By Rick Sheek
Happy Valley’s girls left the state wrestling tournament last week with no doubt a favorable impression.
The Lady Warriors placed third as a team, behind powerhouses Science Hill and Clarksville Northeast.
Kiara Coffey, a sophomore, captured the 155-pound championship. She won three matches en route to the title, two on pins.
Amanda Hennessee, a freshman at 125, recorded a pair of victories before losing in the finals.
“That should make it grow,” Happy Valley coach Randy Wood said on Tuesday. “It puts fuel on the fire.”
Elizabethton’s Clarissa Ceffalo, a junior at 185, claimed her second straight state championship by registering a pin and prevailing by major decision.
“Not to take anything away from what Clarissa accomplished, but the reason she is a state champion is because she wrestled the boys every day,” Elizabethton coach Curt Malyar said. “The girls aren’t at such a high competitive level.”
While the Cyclones took five boys and one girl to Franklin, five Lady Warriors hit the mat at Williamson County Agricultural Exposition Arena.
“I think everybody wants to be a champion,” Wood said. “You get a championship in the program and everybody wants to be part of it, is the way I see it.”
On the boys’ side, Elizabethton’s Dalton Callahan had the most success. The junior (30-11) won two matches in the consolation bracket at 145.
“We didn’t have guys out-classed,” Malyar said. “It’s a different level of competition, we don’t get through the year. If our guys had more experience competing at that level, we would have more wins down there. That’s the bottom line.”
Junior Tank Williams (26-11) managed a win in the consolation round. Two-and-out were seniors Nick Malyar (34-5) at 138 and Brandon Taylor (25-12) at 152, and junior Logan Buck (31-10) at 160.
The coach stresses his bunch earned a certain amount of respect.
“Absolutely, when you have guys that competed as our guys did,” Malyar said. “Our guys weren’t getting pinned. They were wrestling up to a level much higher than expected at a school our size. I have no complaint at all about how our guys wrestled.”
Malyar, who operates a karate school in Johnson City, has coached his last prep match with the departure of his son from the program. He believes he fulfilled his obligation to athletic director Mike Wilson.
“Three years ago I promised Coach Wilson to leave the program in better shape than when I found it,” Malyar said. “Next year with Clarissa returning and three state qualifiers, I don’t know how a coach could leave the program in much better shape than that. In fact, most coaches wouldn’t want to leave.”
Shane Callahan, whose son obviously has a year of wrestling left, was Malyar’s assistant.
“My understanding is they will attempt to find a good head wrestling coach,” Malyar said. “I wish them luck. It’s not easy to find a high school wrestling coach to take the program to where you want it to be.”
Malyar would like to see more commitment from the school and community to Elizabethton wrestling. He only has to look a few miles down the road to admire the success of Science Hill.
“When we go to the state, we’re competing against the best teams in the state with million-dollar programs,” Malyar said. “I’m a pretty high-level coach. I did enjoy it.”
The TSSAA will possibly split up the public schools next season, putting the large and small schools in separate divisions for the first time. The private institutions already have their own classification.
“In actuality it will be easier to qualify guys for the state,” Malyar said. “Part of it is financial, and I can see the benefit of it for the kids. But at some time you’ve got to suck it up and take you lumps so to speak. Kids at 2A schools have been left at big disadvantage.”
The coach viewed where the program is headed.
“Nick is really the guy who brought the team up to level where it is,” Malyar said. “Next year it is up to Dalton and Logan to carry the torch, and it remains to be seen if they can carry it in the same way — because Nick and Brandon are very strong competitors.”
Happy Valley returns its other three state qualifiers also in sophomores Kaitlin Campbell at 105 and Valerie Bradshaw at 112 and freshman Lexi Oliver at 148.
“Right now if we can fill the other weight classes,” Wood said, “we can be as competitive as Science Hill or anybody else.”