published Monday, February 6th, 2012

Gossett: TSSAA wrestling duals getting better

You can fuss about the travel or the fact that your team is wrestling on a dirt floor more often trod by cattle, bulls or horses, and that is quite often the case at the Williamson County Agricultural Expo, but the Tennessee state duals are getting better every year.

They added scoreboards at one end of the oval, giving fans the opportunity to follow each of the 10 mats and know what team and individual scores are. And before you say you couldn't see all of the boards, know that the state will have the boards elevated next year, perhaps hanging them from the concourse.

Resign yourself to paying $3.50 for a hamburger but if you get one ask them to reheat it or find yourself with stomach issues. The barbecue was maybe $3.75 and while it was dry they at least had sauce -- if one could find a container that wasn't stopped up. Best thing on the limited menu was a hotdog with chili, and the onions were potent enough to kill anything undesired.

Hats off to Brentwood coach Joe Blair, who has ramrodded the logistics of the event since its move from Clarksville.

• Steve Henry was kidding about his wife calling him "second-place Steve" because his Soddy-Daisy team had finished as a runner-up so many times in the duals and in the traditional tournament.

He obviously can get her to put a sock in it for at least a year after the Trojans rocked off their heels -- where Cleveland put them -- to pull out an exciting Class AAA duals title victory over the Blue Raiders.

Henry deserved it. There hasn't been a coach to work any harder in the sport and for the sport over the last three decades and he hasn't just worked to promote wrestling but has gone out of his way to help the less fortunate. He also has set a standard of behavior for coaches and wrestlers, and that has been of the utmost importance. Yet he also has been one of those so aware of his sport's need to be fan-friendly and he has promoted ideas that would keep parents and boosters from spending needless hours on back- and buns-breaking bleachers.

Grapevine says one of his assistants has his nose out of joint because of the mention Sunday of uniforms being left at the hotel Saturday afternoon. Wise up, friend. Part of being retentive is to know you're going to get hammered, even it was with kid gloves, when something goes awry. At least the guys got to wrestle in clean gear, right? Get Ashley to explain it.

• I would be remiss if I didn't write that McCallie coach Mike Newman said his team went into its Saturday consolation meets in Franklin with the idea of improving seeds for the upcoming traditional state tournament rather than protecting seeds. Mike got a half-dozen calls from team members Sunday after he was inadvertently misquoted.

• Have to give props to Central for winning its second straight Class A/AA state championship. It was a team effort from top to bottom.

Having said that, folks need to be aware that Pigeon Forge is closing the gap between the rest of the state and Chattanooga in A/AA and that Ravenwood, Independence and Heritage are among the up-and-comers in Class AAA.

• I don't know how much I care for alternating officials at the duals, and I don't really care if that's the way they do it at the national collegiate duals, which might or might not be the case. As a high school coach I'd like to know what I've got to work with for an entire match. Like anybody else officials have idiosyncrasies that set them apart. One might be more apt to call stalling or fleeing the mat. Another could be ultra picky on starts -- even this deep into the season -- and another might pull the trigger pretty quick on borderline takedowns.

To my way of thinking it would be good to know what to expect from start to finish and be able to figure out rather quickly what an official is calling and not calling and whether or not he's going to be influenced by the crowd or a leather-lunged assistant. And, yes, that happens, perhaps more to younger or less experienced refs than others.

One change I look for, perhaps as quickly as this weekend at the traditional regional tournaments, is a quicker whistle on stalling. There were too many occasions where wrestlers purposely shifted to the edge before trying a move and those same wrestlers would "turtle up" in the middle of the mat or hand-fight simply to avoid any type of meaningful contact.

• And what's with continuing to have an invitational tournament for Division II-A schools? I'm sure it helps the gate, especially when a local team like Franklin Road Academy is competing for a championship, but how many other sports have an invitational?

There was no girls' duals invitational, and that's a good thing. Nothing against girls' wrestling by any means, but that aspect of the sport has been around long enough to have its own tournament series.

And while we're talking about differences between sports, if you're going to regulate wrestling for weight descent then why not regulate football for overweight players who are more at risk of heat stroke than a wrestler is of eating ice to trim extra ounces.

Can you name any other TSSAA-sanctioned sport where an athlete is checked and weighed prior to every event? And while you're at it, how many football, baseball or basketball players are subjected to skin checks, told their hair or fingernails are too long or that they need to shave? Wrestling is definitely overregulated and state associations across the country need to come together and demand changes from within the National Wrestling Coaches' Association and its newest puppet, the national Federation of High Schools.

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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