Ooltewah's Goose Manning is making his third trip to the state wrestling tournament but still looking for his first medal.
He might be looking for his third if the TSSAA had been using a double-elimination format, as it is this year.
"His sophomore year he won four matches and had two losses but didn't place," Owls coach Wendell Weathers said. "Last year he won his first match to reach the round of 16 and was up 4-0 with a minute left, but he had this bad habit that left him vulnerable to a head throw. He had controlled the entire match, but in the last minute he got thrown to his back—a five-point move—and lost 5-4."
Because the wrestler who beat him, Kenwood's Miguel Robles, lost in the quarterfinals, Manning's tournament ended right there. It was part of what coaches commonly call the piggyback or follow-your-man system. A wrestler losing in the first two rounds depended on the one who beat him to reach the semifinals. If he did, the wrestlers he beat were in the consolation rounds. If he didn't, the wrestlers he beat were out of luck and the tournament.
Coaches long have pushed for the best wrestlers to get to the awards ceremonies, and they didn't feel the follow-your-man system allowed for that.
"Double-elimination is going to give you a more precise representation of the top six kids in each weight class," Bradley Central coach Steve Logsdon said. "How many times have you seen one of the favorites winning a match and then all of a sudden he gets pinned and then the guy that pinned him gets beat in the next round? He was out of the tournament. Now he's going to have to lose twice, and if he does then maybe he isn't one of the top six."
There is room for someone to have a bad match and still have a medal opportunity, and some of the first-round pressure on both coaches and competitors is alleviated.
"I'm interested to see how it turns out," Science Hill coach Jeff Price said. "It was different when we first saw this year's brackets. I didn't have that anxiety that comes from a do-or-die first-round match, one of those tough draws that required you to win because if you didn't the guy who beat you was going up against a Campbell Lewis [defending state champ from Soddy-Daisy] or a Marvin Lopez [defending state champ from Cleveland]."
Soddy-Daisy coach Steve Henry said everybody is going in with a little more peace of mind.
"You're trying to get to the semis at least, because you know you'll be in the medals for sure if you get that far," he said. "People aren't traveling from Memphis or Chattanooga or Science Hill and worrying if they are going to be one and out. Going double-elimination simply puts the state tournament in line with what everybody else has been doing with their tournaments for years."
Soddy-Daisy and Science Hill are expected to be in the thick of the team race along with Bradley and Cleveland.
"I think the setup favors a team like mine," Price said, "because some of my guys might not place but they'll win a few matches before they get put out. The accumulation of points could be nice.,
"Our drawback is that we don't have that mutant that's a shoo-in for the finals. We could have four or five medalists but then again we could have none. There are still some enigmatical draws, and some [wrestlers] will have an easier draw than others. However, if a guy has two chances and can't seal the deal, then it seems to me it is on him. He can no longer blame outrageous fortune."
Ward Gossett is an assistant sports editor and writer for the Times Free Press. Ward has a long history in Chattanooga journalism. He actually wrote a bylined story for the Chattanooga News-Free Press as a third-grader. He Began working part-time there in 1968 and was hired full time in 1970. Ward now covers high school athletics, primarily football, wrestling and baseball and University of Tennessee at Chattanooga wrestling. Over a 40-year career, he has covered ...