DANDRIDGE — Last season, a Dobyns-Bennett wrestling team loaded with senior experience advanced to the TSSAA duals.
On Monday night, a pair of underclassmen who had never grappled at the varsity level before this season helped the Indians clinch their second consecutive trip to state.
D-B punched its ticket with a 45-19 victory over Jefferson County in the Region 1 duals, thus earning a spot in the Class AAA duals in Franklin next weekend.
Science Hill went on to defeat the Tribe 70-9 in the finals to defend its regional championship.
Freshman Bryson Begley, who was losing on points at the time, recorded a pivotal pin in the 140-pound match. Then sophomore Ty Hayworth, D-B’s first-year heavyweight, clinched the team victory for the Tribe by pinning Jose Esparza with just seconds remaining in their 285-pound clash.
Begley and Hayworth are just two of the relatively green guys in the Indians’ lineup this season. In addition to losing seven seniors from last year’s team, Adam Mann sustained a season- ending knee injury and another wrestler moved out of state.
“I couldn’t be prouder of how far they’ve come,” said coach Buzzy Mann, who also notched his 300th victory in a dual match.
The win by Begley was a big one for the Tribe in several respects. First it continued a strong start against the Patriots in which D-B won the first five matchups on the mat. Usually his coach’s grappler of choice at 145 pounds, Begley flip-flopped with Keith Gilliam. Begley was losing to Dakota Wright on points before he got Wright on his back.
“We work them real hard so, hopefully in the third period of a close match, we’re going to get some pins and we’re not going to be the ones getting pinned,” Coach Mann said.
The Tribe notched four third-period pins against Jefferson County, including the one by Hayworth in the 285-pound match.
Hayworth is 20-12 this season. He’s lost only four times instate — twice to Esparza and twice to Science Hill’s heavyweight Josh Barnett, who pinned Hayworth in the region finals.
Not too shabby for a guy whose previous wrestling career consisted of a whole week on the mats in middle school.
“I did it in middle school for one week and quit. I got really sick and I decided I was done,” said Hayworth, who plays offensive guard and nose guard for the Indians’ football team. “I’m staying in shape, I’m being conditioned and that was my main problem during football season.”
Hayworth follows in the footsteps of former gridiron standouts-turned-grapplers like Daniel Preston and Zack Fleming. Fleming made the short trip from Carson-Newman College to cheer on his successor in the heavyweight class.
“He was coaching me along that whole first match,” Hayworth said.
Science Hill put on a dominant performance. The Hilltoppers needed only about 30 minutes to defeat Morristown West 66-12 in the semifinals, and won 12 of 14 individual matches against D-B for the second time this season.
Of the 28 individual matches in which Science Hill participated on Monday, Hilltopper grapplers captured wins in 16 of them by pinning their opponents.
Coach Jeff Price knows he has a good team but wouldn’t put it on the same level — yet — of his two squads from the previous decade that each placed fourth in the state duals.
“I just hope that the kids, over the next week and a half, realize what’s at stake and what could potentially happen,” Price said.
D-B and Science Hill should find out their draw for the state duals this weekend. The Class AAA duals begin Feb. 5 at the Williamson County Expo Center in Franklin.