McKeefery region champ again; HVA, BHS qualify 8 each

4 FHS state qualifiers, 8 Bearden qualifiers

KNOXVILLE — Times have been tough for the Farragut High School wrestling team this season, but second-year head coach Bobby Hampshire couldn’t help but be a bit excited after his Admirals posted a stellar showing at the Region 2-AAA Wrestling Tournament.

The Admirals left Bearden High School with a region champion and had three other athletes qualify for this week’s Class AAA State Tournament in Frank-lin.

“Today was a good day for us,” Hampshire said. “It’s been a tough year and these kids have battled adversity all season and these kids have worked hard. And today we had a good day.”

Tyler McKeefery, Farragut’s sophomore 106-pound grappler, successfully defended his 2016 region championship when he defeated Halls High’s Christian Lay 4-0 in the title match.

McKeefery (36-3 in 2016-17) will make a second consecutive trip to the midstate and he’s looking for a longer stay on the state’s grand wrestling stage.

“Last year, I made it to the second day,” said McKeefery, who began competing as an AAU wrestler. “I went down there thinking that it was going to be like AAU.

“When I got there, I found out it was different and I found out that it was a lot tougher than that. This year, I know what to expect and I’m going down there and I’m hoping to place.”

Joining McKeefery in Franklin will be fellow Admirals Caysen Bar-nett, a senior (21-5 record, 126 pou-nd class) making his second state trip; Devin Martin (22-6 at 132) and Cabrin Viox (20-13 at 113).

“My first year wrestling was [Hampshire’s] first year here,” Barnett said. “I used to play baseball when I was at Bearden before we moved and changed houses. He recruited me to wrestle and he’s really dedicated himself to teaching us, coaching us and showing us how to wrestle.”

Bearden High School had eight state qualifiers, including a pair of region champions in junior Kyle Burns (126) and freshman Kaleb Sobek (145).

Other BHS state qualifiers were Andrew Wilkens, third in the 220-pound class; Parker Gilstrap (fourth, 195); Max Grayson (second, 170); Samuel Hensley (third, 160); Isaiah Hardiman (fourth, 152) and Caleb Wilkens (fourth, 182).

Burns captured his title in dramatic fashion when he claimed a 2-0 victory over Tolliver Justice of Halls. “I was just patient and wrestled my match,” said Burns, who recorded the win when he scored a late takedown.

“I’m really happy for Kaleb. ... He responded [to challenges] and it showed today.” Bearden head coach Donnie Floyd said.