published Saturday, January 21st, 2012

Hixson returning to state duals tourney

Hixson is headed back to the state duals wrestling tournament, and the Wildcats will be looking for their third title in four years.

They sewed up the state berth with a convincing 57-15 victory over Signal Mountain on their senior night.

"They're real strong as usual," Signal Mountain coach John Lennon said. "They're well-coached and disciplined. I hope they represent Chattanooga well at the state."

The Wildcats were TSSAA runners-up in 2008 and won titles in 2009 and 2010 before finishing third last year.

Do they have what it takes to get another ring?

"That's the million-dollar question, but this group definitely has the heart and desire to go after it," Hixson coach Garrick Hall said.

The Wildcats will join defending champ Central in representing the Chattanooga area in the Feb. 3-4 event at the Williamson County Agricultural Expo in Franklin. If things go as predicted, the two should be in opposite halves of the Class A/AA bracket.

Hixson and Central wrestled in late December with Hixson winning, but Hall was quick to point out that the Purple Pounders had two starters out of the lineup. Central secured its berth with a Thursday victory over Notre Dame.

The Wildcats were on their game Friday despite falling behind 15-6 as Signal Mountain won three of the first four bouts.

After Hixson's Justin Mathieson pinned at 160 pounds to start the meet, the Eagles got a pin from Joe Drennan (170) and pins from Harrison Hall (182) and Austin Stephens (195).

"We were outnumbered and we have seven kids that have never wrestled before, but they are showing a lot of heart and they're figuring it out," Lennon said.

Hixson, though, rebounded with 10 straight wins, including pins from Austin Payne (106), Grayson Lane (113), Steven Sklavenitis (126) and Gio Palacio (138).

"This is a great group of guys. There is no animosity on the team. As a matter of fact, they're kind of laid back," Hall said. "With this group I don't worry. I've told them, and I think they believe it, that all any of them can control is their own six minutes [on the mat]. If they continue to do that, team scores will take care of themselves."

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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