If his team's match with Hixson on Wednesday was a preview of the Class A/AA state wrestling duals championship, Central coach Marquis Dotson will be demanding a script rewrite for his team.
"This was an eye-opener. They took it to us," he said. "We have to learn that you have to be ready to wrestle six minutes and we weren't."
The Purple Pounders, defending A/AA state champs, were upended 30-25 by former state champion Hixson in the latter's Roger Vandergriff Duals.
The two won't meet again this season unless each makes it to the state duals championship. If both get there, based on past seeding decisions by the TSSAA, Central would be seeded No. 1 and in a bracket opposite Hixson.
Hixson coach Garrick Hall agreed that it was possible Hixson and Central could be in the finals in February.
"I would think so," he said. "I told the guys after [this] match, though, that while it was nice to win the Vandergriff Duals nothing really counts until February."
While Central won the A/AA duals title last year by besting Hixson in the semifinals, Hixson had won the two previous titles and finished runner-up to Notre Dame the year before.
In this possible preview, Central wrestled poorly and without key starters Cody Stacks (126) and Zach Fordham (145). Stacks is out until after the new year with a broken wrist and Fordham was sidelined with a stomach virus.
"We were missing key figures but we still should've won," Dotson declared. "We lollygagged early in the day in two other meets, and we lollygagged in this one. I hope it wakes [the Pounders] up. We'll go back to the practice room and see if we can fix what's wrong."
The match was a seesaw battle in front of a small but spirited crowd, and the Wildcats entered the final two bouts down 25-24. The deficit might have been larger if not for heavyweight Andrew Branham, who got beat 4-0 by Zach Calhoun but stayed off his back to avoid giving up any bonus points.
"That was a big match, and we saved a couple of team point at 145," Hall said.
The win or lose burden fell on 126-pound Isaiah Hawthorne and 132-pound Ameer Jibron. Each responded with a victory. The feisty and flash Hawthorne put the Wildcats up by one, and Jibron finished it off.
"The kids are feeling pretty good because they get to eat what's left over in the hospitality room, but to be honest I would have been disappointed with another outcome. With two of their starters out I should hope we could beat them," Hall said.
Walker Valley, which suffered its only loss against Central, bested Dalton to finish third.
Hixson duals championship
HIXSON 30, CENTRAL 25
(Meet started at 138 pounds)
106 -- Cody Bowman (C) dec. Austin Payne, 8-6; 113 -- Bryson Lemons (C) dec. Jerry Layne, 10-9; 120 -- Steven Sklavenitis (H) won by forfeit; 126 -- Isaiah Hawthorne (H) dec. Logan Duckett, 11-6; 132 -- Ameer Jibron (H) dec. Mike West, 10-3; 138 -- Gio Palacio (H) dec. Logan Griffin, 9-7; 145 -- Joe Stegall (C) major dec. Nick Peck, 16-2; 152 -- Larry Dickerson (C) dec. Aaron Alemany, 8-2; 160 -- Justin Mathieson (H) pinned Michael Frazey, 3:31; 170 -- John Hayes (H) dec. James Hughes, 15-10; 182 -- Chris Nicholson (H) won by forfeit; 195 -- Sam Sledge (C) won by forfeit; 220 -- Christian Varner (H) dec. Truman Martin, 5-2; 285 -- Zach Calhoun (C) dec. Andrew Branham, 4-0.
Records: Hixson 11-1; Central 7-3.
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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