published Sunday, February 16th, 2014

Hixson, Cleveland state wrestling champs

FRANKLIN, Tenn. — Garrick Hall was sick before the Tennessee state wrestling championships. The Hixson coach was battling flulike systems.

But the discomfort in his stomach before the Class A/AA semifinals was nothing like the sinking feeling that followed a 1-for-9 showing in that round of the tournament.

With an outstanding showing Saturday, however, in the consolation semifinals and the bouts for third and fifth places, Hixson secured the TSSAA's first A/AA state championship before the championship finals.

"There was such a wide range of emotions running through the team and the coaching staff," Hall admitted Saturday evening. "I was miserable for the kids to have worked as hard as they had and fall apart, losing by a point or losing with three seconds left."

He never lost the faith, even though the Wildcats had surrendered their team lead to Alcoa. Even Friday after they lost of eight of nine semifinal matches, he said, "We can still accomplish our goal if we wrestle like we're supposed to."

The Wildcats overcame Alcoa, one of the East Tennessee upstarts, by getting 10 of the 12 they had qualified the previous week into the medals. It was Hixson's first state title since the 1973 team coached by Gordon Connell.

Meanwhile, Cleveland didn't have anywhere near the drama in rolling to its second straight AAA championship, also locking away the team title before the first-place finals.

"We pay attention to [the team championship], I guess, but as a coaching staff we're more into each individual and helping him reach his potential and his goals," Blue Raiders coach Jake Yost said before the finals. "I really haven't taken the opportunity to reflect. We're concentrating on our finalists."

His Raiders began separating themselves from the field -- and top challenger Wilson Central -- in Friday morning's quarterfinals and then pushed out to an overwhelming lead in the evening semifinals.

"I think as a team we lost four matches all day Friday," Yost said. "It was kids winning overtime matches or winning by one or two points or even beating people that had beaten us previously."

Father Ryan had an insurmountable 59.5-point lead over second-place McCallie (166.5) entering the Division II finals. Baylor was third with 157.

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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