|Father Ryan High School junior Trey Chalifoux celebrates winning the state championship in the 120-pound weight class at the Division II State Wrestling Championships held Feb. 13-14 at the Williamson Ag Expo Center. Photos by Andy Telli
Father Ryan High School, with seven individual champions, pulled away in the final round of the Division II State Wrestling Championships to claim the team championship, the 21st state title in the program’s history.
By taking the team championship, finishing 10.5 points ahead of the Baylor School of Chattanooga, the Irish reversed the outcome of the Duals State Championship two weeks before when they lost to Baylor in the finals 32-30.
“When you lose you don’t really have to tell them anything” to get ready for the individual state championships, said Father Ryan Coach Pat Simpson. “It’s easy to say we have to work hard.”
After the loss in the duals finals, “we knew we had work to do,” said senior Christopher Wesnofske. “We practiced harder this week than we had all year. We knew what we had to do and we did it.”
Wesnofske, who won the crown at 145 pounds, his second state championship, was one of nine Irish wrestlers to make it to the finals and one of seven to claim titles at the tournament, held Feb. 13-14 at the Williamson County Ag Expo Center.
Joining Wesnofske on the top of the medal stand were: sophomore Christian Simpson, 106 pounds; sophomore Raymond Eason, 113; junior Trey Chalifoux, 120; junior Kirby Simpson, 126, sophomore Eli King, 132; and junior Ben Stacey, 220.
It was the most state champions Father Ryan has had in one year. “We’ve had as many as five,” said Coach Simpson, who has guided the Irish to 17 of its team titles.
Other Irish wrestlers to place in the tournament were: senior Marcello Morrice, 152, and senior Nick Naughton, 160, second place; junior Daniel Wesley, 138, and junior Robert Garston, 182, third; sophomore Andrew Wesnofske, 170, and junior Jeremy Darvin, 285, fifth; and sophomore Will Shaw, 195, sixth.
On Friday, the first day of the tournament, “we felt like we had a chance to get nine in the finals,” Coach Simpson said. “We won every match we should have won.”
|Brett and Connie Wesnofske watch their son Christopher wrestling in the 145-pound finals at the Division II State Wrestling Tournament. Christopher Wesnofske won his second state championship, defeating Braxton Kinney of Battle Ground Academy.
Among the key first day victories were a 9-5 win by the coach’s son Kirby Simpson over returning state champion James Westbrooks of McCallie, and a come-from-behind, last second 7-6 win by Christopher Wesnofske over Caleb Powell of Baylor.
Wesnofske had lost to Powell in the finals of the duals tournament two weeks earlier.
“When the tournament starts you look at some matches if you don’t win there you don’t win the tournament,” Coach Simpson said, putting the Wesnofske-Powell matchup in that category. “We started out down 5-2 after the first period. It was great. He lost in the duals. To come back and beat the same kid who beat him was huge.”
“I lost to that kid twice this year,” Wesnofske said. “That was probably my favorite match of my whole life.”
After he fell behind 5-2, Wesnofske said, “I just had to keep working. If I kept working I knew I could come out on top.”
At the end of the first day of wrestling, Father Ryan built a 27.5 lead over Baylor. But the Red Raiders made a charge in the consolation rounds on Saturday morning and cut the lead to 1.5 points coming into the finals.
Christian Simpson’s pin of Thomas Bellett in the first match of the championship finals ignited a run of Irish victories. Father Ryan wrestlers won championships in the first five weight classes, including Eason, Chalifoux, Kirby Simpson and Eli King, who took his second straight state title.
Watching his son take the state championship, something Coach Simpson fell just short of in his own wrestling career at Ryan, was “unbelievable,” Coach Simpson said. “I got second. … I know what second feels like.”
Kirby Simpson had finished as state runner-up last year. After winning the title this year with an 11-0 major decision over Mason Reiniche of Baylor, the younger Simpson leapt into his father’s arms. The coach carried his son off the mat as the two shared a few tears.
“Probably it was harder for him, thinking he had to win a state title for me,” Coach Simpson said. “We’ve been going at it since he was 4 years old. I’m just happy for him now.
“We can get to baseball now,” said a smiling coach. Kirby Simpson is a returning starting outfielder for the Ryan baseball team.
By the time Wesnofske faced Braxton Kinney of Battle Ground Academy, who is a parishioner at Holy Family Church in Brentwood, in the finals of the 145-pound weight class, the Irish had already clinched the team championship. Wesnofske took the title with a 6-0 victory.
“I knew I had the ability to win, I just had to keep my mental toughness and do what I know I had to do,” Wesnofske said of capturing his second state championship.
Stacey capped off Ryan’s night by claiming the state championship at 220 pounds with a 4-2 win in overtime over defending state champion D’On Coofer of Montgomery Bell Academy.
“Everybody contributed” to the championship, Coach Simpson said. “I’ve got great assistants, that’s half the battle.” The Nashville Catholic Wrestling feeder program does a great job, he added. “It all goes into winning a state championship.”
Other Catholic wrestlers from the area also saw success at the state tournament. Pope John Paul II High School senior Jacob Telli, the only Knight to qualify for the state tournament, placed fifth at the 152-pound weight class.
Holy Family parishioner Braxton Kinney of BGA placed second at 145 pounds.
Montgomery Bell Academy, which finished fourth in the team standings, had several Catholic wrestlers place, including: freshman Thomas Bellet, second at 106 pounds, and his brother senior Sam Bellet, fifth at 138 pounds, both parishioners at The Church of the Assumption; senior Ben Kelly, fourth at 195 pounds; and sophomore John Michael Glover, sixth at 126 pounds, a parishioner at St. Rose of Lima Church in Murfreesboro.