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Top 10 of 2021: No. 4 - Gillentine medals in state tourney

Welcome to the Warren County Sports Authority Top 10 of 2021. Each day until Dec. 31, we will be releasing a new story counting down the top 10 sports stories in Warren County this year. Be sure to check back everyday to see the biggest headlines from this year!

No. 4 Gillentine brings home medal at state

This is our original story from Feb. 24 when Gillentine placed sixth in the TSSAA state tournament

Ike Gillentine cemented his legacy as one of the best wrestlers in Warren County history Friday. The senior concluded an excellent career with a sixth-place finish and a medal in the TSSAA state tournament.

Gillentine was able to top three competitors throughout the day, including a returning medalist from 2020, to claim an elusive spot on the state podium. Gillentine had previously qualified for the state tournament twice, but this was the first time he came back home with a medal around his neck.

“It was really cool to achieve a goal I’ve dreamed about since I was a freshman,” said Gillentine, who had over 100 career victories on the mat as a Pioneer.

Everything felt different for Gillentine the third time around. For starters, he was wrestling in a new class and at a new place. After years of wrestling in the 182-pound class, Gillentine moved up to 195 pounds as a senior. It was a good move that produced nearly 30 wins this season.

The state tournament was also a lot different this year. The event was held in Chattanooga after years of taking place in Williamson County. The field was also significantly smaller, with each region only allowed to qualify two wrestlers than the traditional four.

The quantity of wrestlers was lower in the field – just 16 – but the quality was high. And still, Gillentine was one of the few getting their hands raised by Friday night.

“This season has been one of the toughest on wrestlers. We had a long layoff and a lot of uncertainty – there were times when people wondered if we would even get on the mat,” said coach Matt Turner. “Ike stayed ready. He made it to the highest level three straight years and, especially in this season, it took a ton of focus. For the last month, every match was basically an elimination match.

“Ike has had a tremendous career. I’m really proud of him.”

The state tournament has customarily been a two- or three-day event, but with every bracket trimmed down by 50 percent, the whole class could finish in one day. Gillentine woke up knowing it was his final day on the mat as a Pioneer and he was determined to make it count.

He started the day in dominant fashion, taking down Sevier County senior Omar Fabian in the second round. Gillentine was able to use his size and speed to get a pin, moving him into a matchup with the tournament’s top seed.

Jason Brumlow, a two-time returning state medalist, was across the mat when Gillentine suited up for the second time. Not intimidated, Gillentine went the distance against Brumlow. Ultimately, he fell short on points, falling 5-1.

While the thoughts of a championship were dashed, Gillentine knew there was still a path to the podium through the consolation bracket. He just needed back-to-back wins.

He got the first one by taking out Garrett Crowder from Dobyns Bennett in quick fashion. Gillentine pinned the freshman early in the second round, setting himself up for a medal matchup against Walker Valley’s Kallum Lowe.

Lowe, who finished fourth in 2020, was knocked into the consolation bracket by eventual champion Dominic Love in his first match, but followed with two big wins. Many believed Lowe would keep rolling against Gillentine, but the Pioneer had different plans.

Gillentine and Lowe went into the third round tied 2-2, but Lowe got the advantage by gaining control and picking up three quick points. Gillentine trailed 5-2 with just a minute to go, but was able to escape and get to his feet to score on point.

With his coaches and family shouting encouragement, Gillentine wouldn’t relent. After having two shoots stopped, including one nearly allowing Lowe to gain the upper hand, Gillentine just used brute strength.

Lowe had Gillentine’s head pushed low, but the Pioneer was able to use his legs to get a good push and knock his opponent to his back. Gillentine gained the top position, even coming close to a pin position against Lowe. Instead, he settled for a dominating spot that resulted in two points.

Coupled with the takedown, Gillentine had surged out in front by two points with just seconds to go.

Lowe tried to break free from Gillentine’s grasp and go for a potential tying reversal late, but Gillentine wouldn’t let go. He dove on top of Lowe, popping him back to the mat just as time expired.

“To win that match, I had to tell myself I had no other option because I knew I wasn’t going home without a medal. It ended up coming down to the final 25 seconds and we made it happen,” said Gillentine.

He had a chance to push as high as third on the podium, but Gillentine finished the day with a loss to Siegel’s Connor Milhorn, who also defeated him in the region final, before falling to Brumlow again in the fifth-place match.

At the end though, nothing else mattered when the medals were handed out. Gillentine was left standing – the ultimate test of strength and an ultimate prize for years of hard work.


Make sure to check back Tuesday, Dec. 28 to see the No. 4 story on the WCSA Top 10 Sports List of 2021:

No. 5 – Lauren Slatton finishes sixth at state, wins district:

No. 6 – Pioneers win district regular season baseball title:

No. 7 – COVID shuts down Pioneer football, causing the first game cancellations in school history:

No. 8 – Covenant’s year of championships:

No. 9 – Boyd’s special year:

No. 10 – WC Sports Hall of Fame adds 13 members:

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