published Friday, February 17th, 2012

Trojans and Raiders in tight fight

FRANKLIN, Tenn. -- The anticipated race is on.

After the rounds of 32 and 16 in the championship bracket and two rounds of consolations, Region 3 winner and defending champion Cleveland and Region 4 champion Soddy-Daisy were locked in what appeared to be a two-team race for the Tennessee traditional state wrestling championship.

The tournament resumes with quarterfinals at 11 EST this morning, and the Division II tournament will begin at the same time with its round of 16.

Soddy-Daisy's Trojans had a one-point lead -- 75.5 to 74.5 -- over the Blue Raiders. Science Hill was third with 50 points, and Bradley Central was tied with Pigeon Forge for fourth with 49.

"That's not a bad day," Trojans coach Steve Henry said. "I would like to have more, but I also have to be realistic."

Both teams have eight wrestlers in this morning's quarterfinals, but there aren't yet any head-to-head matchups.

Notre Dame was 13th with 32 points. Central, the A/AA duals champion, was 16th with 30.5. Walker Valley was tied for 22nd with 23.5, and Hixson was 25th with 22.

Coaches for both contenders were surprised to know that they had opened a lead of 20-plus points on the rest of the field.

"I'm not sure it's a two-team race," Cleveland coach Eric Phillips said before the final scores for the day were posted. "There are a lot of good teams out there. If it is a two-team race then, yes, I'd be surprised. I'm also not surprised that if it is a two-team race that it's Soddy-Daisy and us."

While Soddy-Daisy has lost two wrestlers and has 11 remaining in the tournament, all 12 of Cleveland's are alive.

"We lost four matches on the day and two of those were to former state champions," Phillips said. "The kids were pinning, getting major decisions and really just simply battling."

Cleveland had a great second-day run on the way to its 2011 state title, but Phillips didn't know if this group would respond as did last year's Raiders.

"Who knows? I do think, though, that they will bring that type of intensity," he said.

Soddy-Daisy won its share of pins, technical falls and major decisions, too.

"We got points from 12 of the 13 we brought, which is what we wanted to do, and in the second round everybody got bonus points," Henry said.

Bradley Central, which has been a state tournament factor for years, was hanging around hoping one of the front-runners would stumble.

"Based on the draws, it's about what I expected," Bears coach Ben Smith said. "We had one or two losses against returning medalists, and [Dakota] Bromley lost a tough one and he has a long path [back through the consolations], but it's very possible."

Bradley, which brought 10, has five in the quarterfinals and four others still alive.

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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