Bradley Central's wrestling coaches initially thought the strength of their tournament last weekend might have been down some, but it didn't turn out that way, and the two tournaments this weekend seem to have strong fields as well.
The Vandergriff Duals are today at Hixson, and entrants joining the host Wildcats include Walker Valley, which is ranked 11th in the latest Tennessee state coaches poll; perennial power Clarksville and Gordon Lee; which won the Georgia Class A dual and traditional state championships.
"It's probably the best tournament field we have ever had," Hixson coach Garrick Hall said.
The annual McCallie Invitational, which is today and Saturday, is lighter on numbers than in recent years but has a strong complement. While Marietta's Pope High, which had a relatively easy time winning the Cleveland Duals title two weeks ago, is absent this year, tournament officials have added two other Georgia teams, Archer and Carrollton. Parkview, another Peach State school that was a longstanding member of the field, is returning after a two-year absence.
"The strength is as good as ever," McCallie coach Mike Newman said. "We also have some individual wrestlers entered, so I think we'll have a competitive tournament even though the numbers are down."
The Vandergriff Duals begin at 10 a.m.
"We have the final scheduled for 7, but we're going to run straight through, and when we get to the championship we'll wrestle it," Hall said.
There are two pools. Hixson, Alcoa, Eagleville, East Hamilton and Gordon Lee will wrestle at Hixson High while Walker Valley, Clarksville, Central, Signal Mountain and Stone Memorial will use the gym across the street at Hixson Middle.
Walker Valley might be the favorite. The Mustangs are 11-2 with the two losses coming to Soddy-Daisy and Bradley Central.
Three participating head coaches wrestled for tournament namesake Roger Vandergriff: Hixson's Hall, Stone Memorial's Brian Parker and Clarksville's Brian Parker.
It obviously remains to be seen, but Archer could be the front-runner for the McCallie championship. The Tigers are 18-0 and have scored 60-plus points in 13 of those meets.
"Some coaches are telling us that they are better than Pope," Newman said.
There are several teams ranked in the Tennessee coaches' poll in the field, including No. 2 Soddy-Daisy, No. 3 Cleveland and No. 9 Baylor.
McCallie's tournament begins at 4:30 today and continues through the quarterfinals and at least the first round of consolations tonight. Wrestling will resume at 10 Saturday morning, and the medal-round matches are set for 3:30.
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 ...