FRANKLIN – The shoes weren’t a perfect fit this week.
But they were a perfect tribute to a teammate.
Blackman senior Tyler Garrison won his first state championship in his final high school wrestling match while donning his fallen teammate Daniel Winters’ neon yellow Adidas shoes.
Garrison, a Chattanooga commitment, defeated Cleveland’s Aaron Oliver 10-6 in Saturday night’s 160-pound Class 3A championship at the Williamson County Ag Expo Center.
Winters, a state qualifier at 120 pounds this year, was killed Feb. 8 during the early morning hours when a car driven by teammate Michael Brobeck crashed on Interstate 24 in La Vergne.
“I can’t be more happy to be wearing those shoes,” said Garrison, who ran to the holding area for wrestlers and coaches and gave Winters’ mother, Tara Harrison Vernon, a hug immediately after the match. “I know that Daniel was out on the mat with me.
“I am happy to be able to support his family this way. That means a lot.”
Garrison signed the shoes and wrote “couldn’t have done it without you” after the tournament before giving them back to Vernon.
“It means a lot for me to have her here,” said Garrison, who finished the season 55-0. “For her to be here after what happened to her family and all of us just means a lot.
“She loves the sport just like Daniel.”
Garrison’s state championship was a bright spot in a rough week for the Blackman wrestling program. Winters’ brother, Hunter, also had qualified for the state tournament along with Brobeck. Neither chose to participate.
“You can’t get lower than what we went through,” Blackman coach Ronnie Bray said. “You know, people did stuff to their hair this week (to pay tribute). But wearing those shoes was kind of a way for him to pay tribute. (Vernon) asked him to wear them, and he said he’d be honored. For him to get it done with those on his feet is just icing on the cake.”
Garrison was named the Class AAA outstanding wrestler after the tournament.
Kirby Simpson of Father Ryan hugs his father and Irish coach Pat Simpson during the state high school wrestling championships at Williamson County Expo Center in Franklin on Feb. 14, 2015.