published Tuesday, April 3rd, 2012

TSSAA to consider wrestling proposal

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    Hixson High School head wrestling coach Garrick Hall

It's possible that a split in Division I wrestling, recognizing AAA and A/AA state champions, could become a Tennessee high school reality by the 2013-14 school year.

Mark Reeves, an assistant executive director with the TSSAA, confirmed Monday that a proposal would be presented to the organization's Board of Control at its June meeting and that the state governing body was exploring options to accommodate the change.

"I don't know if it's going to happen, but the vote will take place at the June meeting when the board meets to consider [all] sports classification changes," Reeves said.

The board is expected also to consider whether to keep six public school divisions for the football playoffs or return to five.

If the board accepts the wrestling proposal, which is to be submitted by Martiin Luther King coach Paul Bass, it is likely that the Division I traditional tournament would drop from 32 to 24 qualifiers for Class AAA and that the A/AA tournament would have 12-man brackets. Reeves said the possible changes would not affect Division II, which currently has a nonqualifying 16-man tournament, or the girls' tournament, which still has invitational status.

Numerous Division I coaches were hopeful of keeping the 32-man AAA bracket and adding a 16-man A/AA bracket.

Hixson coach Garrick Hall, whose team would be in the new A/AA tournament, said he did not like the 24/12 option.

"Ultimately you'd like to grow the sport, but this is almost like cutting off a hand," Hall said. "If you to go with 32- and 16-man brackets, it might ultimately grown the sport. I like the way it is to a certain point, but I'd also like to take more kids and have more medals in the state."

If it is a matter of time constraints, Hall said, maybe the state could look at making consolation matches three or four minutes rather than five, going with three one-minute periods or a two-minute period and two one-minute periods.

Hall also is concerned about the current Region 4 tournament, especially if teams are allowed only two qualifiers. The current Region 4 field, excluding AAA schools Soddy-Daisy and Ooltewah, has 12 teams with Central, Hixson and Notre Dame having won seven of the eight A/AA state duals championships.

One major worry in this area is Soddy-Daisy, Cleveland and Bradley Central winding up in the same region. Those teams have won the last 13 traditional championships.

"One of the concerns and certainly one we'd want to listen to if is you have some of the best teams all in the same area. It's a legitimate concern," Reeves said.

One idea the TSSAA is considering is eliminating the eight region tournaments and going with four "super regionals" much like the current track and field format with six medalists advancing from each to the state tournament.

"If the board approves an A/Double-A tournament, we have to figure out which route Triple-A would go," Reeves said. "We're working at looking at hypothetical regions. We have also looked at eight regions and we have even looked at six regions.

"What we don't want to do is add another [qualifying] tournament. We would like to keep the calendar the same whether it's region or sectional tournaments. We might even look at less qualifers from Memphis, which has 12 [AAA wrestling] teams total."

As for the classification debate on football, Reeves said the TSSAA sent out a survey to the 300-plus football-playing schools asking for responses signed by principals. He said only slightly more than half the schools had bothered to respond and that those responses were close to a 50-50 split.

Contact Ward Gossett at wgossett@timesfreepress.com or 423-886-4765.

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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