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Wrestling Updates and Tidbits...

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Hilltopper news...

Johnson City — Johnson City native Jonathan Pearce figured out he enjoyed beating people up, so why not get paid for it.

The former Science Hill Hilltopper state tournament wrestling runner-up got his big break over a week ago when UfC President Dana White awarded him a contract, granting him a spot on the Dana White contender series. The 27 years old who holds a professional M-M-A record of 9-3, currently resides in Peoria, Arizona, where he trains at the MMA lab. 

Pearce, who expects to fight again around December says his goal is to get to the top 10 and the main event….. and right now all the hard work is paying off.

UTC Alum update....

Two-time Rockdale state champion Alonzo Allen returns to Alma mater as wrestling coach

Alonzo Allen

Former Rockdale County two-time state champion wrestler Alonzo Allen is returning to his alma mater to become the head wrestling coach.

  • Staff Photo: Colin Hubbard

Rockdale County's Alonzo Allen 

  • Staff Photo: Colin Hubbard

CONYERS -- With a degree in sports administration and a liking to his new hometown of Chattanooga, Tennessee, former Rockdale County standout wrestler Alonzo Allen never planned on returning to his alma mater to coach.

Satisfied with starting his life after college in Tennessee, the state he has called home ever since graduating from Rockdale in 2014, Allen’s plans quickly changed in mid March.

The same day he received a bid to compete in the NCAA Division 1 National Championships, representing the University of Tennessee at Chattanooga, he also received a call from Rockdale Athletic Director Chad Suddeth, offering him a wrestling coach position.

“Getting the bid to go to nationals and then hearing from Suddeth about the job, that day was crazy for me,” Allen said. “Coach Suddeth reached out and asked me what I wanted to do. I told him that I was down and asked him what all I needed to do. I got most of that stuff out of the way after nationals.”

In the weeks that followed, Allen said it was crazy to think he would soon be returning to the place where it all started. In his four years at Rockdale, Allen was a two-time state champion, as well as an All-American.

“If you would have asked me this two years ago, I probably wouldn’t be saying the same thing that I am now,” Allen said. “I didn’t know what I was going to do, to be honest. I probably would have been thinking about staying in Tennessee and trying to stay up there for the rest of my life.”

With all but one of his tests passed, Allen is set to take over as a Bulldogs coach and will teach Health and Physical Education. Before Allen could announce his decision to the returning wrestlers at Rockdale, most already knew what was happening.

“I think the thing that excites me the most is seeing all the kids happy,” Allen said. “Before I even told them about me getting the job, some of them already knew about it. You could tell that they like the idea of having a younger coach come in to help them out.”

Allen wasted little time in learning who he would soon be working with at Rockdale after texting several wrestlers.

“As soon Suddeth called me,” Allen said. “I wasn’t doing anything that day, so I went and looked up who they had coming back. I texted some of the guys asking who was coming back. I know Kaleb (Walley) and I know Ed (Pollard). I know all of the older guys, it’s just about getting to know the younger guys.”

Allen said his phone has had a steady stream of texts and calls since officially announcing his hiring.

“They’re asking me what they can do or what class they should wrestle,” Allen said. “They all have my number, so if they ever need anything, they just have to call or text me. They’re so eager now that I’m back.”

With the state of the Rockdale wrestling program in a good place, thanks to the great work of former head coach Davis Baros, who announced he was leaving at the conclusion of the 2019 season, Allen said it excites him knowing that he’s walking into a great situation.

“I’m not having to come in and remodel the program,” Allen said. “I’m actually coming into a program that knows what they’re doing. They’ve been there and know how to handle it. I’m just here to help bring their skill level up and bring their intensity up.”

As far as his game plan to further increase the talent level at Rockdale, Allen has a plan in place.

“In high school, a lot of kids forget the little details,” Allen said. “They try and do all of the cool stuff. I’m going to bring back the basics. With high school wrestling and college wrestling, there’s really not that much difference. They difference is key details. It comes down to which wrestler wants it more and that’s what I plan on bringing here.”

Now settled back into living in Conyers, the town he grew up in, Allen said this opportunity is a win-win for everyone involved, including his family and friends.


“I’m close to my parents and all of my close friends are here,” Allen said. “Now I don’t have to worry about not seeing them for months at a time or only having time to see a couple of people during a school break. I’m happy to be back.”

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Baylor Wrestler and Nat'l Champ to get a Mt. Rushmore of North Alabama HS football?

Updated Jul 29, 12:23 PM;


John Hannah, OL, Albertville

Hannah played only one season of high school football at Albertville, having begun his career at The Baylor School in Chattanooga, Tenn., where he was a national HS wrestling champ. He was named All-State in his lone season before starring at Alabama and being drafted No. 4 overall in the 1973 NFL draft. In 1981, Sports Illustrated dubbed him the "Best Offensive Lineman of All-Time.” He is a member of the Pro Football Hall of Fame.


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Could this female wrestling growth help restore wrestling at other colleges after the fallout of title 9?

Here's some insights from a young-new coach after winning a national championship at King...

Breonnah Neal is the third coach at Ferrum College.  FC, an NCAA DIII school, located in Ferrum, Virginia, started their women’s wrestling program in 2015-16 and competes in the Women’s College Wrestling Association’s (WCWA) national tournament. Ferrum College, and another 60 or so colleges, are paving the way for high school girl wrestlers to continue as student-athletes after high school.

