published Sunday, February 2nd, 2014

Region 4 leaves potential state wrestling contenders home

Wilson Central’s Eddie Small works toward a 12-10 win over Soddy-Daisy’s Emory Holcomb in the Class AAA semifinals.
Wilson Central’s Eddie Small works toward a 12-10 win over Soddy-Daisy’s Emory Holcomb in the Class AAA semifinals.
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    McCallie 220-pounder Jay Robers, top, is on his way to a 13-3 major decision over St. Benedict’s Nestro Rivas on Saturday.
    Photo by Photo: Lynnae Roberts

FRANKLIN, Tenn. — Region 4 may be the state's toughest for Class AAA wrestling, but the chances of advancing more than two to the state duals is tougher.

Bradley Central and Walker Valley finished in the coaches' final overall top 10 for Tennessee, but both were left at home in favor of region winner Cleveland and runner-up Soddy-Daisy.

There is no chance that wrestling will enjoy a point system similar to that employed for the football playoffs.

"We'd like to be out of the point system in football," TSSAA assistant executive director Mark Reeves said at the duals state tournament. "Our organization has carried the philosophy that [geographic] representation carries a lot of weight. It's like West Tennessee boys' basketball or Cumberland Plateau girls' basketball, where there is a lot of strength in those respective sports."

It's still a tough pill to swallow.

"Does Walker Valley belong in the state duals? Absolutely. And Bradley Central is a contender as well," Soddy-Daisy coach Jim Higgins said. "It's unfortunate that two teams like that don't have a better shot to get here."

Added Bradley coach Ben Smith: "I think Bradley and Walker Valley should be going to the state tournament. I think four of the top five Division I wrestling programs are in this region, but it is what it is."

Walker Valley coach Alan Morris would like the state to find an alternative method for selecting teams.

"We're not in the top two in the region. Would we like another format to identify the teams that should go compete? That would be really nice. I don't think anyone in our region would complain about that."

In the medals again

They didn't get back to the championship match, but Hixson's Wildcats medaled in A/AA again. First in 2009 and 2010, they've had third-place finishes in each of the last three years plus 2005.

"There's something to be said for [finishing third], but I think everybody knows we'd like to have been in that championship match," Hixson coach Garrick Hall said. "I'm in a good mood. The kids battled back and fought through some adversity."

Hixson will have a more experienced team next year. Hall has only two seniors, and four of his starters this weekend were freshmen.

The Wildcats, who beat Alcoa in the losers-bracket final, will host the A/AA traditional region tournament Friday and Saturday.

The fourth-place finish marked Alcoa's first plaque in state wrestling. This was its first trip to the state duals.

McCallie 4th on default

McCallie finished fourth in Division II for the third year in a row, this time losing 34-31 to Christian Brothers on a technicality.

Nathan Hoodenpyle was wrestling and winning his 182-pound match, which was stopped at least twice because his opponent appeared to be hurt. As the match progressed, Hoodenpyle was penalized a point for a full nelson and the match ended on an injury default with Hoodenpyle the loser.

Longtime McCallie scorekeeper John McCallie was at the table and heard the referee say the penalty point had nothing to do with the injury. But then on further reflection, the referee said he was bound by the rule regarding an illegal-hold penalty and the injury default and awarded the victory to CBHS, boosting the Purple Wave from a 28-28 tie to a 34-28 lead.

Trojans' costly bump

Ahead 29-10 in the third-place match with Ravenwood, Soddy-Daisy began bumping wrestlers up a weight class at 152 pounds. The Trojans didn't win another match and wound up losing 38-29.

"It bit us. Clearly, things didn't work out, but we've bumped weight all year long to fill our holes," Higgins said. "We looked at it and knew they were four spots where they were capable of pins. But at the end of the day we had holes and we also had a lack of heart."

Two and done

Central wrestled twice, losing each by 20-plus points in the A/AA classification, so it's obvious the former state champs (2011, 2012) have work to do under second-year coach John Lennon.

"We're just immature. They don't know how to be here, but they work hard and there's nothing wrong with their heart or soul," he assessed.

The Purple Pounders have only two seniors, so there is plenty to build on among the six freshmen and four sophomores.

What Central needs is a few more to go with the 15 who stayed with Lennon, a two-time state champ at Cleveland, through this season. Lennon said, though, is job is much easier this year thanks to new assistant Ryan Mallory.

"He has been amazing," the coach said.

Central has revived its youth program, which could have an impact down the road.

Blackman's tale of woe

Midstate power Blackman lost to Beech 36-34, thus ending hopes of a medal.

The Blaze had to use reserves at 106 pounds and 120 when twin starters at those weights failed to show up for Saturday morning's weigh-ins. Their mother reportedly texted Blackman coaches and told them the two were "too fragile" to compete.

It's up in the air as to whether the two will be allowed to wrestle in the individual regional next week.

Contact Ward Gossett at wgossett@timesfreepress.com or 423-886-4765. Follow him at Twitter.com/wardgossett.

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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