published Friday, February 22nd, 2013

Gossett blog: The Takedown: Showers and lost shoes

OK, we've poked enough fun at Williamson County's Agricultural Expo.

Well, maybe.

Lumps in a couple of mats, caused by the surface upon which they lay, resembled a divot-filled golf course just played by area high school wrestling coaches Jim Higgins, Ben Smith, Jake Yost, Alan Morris and their army of assistants.

OK, enough of that.

The Ag Expo, and, yes, we'll still call it the Cow Palace, is in many ways the ideal option for the Tennessee state wrestling tournaments. The list of logistical problems gets smaller every year, the arena floor is big enough to accommodate at least 12 mats, and once they go entirely to trackwrestling.com for match results and team scores, it could be so fan-friendly.

The biggest problem for coaches seems to be the lack of shower facilities for participants, and we have been assured that the TSSAA is looking into the feasibility of bringing in portable facilities.

It's a must.

I know for a fact that no fewer than four Chattanooga-area teams were free and clear of skin problems at the state duals but had outbreaks the following week. They'd had no problems all year until the duals, and all of the programs to which I refer mop their mats twice daily, fog their workout areas and even wash the wrestlers' gear. A couple of them also have the ozone machines to clean headgear and shoes, and all of them use the pre- and postmatch skin lotions.

With skin afflictions being such an issue in the sport and the normal use of Williamson County's Ag Expo, showers are the next step for the state association to take.

(Now if they could just do something about the I-65 construction that has impeded traffic flow to and from the Expo.)

Olympic wrestling

Iowa governor Terry Baanstad has launched a website where you can sign a petition to the International Olympic Committee to keep wrestling as an Olympic sport. The website is www.letskeepwrestling.com. As of Monday afternoon more than 10,000 had signed the petition.

Spread the word.

No ugly, mostly just good

All too often we dwell on the negatives, but remember trying to park at UTC's McKenzie Arena? It might cost you $5 at the Cow Palace but it's safe and close, no meters to feed and no campus police getting carried away writing tickets.

Once there you might be a captive audience for eats, but the food, which will never be featured on "Diners, Drive-ins and Dives," is passable. And the folks operating the stand are both courteous and friendly as only Southern folks can be. That's a plus.

Must say here, though, that a fellow media member (AKA "Moose") spent all afternoon grumbling about the small cookie he got with a meal -- even though the meal was provided.

Another plus -- there are few restrictions on coolers. (Just leave the beer in the car, please.) The coolers are a must, though, for wrestlers who've spent the season eating the right foods and needing to maintain that carbohydrate balance. It's for sure there are no cooler Nazis at the door as was the case before the tournament moved out of Chattanooga.

Another plus -- heard one coach complain about the bathrooms not being clean, but not once did I see a dirty bathroom, nor did I hear anyone else grumbling. The folks who work at the Ag Expo, from janitorial to electricians, were very friendly folks.

Another plus -- There are wide-open spaces, appropriate for a facility built for 4H clubs, stock shows and rodeos, but the sight lines are pretty good, even from one end of the arena to the other.

A suggestion or too, though. Raise the mat-side scoreboards another foot or two so they can be seen over table workers; add another work table along press row for the duals (especially on the Division I side); and the coaches at the state duals still want team benches across from each other rather than side by side.

(A word to the wise: Fellows, your friendly TSSAA rep first saw this at the NCAA duals, and he has no intention of giving in. You guys are just going to have to watch what you say and make sure your JV guys are closest to the other team.)

And for tournament workers -- you guys who were breaking down the mats Saturday afternoon before the finals -- leave that door at the far end of the arena closed till all the mats are ready to be loaded. Bet the temperature dropped 30 degrees in less than two minutes.

The lifesaver

Schuyler Larue of Maryville Heritage went to Franklin last week with hopes of winning a gold medal.

He didn't, but he left as an All-American in many minds.

The junior 182-pounder probably saved a life, performing CPR on a man who collapsed in one of the restrooms. The man, 68-year-old Kingsport resident Ron Bussy, was transported to the hospital and was reported later to be in stable condition.

Manning steps aside

The Clarksville wrestling community, specifically Clarksville High, may not be as strong as it has been because decades-long supporter Artie Manning is stepping out.

Manning, who basically organized and ran the state duals for the TSSAA for a number of years, has been an avid supporter for Clarksville and high school wrestling.

He is in good health, so no worries there. However, he is the primary care-giver for his aunt and a longtime friend, plus he wants to spend more time with his 10-year-old grandson.

He's another one the TSSAA should consider for its Hall of Fame because he has been an outstanding contributor.

'My kingdom for some shoes'

A certain Chattanooga referee who's been described as a big- and slow-footed lawyer was moving faster Saturday than his days as a Southern Conference wrestling champion.

He thought he was going to have to work the championship finals in his Keds or his socks.

The lawyer left his shoes out all day, and another official, who we'll only identify as an assistant principal who drives up and down Signal Mountain daily, hid those size-15 1/2 clodhoppers. After watching the lawyer's frantic search, and most everybody knew what was going on, the Signal driver finally gave in and told him where the shoes were.

But as official goes, the lawyer was probably better off than the educator who worked a finals match with his fly open.

'Nuff said.

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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