Coach Breonnah is another female wrestling coach who is determined to pass on her knowledge and give more high school girl wrestlers more opportunities at the next level.

Her story is unique and below is her interview…

What age did you start wrestling in competitions and what is your best wrestling accomplishment?

I started wrestling when I was 15. The high school coach knew my younger brother, cousins, and when I got to high school, he asked if I was interested in wrestling too. He thought I would be a good size at 103 lbs.

My best wrestling accomplishment was becoming a WCWA National Champ for King University in 2017.  I was also an undefeated collegiate national champion at 109 lbs that year for King University. [The WCWA organizes and sanctions a women’s college wrestling national championships and has done so since 2008.]

How has wrestling helped you in your life?

Wrestling has helped me in so many ways. It has helped me learn the importance of hard work & dedication. Nothing [worthwhile] in life is easy and that is the same for wrestling. If I wanted something, I had to work for it to make it a reality. Wrestling can teach so many great life lessons and it also showed me the great people involved in the sport. My coaches believed in me so much and helped me any way they could to achieve my goals. 

From that experience in high school, I learned that I wanted to make a difference in kids lives as my coaches did in my life. 

How many years have you been coaching at the college level and what has that experience been like?

This is my first year as a college coach. I have coached several years at a high school and a wrestling club that travels often for competitions.

How do you balance your relationships & coaching?

I have a lot of support from my boyfriend and family to help me. I’m not perfect, but I try to always make time to spend one-on-one time with my daughter and then the time where I can focus on work as well. 

What will it take for high school girls wrestling to triple or quadruple in participation numbers? (Current estimates are 17,000 high school girl wrestlers.)

For girls wrestling to grow, I think it will need more publicity. 

When I started wrestling in high school, I didn’t know that there were colleges that offer women’s wrestling. I really didn’t know about all the opportunities there were on the Team USA level to travel either. 

“Wrestle Like a Girl” & organizations like that are doing a great job at promoting female wrestling now. I just feel like if there was more media coverage of, say the WCWA Nationals, then there wouldn’t be such a stigma of wrestling being a man’s sport. 

Wrestling should not be based on gender for better opportunities. 

The sport doesn’t have a gender, and, hopefully, one day, it will be looked at as women can compete on a high level. They [coaches] can coach boys & men, just as well as girls & women.

Why is women’s collegiate wrestling important in the USA? (Current estimates are 60 collegiate varsity teams.)

Women’s [college] wrestling is important for the USA because it gives student-athletes a chance to develop their skills before aspiring for Team USA National & World teams. Collegiate wrestling helps give women great competition to grow along with still being able to wrestle at USA national events. 

There are seven girls that I know that wrestled in the WCWA in college who are currently on the World Team. The number goes up when you look at the number of girls on the Senior National Team [USA] that wrestled in college. Collegiate wrestling gives women time to still grow as individuals & competitors. 

What impact (if any) will women’s collegiate wrestling have on Japan’s world dominance in women’s wrestling? (Japan has won 22 of 29 team World titles.)

While I do feel college wrestling for women is important, I think the youth part needs to grow more as well. If more girls start wrestling in elementary school instead of high school, it will make the competition deeper and add more depth to Team USA. 

We do have great athletes, but if we have great competition pushing the girls from elementary school or middle school on, it will cause a ripple effect of girls constantly working to get better and improve. 

The women in Japan that are so successful have been wrestling great competition since they were young. If the youth wrestling improves & grows, then so will the college & national levels.

What was your experience like as a high school wrestler?

When I first came out for the wrestling team in high school, the boys were kind of standoffish. They were used to girls who came in for a week or two and then couldn’t make it through the workouts. Once they saw I would do every workout they did, and the success I had at our first dual, they knew that I wasn’t just there just to hang out. 

All the guys on my team were like brothers to me. They would be there to help me and fight for me. I never really cared about what people said about me wrestling with the boys, but they did [say things]. They [teammates] would stand up for me if they heard anyone talk bad about me. It was a really great experience and I still consider them like family now. 

What current challenges do you see now for female wrestling?

Although wrestling has grown so much for women, there are still some of the same struggles. There are people that do not believe in girls and women being on the wrestling mat. They think wrestling is a man’s sport. Another challenge is equal treatment. 

This can mean different types of equal. 

I know some high school coaches aren’t sure how to coach a female. They let them come to practice, but don’t make the girls do everything the rest of the team does. This causes two problems. One, the boys then will still not have respect for the girls and think they cannot contribute to the team. Two, this does not help the girl to improve and push her to become the athlete she could become. 

The other level of equivalence is in colleges. 

Girls want to be able to chase their academic goals as well. Some girls wish there were more of a variety of degrees to choose from once they get to college. Hopefully, this will change as more NCAA DI schools begin to add women’s wrestling.

How can people contact you to learn more about your program? 

People can reach me by email at [email protected] to learn more about our program. 

They can also look at our website index at: 


Bonus: What are your goals for the future?

My first goal is to get Ferrum to be a top 10 college in the WCWA. I also want to get these young women more involved in the USA [Wrestling] circuit. I want to help these young ladies grow as wrestlers and also as people. 

Bonus #2: What are three things people don’t know about you?

Wrestling isn’t the first sport I’ve been apart of that was considered an all-male sport. I also played football when I was younger. 

Even though I’m older, I’m still a fan of watching “Dragon Ball Z” & “Naruto.”

I’m one of nine kids.

