Murfreesboro, TN - The Blackman Middle School program won it's 3rd consecutive CTWC Conference Championship last season, becoming the only program in the CTWC's rich 9-year history to do so. Previously, only two teams had ever positioned themselves to compete for a threepeat - Oakland Middle School (2018 & 2019) and Blackman Middle School (2020 & 2021) - but now BMS is the only team to accomplish the trifecta, putting them in the rare position to win a 4th consecutive championship, which would be their 6th overall.
"We don't really think about that," says BMS Assistant Coach Troy Steffy. "We control what we can control. The wins and championships are biproducts of good wrestling. We focus more on the process than we do on the outcome."
Blackman won it's 1st CTWC championship in 2015, then captured its 2nd in 2017 before breaking OMS' back-to-back run in 2020 and winning three in a row.
"We know what we've managed to do is pretty special," BMS Head Coach Dalton Cantrell says. "But we haven't ever sat down and made winning a team championship a priority. It's always been positioning the wrestlers to finish as best as they can so they meet their individual goals. If we do that, they the rest falls in place. It's a lot more difficult to have fifteen wrestlers positioned to meet their goals than it is to finish 1st overall. We haven't finished a season yet with every wrestler on their team checking off that end-season goal, whatever it might be for them individually, and that is our goal."
Accomplishing that goal becomes increasingly more difficult for Cantrell and his staff. Since the first championship of this run in 2020, 10 new teams have joined the CTWC footprint, making the conference the largest Middle School conference in the State, stretching from as far north as the Hendersonville area with Beech and Station Camp, as far south as Spring Hill with Battle Creek Middle School, an as far east as Overton Co and Whitwell.
"The growth the conference has had is undeniable," CTWC President Mike Workman says. "We are at 4 districts now with 22 teams and we've been petitioned by schools interested in coming in that would add even more competition. It's a good sign for Middle School wrestling growth in the state."
The growth has been most notable in Murfreesboro. Since the conference's inception in 2014, Stewarts Creek MS and Oakland MS have been the only officially school-sanctioned teams, with Blackman and Siegel existing as club teams. Last summer, Blackman MS added wrestling as an official team with Siegel, Smyrna, and Rocky Fork following suit. Central Magnet soon added a club team that competes as well. The previous season saw Christiana MS join the conference, which drives the number of Rutherford County MS teams with wrestling opportunities for their students up to eight.
"Last season we actually had a Rutherford County Championship tournament," says Steffy. "Siegel hosted it and there were over 150 kids. We felt that it was the next logical step to continue to grow the sport here at home. We are looking to add a Girl's division in that tournament in the very near future as well."
With the explosion of teams and wrestlers joining the sport, winning a 4th consecutive CTWC Championship becomes more of a statistical longshot. The increased number of participants and teams creates tougher competition which makes winning an individual championship increasingly more difficult.
"Last season we put five wrestlers in the finals, but only two won championships," says Cantrell. "Two seasons ago it was seven in the finals with four champions. In 2020 it was six in the finals with five champions. The field is getting much tougher as the conference continues to expand. It's a great problem to have, but we like the team we have coming back and have high expectations for them individually. So long as we meet those expectations individually, then we will continue to succeed."
The CTWC competition season traditionally begins in the third week of October with the Conference Championship being held annually at Warren Co HS on the first weekend of December.