Here's a new weekly web posting on all things wrestling — from UTC's Mocs to the high school happenings. Plans are to have it posted each Wednesday morning. If you have a tip, a feature idea or news to share, please feel free to contact me at the email address listed below.
First off, the Southern Scuffle:
Looking back, it's hard to believe that the New Year's 2013 tournament could be better than UTC's first time to host the event last year. It was. The competition was there both times, but Oklahoma State joining Penn State, Cornell and Minnesota made for some very entertaining matchups -- not just the finals but throughout the tournament.
Does it surprise anyone that the cleaning crews barely had cleared McKenzie Arena before Mocs coach Heath Eslinger was texting and typing emails thanking coaches for coming and inviting them back for the 2013-14 event?
The tournament, by the way, will again be on Jan. 1-2, and while the coach was noncommittal, we feel certain most of the big-boy programs will be back.
I think I can say with certainty also that the field will be closer to 30 than 20 next year.
When asked how this year's event could have been better, Eslinger replied, "We could have sold [McKenzie] out."
There are thoughts of having a clinic at some point during the two-day event, but the marketing side of this particular coach is coming to the top and he might even wind up with fan giveaway opportunities for $50 gift certificates to local restaurants during the tournament. At the tournament last week, select wrestlers tossed headgears signed by Penn State's Cael Sanderson and other coaches into the stands. There has been some thought to adding singlets next year.
So what did the coaches think?
"This is a great opportunity to show us where we are and what we need to do between now and the national championships," Sanderson said.
And Oklahoma State assistant Eric Guerrero added, "It's a good showcase for wrestling. Any time you can get this many top teams in one location on one weekend is great. Whoever is doing it is doing a good job and needs to keep doing it."
There had been rumors of the TSSAA going to Trackwrestling, a point-by-point scoring system available on the Internet, at least for the state duals, but if it's done this season it likely will be on a trial basis and unavailable on the web.
While it might be an initial headache to some, especially bracketmasters and scorekeepers, it would be a welcome addition to the state tournament series.
Cornell's Dake special
The folks from Penn State weren't too happy with Cornell 165-pounder Kyle Dake taking what they considered "breathers" during his finals match with the Nittany Lions' David Taylor, but Dake is considered a classy act in NCAA wrestling circles.
After edging Taylor 3-2, he proved it with an impromptu autograph session that began on the floor and adjourned to the upper deck. It lasted till the team packed up to head for its hotel following the tournament.
For what it's worth, I was on the floor at matside for much of the tournament and was very impressed beyond the plethora of moves and counter-moves. There were a whole lot of class-act-type wrestlers competing, and I saw just as much class from most of the coaches. Maybe it's the discipline demanded within the sport, but it was refreshing.
Have to say, too, that I sat next to the Penn State sports information guy -- Pat Donghia, I think was his name -- and not only was he a fountain of information but a good guy to deal with.
Latest state prep rankings
1. Christian Brothers, 2. Cleveland, 3. Soddy-Daisy, 4. Father Ryan, 5. McCallie, 6. Baylor, 7. Heritage, 8. Wilson Central, 9. Franklin, 10. Bradley Central, 11. Walker Valley, 12. Montgomery Bell Academy.
Legends for Mocs
UTC's Jan. 27 meet against The Citadel, a match that is shaping up as a conference title bout, will be bigger than usual because the Mocs are calling out the legends.
They have scheduled a private reception for Saturday evening before the meet and have plans to recognize the All-Americans from the Jim Morgan era prior to the 2 p.m. start that Sunday at Maclellan Gym.
First title for Hunt
Soddy-Daisy junior Branndon Hunt was a member of the Trojans wrestling teams in 2010-11 and again last year but just this year is getting a shot at starting. He came through last week with his first tournament championship, winning the 160-pound class in the Soddy-Daisy Showdown.
"Our young guys are climbing the ranks. Branndon won his first tournament and Garrett Alexander got to the finals," Trojans coach Jim Higgins said. "They're both juniors and each of them has had to fight, scratch and claw to get into the starting lineup, and they're doing a great job."
Wildcats roll in Greeneville
In case you missed it, Hixson was at the Greeneville Invitational for the fifth time and the Wildcats beat the runner-up hosts by 99.5 points. Hixson had nine in the finals, and all 14 entrants medaled.
But coach Garrick Hall has learned to be cautious. When asked about the state duals, he said he hadn't yet reserved rooms and immediately pointed to upcoming bouts with district members Red Bank and Signal Mountain.
And if you're wondering, the other likely Chattanooga-area team in the A/AA state duals could be East Ridge. The upstart Pioneers, who've begun making waves under Chad Laxton, have a key home meet coming up Thursday night against Central, the two-time defending champion.
Arab first at Central
Arab, Ala., won the team championship at the Central Invitational last weekend ahead of Blackman, a part varsity/part JV team from Cleveland and the host Purple Pounders.
Central's champions were Larry Dickerson (152), Bryson Lemons (113) and Michael Frazey. Other Tennessee winners were Blackman's Dylan Coggins (106), Josh Feuerbacher (138) and Tyler Sells (160) and Cleveland's Ezra Taylor (132), Ethan West (182), Oleg Stukanov (195) and John Gaither (220).
Unbeaten in Tennessee
According to the NWCA site, where high school coaches are supposed to file their match results, Brentwood Academy's 220-pound Amos Mason is Tennessee's only unbeaten wrestler. He is 38-0.
The only area wrestler among the top 20 is East Ridge 220-pounder C.J. Baker with a 27-3 record.
Mason also leads the state pins list with 27. McCallie's Alex Elsea (120) has 18.
Archer top seed
McCallie Invitational champion Archer is the top Class AAAAAA seed for the Georgia high school duals in Macon this weekend.
Unique at East Hamilton
East Hamilton is using a unique format for its eight-team invitational tournament Saturday, going with two pools in each class with the pool winners and runners-up advancing to semifinals.
Scoring is unique also in that a wrestler will accrue the same number of points as those used for dual meets -- six for a pin, five for a technical fall, four for a major decision and three for a decision.
Hurricanes coach Ryan Cooper said wrestling will start around 10:30 Saturday morning and that he hopes to run the finals at 4 p.m. Admission for the eight-team event is $5 per person.
Teams in the field with the host Hurricanes include Ridgeland, Dalton, Ooltewah, East Ridge, Tyner, Chattanooga Christian and Brainerd.
Mocs' tough schedule?
UTC's 2012-13 schedule has to be among the toughest in the nation.
Looking at the latest coaches' Top 25, the Mocs have competed against No. 1 Penn State, No. 2 Oklahoma State, No. 3 Minnesota, No. 4 Iowa, No. 6 Illinois, No. 7 Missouri, No. 8 Cornell, No. 10 Virginia Tech and No. 19 Virginia. They had duals with Oklahoma State, Iowa, Illinois and Virginia and also wrestled Rutgers, which is just outside the Top 25.
Individual college rankings
In the Amateur Wrestling News, UTC's Nick Soto dropped from the top 10 to 15th at 125 pounds after a disappointing showing at the Scuffle, and Niko Brown is No. 18 at 197.
InterMat also has Soto at No. 15, but Brown is unranked.
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 ...