Bonus #3: What makes wrestling different than other sports?

Wrestling is different because it is an individual sport, but it is a team sport as well. You make the closest bonds that will last a lifetime with your teammates.  When you have to go through some of the toughest mental and physical workouts together, it brings you closer. When it comes down to competition though, it is just you out there. There is no one else out there to blame if you don’t achieve your goal. You have to know you did everything you could to win or you didn’t do enough…

Thanks Coach Breonnah!

Coach Breonnah stated she didn’t know about women’s collegiate wrestling until she was in high school or around 2011.  Many are unaware women’s wrestling collegiate teams have existed since at least the 1990s. In fact, the WCWA has been sponsoring women’s wrestling national championships since 2008.

One of the reasons these interviews are being conducted is to shine a light on the many women’s college opportunities high school girl wrestlers now have.  Another goal is to arm students, parents, coaches, & administrators with useful information regarding “how to” & “where to” wrestle after high school for females. Arguably, the most important reason for these interviews is to hear exactly what some women’s wrestling coaches believe regarding growing & developing female wrestlers. 

Coach Breonnah believes if there is more female wrestling publicity and girls start wrestling earlier, both participation numbers plus wrestling skills will grow…

The author also believes when the public understands what women’s wrestling is, via mass media & social media, they will also comprehend women can receive & achieve the same benefits that men collegiate wrestlers have enjoyed for over a century!

For more from Shannyn, check out his Facebook page at:facebook.com/uswomenswrestling.


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Alcoa's Noah Evans signs with King University wrestling team

AHS Wrestling

Noah Evans (left) is joined by Alcoa wrestling coach Brian Gossett after signing a National Letter of Intent to wrestle for King University.


Noah Evans grew up and played all of his youth sports in Alcoa and is proud of his link to that community.

Evans even hesitated before admitting to The Daily Times that he was actually born in Maryville — the twin city and rival of the Tornadoes.

His strong connection to Alcoa may have even factored in his decision for where to continue his wrestling career. He chose to remain a Tornado.


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The Open Mat

The High School Arms Race

Posted on 08/07/2019

photo courtesy of Richard Immel

The high school wrestling arms race is here, and it is glorious. At least according to some people you ask. Others may have a less glowing view of the transfer game.

If you’ve followed high school wrestling at all, you surely know the names Blair Academy and Wyoming Seminary. The two prep powerhouses, located in New Jersey and Pennsylvania respectively, have dominated National Preps over the last two decades and have taken over at tournaments such as Beast of the East and Walsh Ironman.

Of course, the issue at hand is that these two teams are usually chocked full of talent from around the country. Because of their prep school status, both Blair and Sem can cherry-pick talent from wherever they’d like. Now, to some, this is problematic. Understandably, it often rips elite talent away from programs that may not always produce wrestlers of that caliber. Of late, this has become a serious issue at schools in the southeast, something we’re about to address.

In 2019, we seem to have reached the peak of this recruiting arms race. At least, relative to what we’ve seen in past years. Both Blair and Sem are loading up with incoming talent from across the country.

Wyoming Seminary has added Gregor McNeil from Hilton (NY), Brennen Cernus from Ohio via Culver Academy in Indiana, Nic Bouzakis of Lake Highland Prep (FL), Andrew Donahue, also an Ohio transplant who was at Culver Academy, and Kolby Franklin from St. Joseph’s Academy in Pennsylvania, along with a stud freshman Gabe Arnold (GA), a third-place finisher in the middle school division at the Super 32. 

McNeil, a Canadian cadet world team member, joins his older brother Lachlan on the team. Donahue and Cernus both had stellar freshmen campaigns in Indiana and are two highly-rated 2022 prospects. Bouzakis is the top prospect in that class and Franklin is in the top 10. 

Not to be outdone, Blair adds to plenty of firepower to an already loaded team as well. The Bucs welcome freshman Cadet world champion Marc-Anthony McGowan of Florida into the lineup at 106 along with Fargo All-American Cody Chittum from McCallie in Tennessee. Both are ranked in the top 10 in the Class of 2023. They also brought in National Prep third-place finisher TJ Stewart of St. John’s in Washington DC, as well as, 2018 Fargo champ Noah Pettigrew from Valdosta, Georgia. Both Stewart and Pettigrew are ranked in the top 10 in the Class of 2022.  

Given all the added firepower, you can expect the two to have epic battles when they cross paths both at the season’s top tournaments and in their annual dual. But is this all good for high school wrestling?

I’m of the belief that offering athletes the freedom of choice and the ability to improve their training environment is the best practice. We wouldn’t give it a second thought should an exceptional student opt to attend a well-regarded school, why do we so for athletes?

On the other side of that argument is the question of what it means for the programs that these wrestlers are leaving. The Hilton’s and Lake Highland Prep’s of the world will be fine. Both programs have well-established roots and will find another elite talent to fill the hole at some point. But what of the Valdosta’s and the St. John’s of the world? Would having a Noah Pettigrew or a TJ Stewart change the fates of those programs? Would more kids see their successes and want to get involved in the sport? It’s a valid argument and one that is difficult to quantify.

I’m not for legislating out any type of freedom of movement for athletes and I believe it’s wrong to criticize a kid or their family for trying to improve their circumstances, but is there a way to incentivize kids who stay? 

Who knows?

What I do know is that I’ll enjoy watching the nation’s two top high school programs go at it this year with a ton of firepower on both sides.

