Farragut’s McKeefery, CAK’s Chinique champs in annual Halls Invitational

KNOXVILLE --- Five area high school wrestlers earned medals at one of the Volunteer State’s prestigious tournaments Saturday.

And two of those athletes left North Knox County with championships at the Halls Invitational Jan. 13, which is traditionally contested during the Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Holiday weekend.

Tyler McKeefery, Farragut High School junior, claimed the championship in the 113-pound weight class. Eli Chinique, Christian Academy of Knoxville senior, claimed the title in the 285-pound division.

Admirals freshman Zach Garabrandt finished third in the 126-pound weight class.

The Warriors got a runner-up finish from freshman Gavin Cagle in the 152-pound bracket. CAK’s Brendan Jarvis [132 pounds] came in fourth.

McKeefery, one of the area’s top lightweight wrestlers, defeated Chattanooga McCallie’s Emory Taylor by injury default in the title match. Taylor, 2017 Division II state champion and the state’s top-ranked 113-pounder in Division II this season, retired with 27 seconds left in the third period.

McKeefery had an 8-3 lead when the Blue Tornado coaching staff stopped the bout.

“This was a big win. I came in really wanting to win this tournament,” said McKeefery, who recently went up a weight class after spending both his freshman and sophomore campaigns as a 106-pounder and making the Class AAA State Tournament in each of those seasons. “It was a tough [championship], but I thought I could beat him because I had beaten him before.

“This was good for me because I haven’t seen any really tough competition in this region,” he added.

“We’re starting to get over some of our injuries and these kids have really come a long way,” Farragut head coach Bobby Hampshire said. “They’ve worked really hard.

“This year, our team is a little small but these guys have been very competitive,” he added. “Tyler did great. That kid [Taylor] was a state champ last year. Zach has really come a long way. For a freshman, he’s been awesome.”

Chinique won the heavyweight title by fall when he pinned Ooltewah’s Kevin Chang with two seconds remaining in the match.

“I had to wrestle some good competition,” said Chinique, who was the top-seeded heavyweight competing at Halls. “Even though some of those guys were younger, they really gave me a run for my money.”

“This tournament also helped me in my preparation for the regionals,” he added.

In the 152-pound title match, Cagle faced Grace Christian Academy senior Eric Beecham in an extremely tough match with both athletes refusing to yield.

The match appeared to be heading to overtime in a 6-6 deadlock. But after a conference between the two referees, Beecham was declared the winner after he was awarded a point for an escape. He won 7-6.

Hawkins said that his freshman learned a valuable lesson from the heartbreaking loss.

“That was a senior wrestling a freshman. It was great to see Gavin make it to the finals,” Hawkins said. “Gavin learned a lesson. He learned that you can’t leave things in the hands of the officials and you can’t leave things in the hands of your opponents.

“He learned that you have to control the match. He let his opponent control the match.