophomore T.J. Satterfield, region runner up at 215 pounds. The loss was Satterfield’s first this season. Heritage’s Keegan Matlock (152) and Maryville’s Logan Ridenour (189) also earned state berths with region runner-up finishes.
Also advancing to state are William Blount’s Corey Keen, Heritage’s Matthew Spradlin and Joey Evans, Alcoa’s Jose and Julian Ramirez and Corey Long and Maryville’s Nick Ogle and Gabe Meadows.