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Luke Sheppard has returned to Smyrna to take over their wrestling team. Sheppard previously coached the softball team there, guiding them to a Class AAA state championship in 2013. He recently had a three-year stint coaching the softball team at Oakland.


  • Upvote 1

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Thanks Mo...

Peoples brings passion to Columbia Central mats

Dane Peoples (right), an assistant at Spring Hill for the past two seasons under Beau Moss (middle), has been named to succeed John Sandella as wrestling coach at Columbia Central. (Photo by correspondent Rob Fleming)

By MAURICE PATTON [email protected]

Posted Aug 10, 2019 at 12:01 AMU

Dane Peoples intends to grow up with Columbia Central wrestling.
After spending the past two years as an assistant with Beau Moss at Spring Hill, Peoples has been named to succeed John Sandella at the top of the Lions’ mat program.

“The opportunity to lead young men is something I’ve wanted to do,” said the 24-year-old, a Spring Hill graduate who wrestled at Middle Tennessee State.

I’ve got a concrete industry management degree; it’s something I could probably make a lot of money at, but I’ve never loved it. This is my passion. This is where my head is at. The program is young, it has a lot of room to grow, as do I.”

The programs at both Central and Spring Hill began competition for the 2017-18 season. Spring Hill had one of its wrestlers, Tyler Moore, qualify for the Class AAA state tournament in its first year. Central has not competed in the postseason either year.
Following Sandella’s departure to join the faculty at the newly opened Battle Creek Middle School, Peoples was advised of the vacancy by Central girls basketball coach Joshua Bugg.

He came recommended by Coach Bugg,” Central principal Roger White said. “He’s been helping at Spring Hill, he wrestled in high school and college, he has a passion for building relationships. He’s very interested in helping get the program off the ground, and we’re excited about him coming in and getting started.”

As a non-faculty coach, in a relatively new program, Peoples knows there will be challenges. But he’s also watched as Moss — though more experienced, with a previous head coaching stint at Hendersonville — navigated through the “trials and tribulations” of starting from scratch with the Raiders.

“You’re glad anytime anyone from your staff moves up and has an opportunity,” Moss ssaid. “This is great for Dane. It’ll be fun having him as a rival and I’ll be glad to help him. Our relationship goes beyond coaching.

“I think this is exactly what Central needs. I’m happy for him, and I look forward to us building a great relationship with them going forward.”

As a sophomore in Virginia, Peoples was a VHSL state tournament placer. Following his parents’ divorce and a subsequent move, he did not wrestle his final two years of high school

“I never gave up,” he said. “I wrestled summers, AAU, fight nights. I love the sport. I love the people I’m around, cutting weight, not eating, everything about it.”
It’s that passion that White is counting on to help move the Central program forward.

“I think he’ll still have the time and ability to get the local middle schools involved — and it’s got to be built there before we’re going to have any success at our level,” White said. “He has the talent and ability to get out and do that. He’s young and energetic.”

“I’m not going to be there (in the building) recruiting the kids, but that’s something I’ll have to put extra time and work into, getting kids that do want to do this and making them fall so in love with it that they’re telling the others they need to get involved with it,” he said.

“The communication skills, talking with other coaches, I think that’ll help me. Wrestlers make the best all-around athletes. if I can get the coaches, the parents and ultimately the kids to buy in, hopefully it will get them to come in and it’ll be something they’ll want to be a part of. I’m excited.”

Edited by Sommers

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Hatcher Returns as Chattanooga Head Assistant Coach

Aug. 13, 2019 Wrestling

Chattanooga, TN – University of Tennessee at Chattanooga wrestling head coach Kyle Ruschell announced the addition of Mike Hatcher as head assistant coach today.Hatcher was previously a volunteer assistant with the Mocs from 2009-13, and spent the last three seasons as an assistant coach at Cal Poly.
"Mike Hatcher brings a wealth of knowledge on and off the mat to our programs," stated Ruschell."His experience in terms of recruiting, fundraising, and outreach, not to mention his strong relationships within our own community, are invaluable assets during this exciting time for Chattanooga Wrestling!"
Hatcher returns to Chattanooga after serving coaching stints at Grand Canyon University and Cal Poly.He has had a plethora of experience, training both collegiate and senior-level freestyle athletes.Hatcher was a member of four national championship teams (1991-96) at the University of Iowa, where he wrestled for the legendary Dan Gable.
"I am extremely proud to accept the position of Head Assistant Wrestling Coach at the University of Tennessee at Chattanooga," said Hatcher.  "My previous experience in Chattanooga has provided me with the insight as to how special this city is and the amazing student-athletes the University attracts.  
"I look forward to assisting the members of our current and future rosters in achieving their goals and allowing the program to scale to new heights.  Coach Ruschell has a strong vision and passion for the Chattanooga Wrestling program, which I am excited to be part of.  I am very grateful for the opportunity he has given me, and the confidence he has in me to be an asset to the success of our program."
During the last three seasons at Cal Poly, Hatcher served as an assistant coach under UTC alum Jon Sioredas.There, he helped five Mustang athletes earn bids to the NCAA Championships, including two-time national qualifier, Tom Lane, who narrowly missed attaining All-American status in Pittsburgh last season.He also assisted in landing a Top 25 recruiting class this past season according to the Open Mat.
Hatcher previously coached at UTC from 2009 to 2013 under former head coach Heath Esslinger.During his time in Chattanooga, he helped guide the Mocs to three Southern Conference Tournament titles while producing 14 individual conference champions and 17 NCAA qualifiers.During his tenure, he also served as the Director of the Chattanooga Wrestling Club, which produced more than 30 state champions, 60 state placers and 10 All-Americans.
On the freestyle circuit, Hatcher spent five years as Director of Olympic Regional Training Centers in Tennessee, Arizona, and California.He has been a very active member of USA Wrestling, having held positions on both the board of directors and as the state chairman.
While competing at the University of Iowa, he earned a Bachelor's Degree in Physical Education and Dean's List honors his senior year.Hatcher then went on to teach high school physical education and health for 10 years.He spent four years in Iowa at Durant High School and six years in Florida at Martin County High School, Krop High School, and Coral Glades High School.


