published Sunday, February 5th, 2012

Central and Trojans take state titles

FRANKLIN, Tenn. -- Central broke out new gear and used it to win a state championship. Soddy-Daisy was just glad to have gear in order to wrestle for its state title.

After an assistant coach forgot the uniforms -- and they were pointing fingers at each other in good-hearted fashion after the fact Saturday afternoon -- no one forgot anything Saturday night and the Trojans wrestled well enough to claim their first state duals title since they beat Bradley Central in 2007.

This time the victim was from the same zip code but was Cleveland -- by 29-22 -- rather than the Bears.

"It was a great match. I'm exhausted," Soddy-Daisy coach Steve Henry said. "I'm also very proud of Cleveland. The first time [we met this season], we demolished them; we had a lot of pins. This time they eliminated that. Their kids are coached up so well they knew which matches and when they could shave some [team] points and keep it close."

Central coaches had the new outfits -- white singlets with a maroon "C" along with new white long-sleeved warm-up T-shirts and white shorts -- but the Pounders were told those weren't coming out of the box unless they got to the state final. Now they may become special-occasion singlets to be broken out only for a championship event.

The Pounders salted away their second state title at the expense of near-constant duals visitor Pigeon Forge, 33-27.

"I was really happy with the team effort," said Central coach Marquis Dotson, whose team won 27 of 28 matches over two duals to reach the championship. "We lost one early that I thought we should've have won and then we came back and picked one up at 132 by a kid [Jovarrus Stegal] who was out there basically wrestling on one good ankle. We knew [Pigeon Forge] was going to come in and might."

There were emotional swings, Pigeon Forge getting a couple of pins and Central putting together wins in bunches.

"I was just hoping our guys would keep their act together. I wasn't worried but I had to reiterate to them to stay ready and stay in the game," Dotson said.

The Purple Pounders rallied from a tie at 27 to win it on a pin by freshman 113-pounder Bryson Lemons.

Soddy-Daisy also used a first-year starter and newcomer to secure its victory.

Cleveland had whittled the Trojans' lead, which got as big as 17 points, to one at 23-22 heading into the final match between the Blue Raiders' Ezra Taylor and Josh Deckelman.

"I was over there trying to keep him calm," Henry said. "I guess he didn't need it.

Deckelman, who transferred to Soddy-Daisy from Tullahoma, hit a five-point move seconds into the match and then iced the victory by pinning Taylor in 1:40.

"It was a big win, sure, but without everybody else doing their job he really doesn't get the chance to be the hero. They gave him the opportunity," Henry said.

Soddy-Daisy ended the dual meet season with a 25-2 record while Cleveland is 17-6. Central is 20-5 headed into the traditional tournaments that begin next week. The Region 3 tournament will be at Bradley Central and the Region 4 tournament at Soddy-Daisy (the high school, rather than the wrestling arena).

about Ward Gossett...

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 ...

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