FRANKLIN, Tenn. — Cleveland made it look easy, Soddy-Daisy not so much, but the two Chattanooga-area wrestling powers still advanced to today's Class AAA state duals semifinals.
Cleveland won 26 of 28 bouts in its first two matches to reach the semifinals while Soddy-Daisy, battered some physically but more emotionally bruised, struggled to get there.
While Cleveland was flattening Cordova and Clarksville by a combined 134-12, Soddy-Daisy manhandled Science Hill 51-16 and then dispatched Maryville by 31-30 after forfeiting the final match. The Trojans were without three starters who were dismissed from the team on the eve of the competition.
In an unlikely scenario, Cleveland and Soddy-Daisy are the last two of six Chattanooga-area teams remaining in the championship round. Cleveland wrestles upstart Heritage, which it beat earlier this season, while Soddy-Daisy tangles with unbeaten but relatively untested Wilson Central.
In Division II, Baylor lost to Christian Brothers (39-24) and McCallie to Father Ryan (33-17), setting up a repeat of last year's championship match. McCallie won its quarterfinal bout over St. Benedict to gain the semifinals while Baylor was accorded a first-round bye when MUS coaches informed the TSSAA their team was too banged up and too sick to wrestle.
Hixson and East Ridge, meanwhile, fell in Class A/AA to emerging Chattanooga destroyer Greeneville. The Greene Devils dispatched Hixson 39-31 and then got a pin with 1.5 seconds remaining in the final match to beat East Ridge 44-36. It was a heartbreaking loss because the East Ridge wrester who was pinned entered the final 30 seconds with a bonus-point major decision that would have given the Pioneers a 40-39 victory.
"It is like a kick in the groin," Pioneers coach Brad Laxton said of the loss. "We have a kid on his back and don't get [the call]. They put one of us on our backs and they get it."
In a post-match celebration, Greeneville had a team point deducted because a wrestler was in front of the bench with his straps down, of which Laxton was unaware although it would not have altered the outcome of the meet.
"We just didn't do enough to win and overcoming two forfeits is hard enough, but you have to give a whole lot of credit to Greeneville," he said.
The Greene Devils will line up against pre-tournament favorite Pigeon Forge for the A/AA title.
It's possible that Hixson could meet East Ridge and Baylor could face McCallie this afternoon in consolation finals for third place.
Cleveland's Friday showing was the talk as fans filed out.
"Our kids expect to do that well," coach Jake Yost said of the 73-0 and 61-12 shellackings. "We want them competing to the best of their abilities, and if that's dominating then it's because of the mindset they hear every day in practice. We want them to compete at the highest level every time out."
Soddy-Daisy struggled more than it might have otherwise.
"I'm extremely pleased. The focus needs to be on the guys that are here," Trojans coach Jim Higgins said. "They have worked all season long to get here and they banded together when the odds were stacked against them. They represented themselves and the school quite well."
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 ...