Again, Way too go Legman...

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BradleyYouth Wrestling Club receives major donation

BRADLEY PRIDE Youth Wrestling Coach Steve Logsdon, left, is presented with a Team Cash T-shirt and contribution from Check Into Cash and the Allan Jones Foundation. Pictured with Logsdon is J. Bailey Jones, Vice President at Check Into Cash.
BRADLEY PRIDE Youth Wrestling Coach Steve Logsdon, left, is presented with a Team Cash T-shirt and contribution from Check Into Cash and the Allan Jones Foundation. Pictured with Logsdon is J. Bailey Jones, Vice President at Check Into Cash.
Posted Wednesday, July 10, 2019 9:44 am

The Bradley Pride Youth Wrestling Club received a major boost of support this summer from Check Into Cash and the Allan Jones Foundation.

Steve Logsdon, head coach of Bradley Pride Youth Wrestling Club, announced the youth club received a generous donation and special black Team Cash T-shirts for all Bradley wrestlers.

The donation was a match to funds the club had raised earlier in the year.

“This week’s matching donation demonstrates the commitment of the Allan Jones Foundation and Check Into Cash to helping our club grow so that Bradley and Cleveland will always have the top two wrestling programs in Tennessee,” said Logsdon. 

Bradley Pride is a wrestling program that gives young wrestlers of all skill levels, grades K-8 a chance to learn the essentials of practice and competition. The goal of the program is to train and maintain the highest-quality athletes to help continue the finest wrestling program in Tennessee.

A typical week consists of two to three one hour practices and five to six tournament opportunities. The Bradley Kid's Club experience provides excellent youth level competitions while providing basic wrestling skills that enable young wrestlers to become successful at the middle and high school level.

The Foundation requires the club’s members to earn money themselves, which is later matched dollar-for-dollar.

J. Bailey Jones, vice president at Check Into Cash and a representative of the Foundation and a 2010 160-pound Division 1 state champion for Cleveland presented the donation to Logsdon. Jones set the all-time record with 125 takedowns in the Greater Chattanooga Area that stood until 2012 when another Cleveland wrestler, four-time state champion Chris DeBien, broke it with 134 takedowns. 

 “Our goal through the donation to Bradley Pride, along with the club’s own fundraising efforts, is to make it one of the highest funded kids club in the country,” said Jones. “We give the club the challenge to raise money on their own and we are always ready to double what they raise.”

Jones said winning is a three-pronged approach.

“It includes the high school head coach, the middle school head coach, and the kids club coach,” he stated. “The kids club coach is the most important, because the coach is the one who gets the kids interested and teaches them about the joy of winning.”

Coach Logsdon offered a special thanks to the Foundation and to the Jones companies like Check Into Cash that have supported the club through the years. 

“Allan Jones has said many times that youth wrestling clubs are important because the wrestlers develop a love for the sport and build a strong work ethic that will carry them through life,” said the coach. “He also appreciates that we strive to teach young athletes moral character and good sportsmanship. Winning starts at this level.”

Toby Pendergrass, Director of the Jones Foundation, agreed with Logsdon.

“If there is a state championship won in wrestling, we want it to be one of our three schools – and it all starts with the Kids Club,” said Pendergrass.

Edited July 11 by Sommers
Edited by Sommers

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Tullahoma News

Lester to be inducted into National Wrestling Hall of Fame

  • By Zach Birdsong Sports Editor
  • Aug 15, 2019 Updated 10 hrs ago

For the majority of his coaching career, Jeff Lester has shied away from the limelight, always wanting to credit those around him for successes.

In 1984, Lester claimed the state championship at the 98-pound weight class as a senior at Lebanon High School. In 1992, Lester started his coaching career, and now enters his 24th year as an assistant wrestling coach at Tullahoma High School. In that time span, he has seen six THS grapplers become state medalists.

Even with an impressive resume, Lester still prefers to be in the background, just doing his part to help young athletes become successful. Well, the spotlight found Lester this past February, as it was announced that he would be inducted into the Tennessee Chapter of the National Wrestling Hall of Fame in Stillwater, Oklahoma, for his dedication to the sport.

“[I was] just kind of numb when I found out,” Lester said. “I’ve been doing this for 28 years now, so there’s a lot of flashbacks, a lot of great memories that I have, and I’m just very appreciative. It does mean a lot to me that this comes from my peers. That means a lot to know that you’re appreciated in that area.”

A ceremony will take place Saturday, Aug. 24, at Stones River Country Club in Murfreesboro. Tickets to attend the banquet are $60. Those who want to attend can contact the Tennessee Chapter President P.A. Bowler at 615-513-5135 or by email at [email protected].

