Wearing the bulls-eye… EHS wrestling has the attention of state entering the 2019 campaign

Published 12:46 am Thursday, November 14, 2019

BY IVAN SANDERS
STAR SPORTS EDITOR
ivan.sanders@elizabethton.com
When one sees Eddie Morrell or Travis Pennell – they see Elizabethton Cyclone wrestling and there’s a good reason for that.
With drive and passion for the sport, the two coaches are turning the Elizabethton High School wrestling program into a perennial power that has eyes throughout the state starting to stand and take notice of something transpiring on the mats as the Cyclone program is entering a season that could provide an all-time record.
“We have a really strong team returning,” Pennell said recently. “The coach’s poll preseason has actually got us fourth in the state right now. We have a lot to work with and a lot of strong kids returning.
“We expect big numbers and big results this season.”
According to Morrell the ranking actually helps the program in a couple of different ways.
“That ranking does a couple of things for us. When PinTn.com ranks teams, it’s based on your returning state placers and the points that you gathered so it puts a target on our back for a few different spots but what it also does is it makes people wonder what we are going to do to fill in the spaces,” Morrell stated.
“This year more than any other year we are going to do to fill in the spaces that people aren’t going to see what’s coming. We have athletes that we did not count on coming out this year.
“We have athletes that are going to make a big difference in our team. I think and hope that we are looking at a record season.”
Getting a program to a level that the Cyclones have been working diligently to obtain doesn’t just come by saying we are going to be a great team. Morrell and Pennell have been preaching a message that has finally fallen on the ears of those athletes who want to achieve greater levels in their grappling careers.
“The work ethic that we have established in the wrestling room here at Elizabethton, some of the guys here hated us – they really did because we were putting them through grinder after grinder, technique after technique and at the end of the day they were like this is so hard,” Pennell said.
“But, the work that those kids have put into that room has resulted in medals and we are not going to rest on our laurels because that work is in their blood now. It’s a total shift in the culture here at Elizabethton and that work ethic is going to drive results.”
Morrell said that the equation is not always an easy one to solve, but by identifying those who are looking for a sport that they can excel in is very important to the wrestling program at the school.
“Not every kid is a football player or a basketball player, they are great sports – but this just offers another opportunity by identifying those kids and bringing them up and nurturing them into the program that we can bring new blood in and not rest on our laurels,” Morrell added.
“We sum it up by one simple sentence – don’t be disappointed with the results you didn’t get with the work you didn’t do. The ones that want to do the work will bring home the medals.
“We have proved it time and time again.”
Wrestling is much like football in the fact that to have a solid program, one cannot just work a short season to be totally prepared to be successful on the mat. It takes a deeper commitment – a sacrifice if you will to be the very best wrestler one can be.
“We start by the simple fact that there is no offseason,” stated Morrell. “Just like football, if we are not on the mat we are in the weight room looking for new blood to come in and adopt our work ethic. We take our dead period off and go right back to work.
“What we find is that kids that buy into that mentality, they rise to it physically. We can’t stand on our laurels from year to year.”
There are plenty of guys returning this wrestling season that are excellent examples of what Morrell and Pennell have been speaking of.
“Looking for leaders, we have a couple of seniors that are going to be stepping up,” Pennell stated. “Hunter Morrell returns as a second-place medalist in the state last year and will be helping us out a whole lot.
“Another senior helping us lead will be Joseph Kechter who is another returning medalist from the state last year. We also have some other big wrestlers with some big credentials as well.
“Deuce Morton is coming back this season as a state champion from last year,” Pennell continued. “Talking about having a bulls-eye, he will be one of those guys that the state medal has put a bulls-eye on his back. He’s putting in the work to make sure he can defend that.”
When asked if the coaches set goals throughout the season, Pennell added, “There are always other teams that we benchmark ourselves against.
“In our┬áregion, there is Science Hill, Greeneville, and Dobyns Bennett so being able to compete and beat and really challenge and dominate some of those teams is going to be a benchmark for us this year.”
Morrell and Pennell never stop continuing to work to build the sport of wrestling to make sure that the Cyclones will be a feared program for years to come.
They actually are starting to see great results at the middle school level.
“Some of the other things that we have done is our middle school program is almost 20 kids and that is triple the size of what it was last year,” Morrell said. “And we also have started a youth program, so getting these kids involved early and finding something they excel at is very important.”
The Cyclones will be hitting the mat Saturday in the Topper Challenge at Science Hill High School beginning at 8 am.

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