After earning a trip to the semifinal round following Friday’s action, freshman 182-pounder Joe Simpkins kept forging ahead by getting a pin of the No. 1 seed in the semifinals on Saturday morning before dropping a last-second, 15-13 decision to Abel Diaz of Sonoraville — a senior — in a nip-and-tuck championship match later that afternoon.
Simpkins was one of three Lions to advance out of the area tournament and into next week’s Class AAA West Sectionals at Ringgold behind his runner-up finish.
“It was a great day for him. He started the day off very well by taking a pin in the semifinals to get himself in the finals — and pinning a one seed to do it,” second-year Central coach Marcus Marenda said. “Three weeks ago, he was having a really hard time. I keep coming back to how hard the season was. And for our freshmen to come through this season, they’re starting to realize that they’ve gotten a lot better and that they’ve actually competed against great competition to be successful here.
“He wrestled a great tournament. I’d like to see him win that championship match, but he’s a freshman and that kid that he was wrestling is a senior. I think that’s probably the only difference between them and why we lose that match. But I’m very proud of what he’s accomplished. That bodes very well for him for next year. I’m looking forward to seeing him grow over the next few years.”
Along with Simpkins qualifying for sectionals, the two gray beards on the bunch — seniors Jarrett Thomas and Avery Ward — also got through, with Thomas finishing in third place at 152 pounds, while Ward took fourth at 120.
“Jarrett wrestled a really good tournament. He made one mistake this whole tournament, and that was pausing on a move on a sit out, which put him on his back. He did a great job fighting off his back for a good minute, but that minute of him fighting off his back was enough for him to lose, 7-6. I think it eats at him a little bit and hopefully that will be some good fuel for next week,” Marenda said.
The Central coach is also optimistic about Ward’s chances at sectionals, noting that he’s coming on at the right time of the year.
“Avery wrestled really well. He made a couple of mistakes early, but has been showing the same type of tenacity and heart that we’ve seen over the last few weeks from him,” Marenda said.
Rounding out Central’s placers were freshmen Timothy Duffey in fifth at 126 and Trace Musick in sixth at 170.
As the tournament host, the seventh-place Lions not only gave a promising performance on the mat, but Marenda was also pleased with how smoothly the tournament ran over the past two days.
“Our parents and support staff have done a phenomenal job of preparing the hospitality room, making sure our concessions were stocked. The kids have done a great job managing tables. A couple of hiccups here and there, but by and large, people have been very complimentary of how we’ve done such a good job. So we’ll definitely put our name in there to host it again next year,” Marenda said.