FRANKLIN – The Greenbrier wrestling team is as dominant as they come in Region VII, but the TSSAA State Duals bring an entirely different level of competition.

The six-time defending region champion Bobcats again struggled on the big stage, finishing 1-2 after a 46-24 loss to Hixon in the first round at the Williamson County Ag Expo Center on Friday.

“Credit to Hixson – they’re a great team and very well-coached,” Greenbrier coach Cody Coomes said. “They were the better team today. We fought hard and we had some close matches. We needed those close matches to swing our way, and a lot of them didn’t.”

Greenbrier went on to beat Alcoa 48-34 in the consolation bracket on Saturday morning. The Bobcats then dropped a 46-28 defeat to Nolensville to be officially eliminated from the Class A-AA tournament.

The Bobcats have appeared in the last six state duals but have just a 5-12 record during that span. Seven of those losses were to schools from East Tennessee.

“It’s crazy,” Coomes said. “In Chattanooga and Knoxville, wrestling is on a different level. They wrestle really good competition all year, so I guess they’re used to it. Sometimes it’s hard to get good competition in Middle Tennessee as far as the small schools go.”

The Hixson match started with a bad omen. Greenbrier senior Cole McCartney, an Ouachita Baptist signee and the team’s showpiece, matched up with 2019 120-pound individual state champion Trevor Lewis and lost by a 7-3 decision.

“It was a bad feeling to start off,” Coomes said. “I wish it would have happened later on. But you never know what weight they’re going to start at on any given day.”

Gavin Ledbetter and Riley Putman earned Greenbrier’s lone pins against Hixson. Nick Payne and Dalton Watson both won by decision, and Jeff Bottoms rounded out the scoring with a forfeit victory.

“We were hoping (the pins) were going to spark something,” Coomes said. “But we had a couple of guys out (due to a violation of team rules). That hurt us.”

The Bobcats fared much better against Alcoa. Ledbetter, McCartney, Payne, Putman and Gabe Matherley each pinned their opponents. Bottoms, Watson and JT McGlinchey all won by forfeit.

Two hours later, Greenbrier’s quest for third place was ended by Nolensville. Bottoms, Matherley, Brandon Felts and Elliot Counasse picked up pins, while Ledbetter won by a major decision.

Greenbrier (31-5) now turns its attention to the Region IV Invitational at Creek Wood Feb. 14-15. Winners from that tournament will quality for the TSSAA Individual State Championships, set for Feb. 20-22 in Franklin.

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