The first female wrestler in Cleveland helped recruit the team. Now the school could win two titles in state duels.

As Tennessee’s preseason wrestling scene converges once again on the Williamson County Ag Expo Center for Saturday’s TSSAA State Showdowns, Cleveland High School is hoping to celebrate some firsts on the mat.

Coach Joey Knox’s Blue Raiders are part of the eight-team Class AA squad and have a chance to set a state record with a fifth straight team title. They’re hoping it comes with a state championship for the school’s freshman girls’ wrestling program, coached by Josh Bosken.

The TSSAA sanctions a women’s state duel event for the first time, and Cleveland is joined in the four-team bracket by Clarksville, Rossview and Tullahoma. For Lady Blue Raiders freshman star Piper Fowler, it’s an opportunity she not only waited for, but helped bring to fruition for a team of 17 girls, some of whom she helped recruit .

“At first I was the only girl wrestling for Cleveland,” said Fowler, who is ranked the No. 4 high school girl in the nation at 152 pounds by The Open Mat, which covers amateur wrestling. “When I came here in middle school, they told me that by the time I was in first grade, they would have an all-girls team.

“The turnout has been incredible. Since the start of the season, all of our girls have improved a lot and we are entering the state very confident. Our goal from day one was to win the state in our first season .”

Photo gallery

Cleveland wrestler Piper Fowler

Fowler is one of seven siblings. His eldest and one of four brothers, Landon, won a state championship in 2018 and went 200-17 in his career at Blackman High School in Murfreesboro.

Logan helped Cleveland set a program record last year with six individual champions in the state’s traditional tournament by becoming the third freshman Blue Raider to win a state title. He ended his run beating Bradley Central’s Bryson Terrell in a thrilling 10-8 final after Terrell had won all three previous meetings that season.

Meanwhile, Mia kept the wrestling program logbook before graduating from Cleveland in 2020. Piper’s twin brother, Cy, is a freshman standing out for the Blue Raiders at 152 pounds.

“They’re a real wrestling family,” Knox said of the Fowlers. “Their dad (Zack) wrestled at Oakland High School (in Murfreesboro) where his wife (McKenzie) kept the book for the team. They love wrestling and they put so much heart into the sport. I believe in everyone from them because they are always in the work room and are very strong mentally and experienced in this sport.”

The championship finals in all classifications are set for 8:30 p.m. EST, and if both Cleveland teams advance that far in Franklin, the Blue Raiders (18-0) and Lady Blue Raiders (9-1) will struggle. on adjacent mats.

The Blue Raiders are heavy favorites in Class AA, and they’ll open their bid for another title when they take on Nolensville at 10 a.m. ET. The winner moves on to fight Dobyns-Bennett or Maryville in the semi-finals, and the other half of the group has Cleveland rival Bradley Central (13-4) facing Summitt while Clarksville takes on Wilson Central.

Bradley Central won four straight head-to-head titles from 2008 to 2011, with the Bears tying the state record set by McCallie from 1990 to 1993. Cleveland caught the Bears and Blue Tornado last year and are now looking to stay on their own with five in a row. .

The Lady Raiders are among the last four teams to stand out in the state’s 200 women’s programs. Cleveland’s opener is against Clarksville at 2 p.m. ET, with Rossview and Tullahoma competing in the other semifinal at the same time.

The priority Cleveland places on sports shows in coaching the Lady Blue Raiders. Bosken received an AAU district award last year for his work with the Higher Calling youth program and is a former Blue Raiders assistant and head coach.

“The fight in Cleveland speaks for itself,” Bosken said. “These girls wanted the opportunity to wrestle and be a part of something special. I told them that you were going to be the trailblazers for years to come. In 20 years when the girls come to wrestle here, their names will be on the wall and they can say they did it and started it.

“They just wanted to be a part of something, and they’ve created something bigger than I could ever imagine. What’s special is that they believe wholeheartedly that they’re going to step into Franklin Saturday and win a state title.”

And show once again that the road to the Tennessee wrestling championships goes through Cleveland.

“Boys and girls feed off each other,” Knox said. “I didn’t know how it would be when it started, but it’s been better than we could ever imagine. Both teams support each other. They’re all part of the same family and share the same mat. We let’s all take care of each other. Hopefully we can make history by both winning state titles.”

Staff Photo by Matt Hamilton/Ethan Uhorchuk of Signal Mountain, top, wrestles Porter Finstad of Gibbs in a 106-pound state final at the Chattanooga Convention Center on February 24, 2021.

Eagle eye title

In Class A, undefeated Signal Mountain is seeking the program’s first dueling national title.

The Eagles (18-0) are led by senior Noah Shriner, who stands out at 126 pounds with more than 110 career wins, and the Uhorchuk brothers: junior Caleb (120), rookie Ethan (113) and eighth Joe (106). Caleb and Ethan have the No. 1 state ranking, while Jojo is second.

Signal Mountain opens against Page at 10 a.m. ET in the eight-team tournament, with the winner advancing to a semifinal against Gibbs or Pigeon Forge. On the other side of the bracket, Fairview takes on Tullahoma while Greeneville takes on Munford.

The Baylor sequence

In Division II-AAA, Baylor (13-1) is aiming for a fourth straight state title, and the Red Raiders have the roster to do it with 10 wrestlers ranked first or second in the state. Rex Kendle’s team is led by senior stars Jackson Bond, Nick Corday, Garrison Dendy and David Harper.

Baylor opens against Christian Brothers at noon EST when Father Ryan and Montgomery Bell Academy meet in the other semifinal.

Luck of the Chargers

Chattanooga Christian (19-7) is looking for the first state duel win in program history as he takes on Goodpasture in the DII-A/AA semifinals at noon EST. The winner will meet Battle Ground Academy or Lakeway Christian in the title match.

Contact Patrick MacCoon at [email protected] Follow him on Twitter @PMacCoon.

Robert J. King