As Saturday looms closer, it’s evident just from talking to him that Lester still wants to limit the attention on himself. While he said he’s grateful for being selected to this year’s Hall of Fame class, he wanted to thank those who have supported the Tullahoma High School wrestling programs, his coaching staff and those former athletes that he once coached.

“I just feel tremendously blessed,” Lester said. “This community, for 24 years, has basically just hoisted me up on their shoulders. The support that the wrestling program has here in Tullahoma, is just tremendous. So, I think of this more as a community award than I do an individual award.”

Lester’s induction is the second for a Tullahoma citizen. In 2017, Pat Welsh was honored in the Lifetime Service category, the same recognition that Lester is receiving.

Welsh coaches a youth wrestling program, the Tullahoma Take Down Club, that helps introduce young grapplers to the sport. According to Lester, he and the rest of the THS coaching staff have been grateful for that program. Because of the takedown club, several wrestlers come into the high school program, already familiar with the sport.

“Pat’s kids’ club program is just the best,” Lester said. “So you get kids coming in that he and Mark Moran and David Cleveland have coached. We really have a fortunate situation here.”

For Lester, his wrestling career started back in 1981 when he was a sophomore at Lebanon. That season, he finished just short of a state title, losing in the state semifinals, losing by one point in the final 30 seconds of the matchup. In the consolation bracket, Lester said he dropped his next matchup, still frustrated from that first loss, and ended up not medaling.

The near-medal stung and lingered with him for a while. Even with that frustration, Lester said he knew that he had found his passion on the wrestling mat.

“I think I was a little bit better than average, 17-9 that year, but I just fell in love with the sport,” he said. “It was just something that, being a little guy, it was a sport where I could compete against people my own size, and I took to it right off the bat and worked really hard at it. That’s the thing that I’m most proud about. I worked hard at it and I’ve always prided myself on that.”

During his senior season, Lester made it to the top of the podium, nabbing the top spot in the 98-pound weight class. Throughout the regular season, Lester said that he had been wrestling at different weight classes. However, when it came to the state tournament time, he cut weight in time to qualify for the 98-pound division. Lester finished his senior season with an overall record of 34-1-1.

“It all came together,” he said. “It was a really crazy year and started out really strong and kind of struggled there at the end, but I kind of pulled it back together. And the stars aligned for me.”

After graduating from Lebanon, Lester continued his wrestling career, heading to the University of Chattanooga. It was there that Lester said he found out what college wrestling was all about.

“I went and spent a year and a half at UTC getting an education. An education in a college wrestling room is a pretty severe one,” Lester laughed. “But, I tell you what, I wrestled for a great coach in Ethan Reeve, a legendary coach and he taught me a bunch. My high school, my senior, my high school coach, Ed Sheley, just did a tremendous job in taking a basket case and getting him through the state.”

Eight years after graduating from Lebanon, Lester returned to his alma mater, this time as head wrestling coach for the Blue Devils. After four years in his hometown, Lester moved to Tullahoma, but did note that he got the opportunity to coach several strong wrestlers at Lebanon.

“I got to coach a couple of good wrestlers at Lebanon. They caught the eyes of other people, but Lebanon’s community just wasn’t ready for wrestling,” he said. “I did get to coach Steven Smith, who wound up placing in the state twice for me. He then wound up being the head coach and went to Carson Newman, won over a hundred college matches, and had been MTSU’s head coach for probably a decade.”

Since moving to Tullahoma, Lester has helped the Tullahoma High School boys wrestling team advance to the state duals four times. This past season, the Wildcats made it to the TSSAA State Duals Tournament, which takes place annually in Franklin.

During the season, there’s no mistaking Lester’s voice, as he boisterously coaches the Tullahoma wrestlers. Unlike most wrestling coaches though, Lester almost refuses to set in a chair in his respective coaching corner. Instead, he can be seen on the sidelines of the mat, sometimes biting a paper cup, coaching the Wildcats.

“I just feel like I’m closer to the action,” he said. “I’m a little guy anyway, it seems like the lower I get, the closer I am … It’s always been that way. I think I saw Pat Simpson from Father Ryan do that one time, and I tried it. I was like, ‘Wow, they look up close up.” So ever since that’s, I guess, been my thing.’”

Though the years, it’s fair to say that Lester has left an impression. Not only with the wrestlers that he’s coached, but with everybody that has come in contact with him.

On, Aug. 11, Lester was surprised during a dinner at Buffalo Wild Wings. Since some members of the community were unable to make the Saturday’s ceremony, the Tullahoma wrestling programs honored Lester, sharing a 20-minute video that congratulated him, featuring his former athletes, current coworkers and some of the THS administration. That video nearly had Lester in tears.

“I just thought I was going to be meeting a bunch of people for dinner. It was really special,” he said. “I’ve seen that my old coaches were all there and same with people who have helped this program throughout the years. Like I said, it’s been a community effort throughout the years at Tullahoma and this, it’s great that our community’s getting recognized one more time for wrestling.”


Chattanooga's Brad Jackson Honored As TSSAA Distinguished Service Recipient

Friday, August 16, 2019 - by John Brice
Brad Jackson
Brad Jackson

Brad Jackson had gone straight from high school wrestler to collegiate grappler, finishing his career at Tyner High School and then transitioning to the team at UTC.

After a year in college, however, Jackson decided to serve his country and joined the United States Marine Corps --- where he also developed into an All-Marine wrestler and earned a tryout in the 1988 Greco-Roman Olympic Trials.

