published Saturday, February 9th, 2013

Hixson, Soddy-Daisy lead mat region

Howard's Kentarius Hampton, top, and East Hamilton's Corey Tucker wrestle in the 160 lb. match during the Region 3 tournament Friday at Ooltewah High School.
Howard's Kentarius Hampton, top, and East Hamilton's Corey Tucker wrestle in the 160 lb. match during the Region 3 tournament Friday at Ooltewah High School.
Photo by Angela Lewis.

Two of the most pressure-packed rounds in high school wrestling will take place today at Ooltewah High School.

"It's all about tomorrow from 10 to 11:30 or so and then the consolation finals," host coach Wendell Weathers said Friday night.

The Region 4 championship semifinals are scheduled for 10 a.m. with state-tournament berths on the line. The consolation semifinals, the wrestlers' last shot at state-tournament trips, will begin about noon.

The top four wrestlers in each weight class advance to the Thursday-Saturday event at the Williamson County Agricultural Expo in Franklin.

"The real work comes tomorrow," said Soddy-Daisy coach Jim Higgins, who has 11 wrestlers in those championship semis. "Things are much more intense in the championship and consolation finals. I hope we're ready, but we'll have to see how they wake up and if they're ready to go."

Seeking to rebound from a disappointing third-place finish in last weekend's Class AAA state duals, Soddy-Daisy is trying to get as many wrestlers as possible back to Franklin with hopes of defending its traditional title.

It was Hixson, though, that had the first-day team scoring lead. The Wildcats, who also finished third at the state duals (in A/AA), have 68.5 points to 66 for Soddy-Daisy. Third-place East Ridge is nine points behind the Trojans, while surprising Signal Mountain is fourth by a half-point over Central.

While Soddy-Daisy has 11 in the semifinals, Hixson and East Ridge each has eight. The Wildcats made up enough to get their lead with bonus points in the consolation rounds.

Twelve of the 17 participating schools have representatives still competing, including three from Howard. It is the Hustlin' Tigers' best performance since at least 2009.

"We're making progress," Tigers coach Michael Calloway said. "We finished the year with 17 wrestlers but only brought eight to the tournament. We'd love to get more kids in the program."

Orchard Knob, one of Howard's feeder middle schools, sent wrestlers to Howard, but Calloway said there are probably a handful at Howard that are not wrestling.

"We're going to get there," he said, "especially with Jerry Caperton in the room. With me spending a lot of time as athletic director, I handle the paperwork and the finances and he does the bulk of the work in the practice room."

The Tigers' improvement hasn't gone unnoticed.

"Yeah, they've improved," Higgins said. "It didn't take a rocket scientist to see that they are interested in their kids and trying their best to spark a revival in the program."

Ooltewah, Central and Signal each has five wrestlers in the semis, while Notre Dame has four. Chattanooga Christian, East Hamilton and Tyner have two apiece and Brainerd one.

Brainerd heavyweight Sedric Wilson, a No. 4 seed, suffered a broken ankle, ending his season prematurely.

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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