The McCallie Invitational wrestling tournament, held at the McCallie School in Chattanooga, TN, has long been THE southeastern test before the Christmas break for wrestling fans. With 33 teams and the absolute best high school wrestlers in the area, winning at the McCallie Invitational is a statement of big goals and a badge of honor to be worn into the new year. But winning here is no Christmas gift. This is a title that must be earned.
The field is deep with talent and any place on the podium is a symbol of courage. The northwest corner of Georgia is filled with wrestling talent many local wrestlers were on hand to battle for on of these coveted spots on the award podium.
In Chattooga County, the Trion Bulldogs sent 14 wrestlers but were without senior stand out, Logan Blevins, who was playing in an all-star football game. It was left to teammate and fellow senior, Cole Luallen (145), to lead the pack. Luallen has been undefeated and unstoppable on the mat this season and was the #1 seed going into McCallie. Fortune wasn’t kind to Luallen this time as a single point kept him from the top of the rankings. A 5-6 loss in the finals was a bitter pill for the Trion wrestler who has watched three state titles slip away in previous years at the State match. The second-place finish was still the leader for the Bulldog wrestlers as Luallen led all scorers with 24 points and was the lone dog to place at McCallie as Trion finished 30th with 45 points. Bolen Stricklin (120) went 2-2 with one Major, while Versain Mendez (126) went 1-2 with a thrilling overtime win 11-9. Lincoln Maddux (138) picked up 8 team points, going 2-2 with a pin.
Across the county at Chattooga High School, the Indians sent eight wrestlers from a squad led by sophomore sensations, Griffin Jarrett (113), who finished runner up at McCallie last year, Alex Mears (195), and Luis Medina (285). All three of the sophomores earned top 4 seeds going into the event but the loaded brackets were an uphill battle right from the first match. Mears won a thriller 21-20 in the highest scoring match of the day but was left heavily depleted and found himself on the consolation side of the bracket before the end of Friday night. Mears lost a 6-point match to the eventual tournament champion and didn’t have the steam to make it past the conso quarterfinals where he fell to the eventual 6th place finisher. Mears went 3-2 with two pins and scored 10 team points for the tribe.
Griffin Jarrett found himself in the semi-finals against North Hall’s Jeremy Holloway (2nd place) after starting the day 3-0 with two pins and a Major. A hard-fought loss put Griffin in the consolation bracket for the first time this season where he battled back to the Conso-Finals, eventually losing by 4 to McCallie’s own, Emory Taylor. Jarrett was 4-2 and picked up 20 team points with his 4th place finish.
Luis Medina also finished 4th and scored a team-high 21 points by going 3-2 with three pins. Medina has progressed rapidly for the Indians after a 2nd-string freshman season. The McCallie experience has been valuable for all the Indians as they finished 19th with 71 points. Senior Austin Kiser (152) went 2-2 with two pins and picked up 10 points, freshman Ty Veatch went 1-2 with a pin and scored 6 team points, while Jacoby Cottrell (182) scored 4 team points, going 1-2 with a pin.
* Chattooga was the highest placing 2A School, and Trion was the only Single A school at the tournament
Photos by: Keith Deal