Jackson, the August 2019 TSSAA Distinguished Service recipient, hasn’t stopped serving others since that time. After stints both at his alma mater, Tyner, and East Ridge High School, he’s now Campus Support Specialist for Hamilton County Schools.

The military background, which included his service as a special weapons security officer on the USS Carl Vinson, provided the foundation for Jackson’s long career in public education, which has included time as a wrestling coach, administrator and work on the supervisory crew of the TSSAA’s state wrestling championships.

“It completely changed my mindset in the sense that I’m a lot more disciplined,” Jackson said. “I was exposed to so many different kinds of men and women in the Marines, and over those times I learned how to deal with different cultures and mentalities.

“It played a part in how I deal with things athletically and the discipline side in how I treat kids. I try to look at it through the lens of them. I got a lot of that wisdom, if you call it that, when I was in the Marines.”

In his current role, where Jackson serves as the secondary schools disciplinary hearing authority, he has a unique method to measure success in the position.

“I look to see that we had 329 disciplinary cases heard this past year, and only three were repeaters,” said Jackson, who has three daughters and whose wife, Shelly, is an assistant principal at Big Ridge Elementary. “I look at how many kids listened to my advice and counseling about how not to do things again, for them to look and see goals and purposes in life. This also correlates with our work with the InSideOut Initiative.

“Hopefully we can help them be better citizens. As Joe Ehrmann said in his book [InSideOut Coaching], I’ll let you know in 20 years.”

TSSAA is proud to recognize Brad Jackson for the commitment he has shown to the values and principles of educational athletics in Tennessee.


Edited by Sommers

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Morris to be inducted into Wrestling HOF

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WALKER VALLEY MUSTANG head wrestling coach Alan Morris will be inducted into the Tennessee Chapter of the National Wrestling Hall of Fame on Aug. 24, in Murfreesboro.
WALKER VALLEY MUSTANG head wrestling coach Alan Morris will be inducted into the Tennessee Chapter of the National Wrestling Hall of Fame on Aug. 24, in Murfreesboro.
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Posted Saturday, August 17, 2019 9:09 pm

Walker Valley wrestling coach Alan Morris has spent the majority of his life participating in, promoting and coaching the sport he loves. All the hard work and dedication he has given for more than 30 years will be recognized Aug. 24 in Murfreesboro when Morris is inducted into the Tennessee Chapter of the National Wrestling Hall of Fame.

“It’s a great honor. I am very humbled to be inducted into the Hall of Fame. Whatever they (NWHOF) may say about me, I’ve always had good people around me and had good assistant coaches and good kids. And being old, longevity is a factor as well,” Morris said with a chuckle. “I’m honored just the same.”

Morris was the first wrestler to step on a mat for Bradley Central in 1973 and got the first-ever wrestling win for the Bears. He has been involved in wrestling continuously and was able to stay involved in the sport during his time serving in the Unites States Air Force.

The Mustang coach wrestled at Chattanooga State and The University of Tennessee-Chattanooga.

He has been involved in developing youth wrestling for 31 years and started the Cleveland Boys Club program in 1986. In 1989 he developed and was coach for the Bradley Wrestling Club before being named the first wrestling coach at Walker Valley in 2006.

“At (BCHS athletics director) Turner Jackson’s urging, I started the Bradley Wrestling Club and started the wrestling program here in 2006. I’m starting my 15th year here at Walker Valley,” Morris noted.

Morris’ love for the sport has also carried over to family. Both sons, daughters-in-law and grandchildren are all involved or have been involved in wrestling in one form or another.

“I love wrestling. Wrestling is in my blood and in my family’s blood,” he said. 

Morris’ eldest son, Al, is head coach at Tullahoma and youngest son, Andy, is an assistant at Ocoee Middle. Both were state medalists. Daughter Annie and and now daughter-in-law Lauren were both scorekeepers at Walker Valley. Daughter-in-law Jenna is the head girls' wrestling coach at Tullahoma.

Throughout his career Morris has followed the philosophy of how wrestling helps toughen an athlete while building a work ethic. He said building character is large part of the process, but it’s the relationships that are the strongest part of the sport.

“All those things are characteristics that bleed over to an athlete, but I feel like the relationships I’ve been able to make over the years are the biggest thing of all — the relationships I’ve made over the years, from when I was a wrestler to this day,” he said.

“Some of my best friends and closest friends are ones who have been involved in wrestling. It’s a common bond wrestlers share. There are a lot of tough times, hard work and things that go into it. To put that much effort into something and share that particular time with other people brings you closer," Morris said. "I’ve been lucky enough to have a lot of great people around me. And as a coach, I have had great athletes. That has been as rewarding to me as anything.”

The Mustangs coach said he has no timetable for turning over duties of wrangling The Herd anytime soon, but will at some point hand over the reins. 

"I will take it year-by-year and day-by-day and see how it goes. I love it and don’t see any reason right now not to do it,” Morris said.

“As long as I keep good assistant coaches around me I can go for a while. Obviously, at my age, my knees aren’t what they used to be and it limits what I can do physically. Over the years I have had able-bodied assistant coaches that are a lot younger than I am and can handle the physical portion of it.”

Although he is happy to be recognized with the honor of a Hall of Fame induction, Morris stressed he is merely one part of a system that creates close-knit relationships between coaches and wrestlers that often last a lifetime.

