By Trey Williams
Isabella Badon is pinning her hopes high – and going to the mat to reach them.
The Daniel Boone sophomore wrestler won her second state championship this past weekend in Franklin.
Science Hill’s Chase Diehl (third place), Arthur James (fourth), Nathan Wysong (fifth), Tyler Seeley (fifth) also placed at the state meet in the Williamson Expo Center, as did the Lady Hilltoppers’ Gigi Garman-Davis (fourth), Elizabeth Treece (sixth), Nichole Swink (sixth) and Nikki Thompson (sixth) and David Crockett’s Paige Snapp (fourth).
But Boone’s Badon was second to none for the second straight year.
“This year I’m more mature, and I was able to put more work into it,” Badon said. “And I’ve become stronger and I’ve worked very hard this past year just to make sure that I could accomplish my dreams. All of my opponents were really tough and really good. … Coach always says, ‘You’ve got a bull’s-eye on your back, Bella. You’ve gotta work.’”
Badon defeated West Greene’s Kelsi Broyles handily in the 112-pound championship match, which concluded with a pin (4:37). Her semifinal match against Hardin Valley’s Aimee Lampkins, who had previously defeated Badon, had the look of a championship match. Badon prevailed, 8-4.
“I wrestled to my potential; so did she,” Badon said. “Eventually I just kept on working on it and tried to break her as much as possible, because wrestling is such a mental sport.”
Badon was voted most outstanding state wrestler of all 14 weight classes by the coaches.
“That’s a really big deal to get that,” Boone coach Blake Shropshire said. “She knew she had a target on her back going in. She’s really worked hard to get where she’s going.
“There’s definitely natural ability involved, but a lot of wrestling is learning what to do in certain situations, and she just puts a lot of mat time in. She wrestles all summer on a freestyle team and she actually went to nationals this summer. She doesn’t have an offseason.”
Wrestling’s in the blood for Badon. She never had to grapple with focus or work ethic.
“Her dad and her uncle and her brother and her granddad – her granddad is actually a member of the national High School Wrestling Hall of Fame,” Shropshire said. “She comes from a long line of wrestlers. She’s been going to matches since she was a little girl.”
She’s still some six months from beginning her junior year of high school, but Badon already knows she’d like to wrestle at King University.
“It would be great if I could go to King,” Badon said. “One of the people there that I absolutely idolize is Forrest Molinari. Whenever I went to nationals she was there competing for a spot in the Olympic Trials. And she came in my corner, she coached me – she coached all the Tennessee girls while we were there at nationals, which was awesome. …
“Hopefully, I’ll reach my large goal, which is to become an Olympian.”
Boone’s only previous state champion is Gary Weese, who won the 112-pound title in 1979. He was present for Badon’s repeat performance this year, and became emotional when she won the title.
“He started crying,” Badon said. “He’s been in that situation before and he knew what it was like. And he was just overcome with emotion.
“It also made me realize that others know what it feels like to be there, too. That is such a great feeling.”
Science Hill coach Jimmy Miller felt great after placing four wrestlers, none of whom are seniors. The highest finisher, Diehl, is a sophomore.
“Chase is probably our hardest-working kid,” Miller said. “I thought Chase had the ability – if we had the right draw and he had a good weekend – I thought Chase could win a state title.”
Diehl avenged a loss to Walker Valley’s William Gregory in the third-place match. Junior Arthur James also evened the score with Tennessee High’s Bryson Henley en route to a fourth-place finish.
“Chase made the adjustments that we needed, and he had started battling some flu-like symptoms earlier in the week,” Miller said. “Arthur had to beat the Tennessee High kid in the consolation semis, which was actually a kid that beat him last year for a state medal. I knew Arthur was one of the best kids in the state. It just all comes down to … you’ve gotta be wrestling right at the right time.”
Wysong, a sophomore, took eventual state champion Calvin Martin to overtime en route to a fifth-place finish.
“Wysong was in the state semifinals against a state champ from William Blount, Jonathan Martin,” Miller said, “and he beats us in overtime or Wysong very well could’ve been in the state semifinals.”
The other fifth-place finisher, Seeley, is a freshman.
“Tyler, for fifth and sixth, he wrestled a kid from Bradley Central that put him in the losers bracket and beat us earlier in the day, 4-2,” Miller said. “And we turn around and beat him for the fifth-place match. … They all had those moments within those brackets where they could’ve very easily folded up the tent and said, ‘I’m tired, I’m beat up, I’m sick.’ But they didn’t. That just goes to show what kind of kids we’re working with here.’
Junior Luke Story qualified for the state and finished in the top eight.
Science Hill will return 11 of 14 starters next season from a group that finished third in the state team competition after losing to Cleveland in the semifinals.
“We knew this year would be a good year,” Miller said. “We tested ‘em over and over again (with a difficult schedule). Next year could be even better. If everything goes right and we stay healthy … we could really, really make some noise next year.
“We’ve got some great kids waiting in the wings to get in the starting rotation. We’ll have backups in our room that could win the region for other teams.”
The Lady Hilltoppers’ Garman-Davis, a junior, qualified for the state as a freshman but injured an elbow in the process. And she missed six months due to a concussion last year.
Finally healthy for a full season, she avenged a loss to Halls’ Megann Kiser in the process of her third-place run.
“When we saw the state bracket it was gonna be pretty tough,” Science Hill coach John Fenner said. “But Gigi beat a girl that had beaten her in the regional tournament to get into the medal rounds.”
Thompson was Science Hill’s lone senior. She extended her career with two multi-overtime matches en route to the sixth-place showing.
“She had two of the longest matches that we’ve ever had in our girls’ program,” Fenner said. “She went into the second overtime in one match and the third overtime in her last match. So she had a really tough tournament, but she came out with a sixth-place medal. …
“She’s been a leader of the team, especially the past two years, and she’s really been an asset to the locker room. We had a very encouraging season despite our youth and it’s exciting looking forward to have everybody but Nikki returning.”
Generally speaking, youth reared its ugly head at the state, according to Fenner.
“The youth of our team was really evident at the state tournament,” Fenner said. “The level of technical skill across the state is getting higher. It’s getting harder for first- and second-year wrestlers to squeeze into the medals, and that’s a good thing.
“We had a very encouraging season despite our youth and it’s exciting, looking forward, to have everybody but Nikki returning. I’m proud of this group of girls and the effort that they put forth.”