published Thursday, February 16th, 2012

Campbell Lewis can be Trojans' first four-time champ

Soddy-Daisy's Campbell Lewis controls Blake Sutherland of Baylor in the 138-pound match of their meet at Baylor in this file photo.
Soddy-Daisy's Campbell Lewis controls Blake Sutherland of Baylor in the 138-pound match of their meet at Baylor in this file photo.
Photo by Ashlee Culverhouse /Chattanooga Times Free Press.

FORMER STATE CHAMPS IN THE FIELDS

Division I

3 -- Campbell Lewis, Soddy-Daisy.

1 -- Patrick Benson, Soddy-Daisy; Cody Davis, Pigeon Forge; McCoy Newberg, Independence; Holden Schay, Houston; Jacob Stevens, Soddy-Daisy.

Division II

4 -- Zach Watson, Baylor.

2-- Michael Hooker, Father Ryan.

1 -- Mike Akers, Father Ryan; Kaleb Baker, Christian Brothers; T.J. Holmes, Father Ryan; Amos Mason, Brentwood Academy; Cole Mosely, Father Ryan; Tait Robinson, Christian Brothers; Alex Ward, McCallie.

TSSAA STATE TOURNAMENT SCHEDULE

(All times EST) At Williamson County Agricultural Expo in Franklin

Today

2 p.m. -- Division I weigh-ins

4 p.m. -- Rounds of 32 and 16

Friday

8 a.m. -- Divisions I and II weigh-ins

10 a.m. -- Division I quarterfinals, Division II round of 16

6 p.m. -- Divisions I and II semifinals

Saturday

8 a.m. -- Divisions I and II weigh-ins

10 a.m. -- Consolation semifinals and medal rounds for third and fifth

6 p.m. -- Divisions I and II championship finals

As a freshman Campbell Lewis told anyone who'd listen that he was going to be a state wrestling champion and he hoped to be a four-time winner.

For those who laughed at the proclamation of a 14-year-old, the time has come to pay attention.

The senior has the opportunity this weekend to add a new chapter to a storied program. He can become Soddy-Daisy's first four-time state champion.

"As a freshman my goal was to win state, but I had no idea what I was getting into," he said. "I'd tell people that and they'd laugh, and that's people who were friends. I thought I'd go tear it up, and now it's weird to me when I think where I am now."

He is the only wrestler in Franklin going for a fourth gold medal. Longtime competitor and friend Zach Watson of Baylor is seeking to become Tennessee's second five-timer.

The lives of Lewis and Watson are intertwined beyond common goals. They have worked out together in the mornings this season, leaving their homes long before the sun rose to practice with Phil Mansueto, brother of University of Tennessee at Chattanooga assistant coach Rocco Mansueto. And Campbell was the last Tennessee wrestler to beat Watson.

"Of course that was a long time ago -- the fourth grade," Lewis recalled. "I beat him in a regional, but he beat me the next week."

Lewis this year began a daily practice regimen that Watson embraced several years ago.

"He's really something," Lewis said. "He's a guy that every wrestler should emulate."

Lewis said he finally realized the importance of the little things.

"They add up. I'm a much better leader than before, and I'm not talking about being a three-time state champion," he said. "As a freshman I was always late to practice. I didn't think it mattered. Now I'm on time for everything, and when it comes to practice I'm working hard to set an example. Little things make the difference in everything, and I finally realized that this year."

Still, he already has carved his name into the Soddy-Daisy wrestling tree, joining the likes of Kevin Ward and Jake Yost as three-time state champions. Yost, at the time a Trojans assistant coach to Steve Henry, made life miserable for Lewis in his sophomore year when Lewis dropped from his 135-pound freshman weight to 125 pounds. He was no longer along for the ride.

"Taylor Witt took me under his wing, but if not for Coach Yost I wouldn't have had that [second] state title," Lewis said.

The ride hasn't been smooth.

Last year Lewis was slowed by a severe high-ankle sprain and a broken hand. A torn labrum limited his sophomore wrestling, and Henry recalled that Lewis wasn't even allowed to wrestle in the region duals. Yost hammered him to get him in shape and maintain his weight.

"That was huge. I was working out in the mornings, then going to practice and then working out again at night," Lewis said. "It made me tougher, gave me an edge."

Those practices reinforced the lessons he'd learned from his father, Gary.

"He set out with nothing and started his own business and he's a success. He always told me to never settle for anything but my best," Campbell said.

That may be why he hesitates to put his name in any conversation that includes Ward or Yost.

"You know, Kevin Ward was a four-time finalist. I don't think I'm better than either of those guys," Lewis said. "I think I probably had better surroundings and more opportunities."

But winning a fourth state title is a goal he set for himself as a sixth-grader.

"I don't just set goals and then say it doesn't matter," he said. "I have one week of high school wrestling left, and it matters."

He wants to make the most of it, but this time more than others he has to focus on what is immediately ahead rather than the prize that could be his Saturday evening.

"He has a job ahead of him. He has to realize that everybody he wrestles is the potential guy to end it for him," Henry said. "It isn't an easy patch. He can't get so consumed with looking at the finish that he forgets how to get there. He has to take it personally every time somebody steps on the mat with him."

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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