“I want to emphasize that credit for my being recognized goes as much to all the wrestlers I’ve had over the years and have had the privilege to coach,” he said. “I keep in touch with a lot of them still to this day. I get random calls and give random calls to just check on someone. Sometimes I hear someone is going through some tough times and I will pick up the phone and give them some words of encouragement. I want to them know I still care.

"I’ve had great coaches and influences over the years, here at Walker Valley and when I was a Bradley," Morris said. "It’s been rewarding for me. It’s an honor to get this award, but it's just kind of what I do.”



Edited by Sommers

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A little tri-cities historic news 

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APPY LEAGUE: Ethan Goforth (Once a wrestler in the area returns) learning every day in first pro stop in Bristol
Elizabethton vs Bristol

Pirate's catcher Ethan Goforth rounds the bases after a 2nd inning homerun.

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Princeton vs Bristol Baseball

Bristol Pirate catcher Ethan Goforth blocks a pitch in the dirt against Princeton.

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Ethan Goforth grew up in Blacksburg, Virginia.

He spent four years at Carson-Newman University in Jefferson City, Tennessee.

So, when he was selected by the Pittsburgh Pirates in the 25th round of June’s Major League Baseball Amateur Draft and assigned to the team’s Appalachian League affiliate in Bristol it meant the beginning of his professional career would be even more meaningful.


“Bristol was the perfect storm,” Goforth said. “I’m an hour and a half from both home and Carson-Newman, so I’ve had my parents, grandparents, friends, girlfriend, college and high school coaches – you name it and they’ve been able to see me play and that’s special to me because those people put time into me getting to where I am today.”

Goforth has appeared in 18 games for the Bristol Pirates as the backup to starting catcher Eli Wilson and is hitting .217 with two home runs and six RBIs.

He began the season mired in an 0-for-18 slump at the plate, but wasn’t doomed by that slow start.

“The best part has been just learning; learning about the differences in the game from the college level and now to the pros and learning how to compete at this level,” Goforth said. “The friendships and learning from teammates has also been really cool to experience … I’ve learned how important a short memory is. I knew it was important in the past, but this year it has really shown me that I need to live that.”

Goforth has developed a good rapport with Bristol’s stable of pitchers.

“Ethan’s a really good catcher,” said BriBucs hurler Tahnaj Thomas. “He really knows what he’s doing and he has a great relationship with his pitching staff. What really impresses me is that he’s really dedicated and really cares about his pitching staff and helping them be better.”

His catching skills were his calling card at Carson-Newman.

“For the last two years he literally caught every game for us,” said C-N coach Tom Griffin. “His durability and his athleticism and fitness level were good enough to catch literally every game for two years. In a time where we try to give catchers rest and keep them fresh, that was never an issue with him.”

He comes by that conditioning honestly.

His father, Mike, attended Bluefield High School in West Virginia and has been an athletic trainer at Virginia Tech since 1998.

“I went to just about everything I could at Virginia Tech as a kid,” Ethan Goforth said. “I was lucky enough to be the bat boy for the baseball team on occasion. I would shag balls for the punters and kickers during football practice and shoot basketball in the back gyms until they kicked me out. In football, I idolized Danny Coale and Tyrod Taylor and baseball it would have to be Andrew Rash, Joe Mantiply and Mike McMenamin as guys I looked up to. I love that place.”

Goforth was a three-sport standout for the Blacksburg High School Bruins, excelling in baseball, football and wrestling. He was an all-state performer on the mat as a senior in 2015.

“I started wrestling when I was six years old,” Goforth said. “Wrestling definitely taught me discipline and work ethic and it helped me a lot with my flexibility as well.”

With his shaved head, facial hair and menacing glare, Goforth is somebody you wouldn’t want to mess with if there was a bench-clearing brawl. He also plays with the intensity one would expect from a New River Valley tough guy.

“He just has a passion for competing,” Griffin said. “The coaches in our league always talked about the energy level he played with.”

Goforth had some familiarity with Bristol before he played his first game with the Pirates.

The Ed Cressel Classic at Virginia High’s Bearcat Den (where he beat Lebanon’s Austin Cox in the 170-pound finals in 2015) and the Brawl in the Hall at Viking Hall (where he was runner-up to Tennessee High’s Jon Taylor in the 132-pound weight class in 2013) were among the tournaments Goforth wrestled in as a high schooler.

He had played against the King University Tornado while at Carson-Newman.

Goforth was among the record crowd of 156,990 in attendance at Bristol Motor Speedway when the Tennessee Volunteers vanquished the Virginia Tech Hokies, 45-24, on Sept. 10, 2016 in college football’s “Battle at Bristol.”

Cabela’s at Exit 5 and Bass Pro Shops at Exit 74 had been among his scheduled stops when he was making the drive from Blacksburg to Jefferson City in returning to college.

Bristol has been his home this summer and there are eight more meaningful regular-season games remaining for the BriBucs.

The Pirates are in the thick of the Appalachian League playoff race entering tonight’s game with the Pulaski Yankees at DeVault Stadium. The city’s professional franchise is attempting to secure a postseason bid for the first time since 2002 and/or the first winning season since 2008.

“It’s exciting,” Goforth said. “We’ve heard about all of the potential first time in a long time things this team can do. But we are just focused on each day and making the most of it and the rest will take care of itself.”

[email protected] | Twitter:@Hayes_BHCSports | (276) 645-2570


Edited by Sommers

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