CLEVELAND, Tenn. — The most important thing to Soddy-Daisy was getting back to next week's state wrestling duals to defend their championship.
"By the skin of our teeth," Trojans coach Jim Higgins said. "By the skin of our teeth."
Cleveland will join Soddy-Daisy as Region 3's duals representatives in Franklin next week following a lopsided 43-26 win over crippled Bradley Central, which limped into the duals with five starters out of the lineup.
The anticipated championship free-for-all, however, never took place following Soddy-Daisy's 33-24 escape against determined Walker Valley.
"You hate to let the fan base down, but what's right for my guys is what's right for Soddy-Daisy," Higgins said. "What's best suited for our team is to wrestle in Franklin rather than in Cleveland."
While Cleveland and its followers were disappointed, it wasn't like Soddy-Daisy was setting a precedent. Finalists for at least the last three years have not wrestled for the championship.
"I don't know what to say," Blue Raiders coach Jake Yost said. "I had every intention of wrestling but they have to do what's best for their team."
It likely would not have been to the benefit of the Trojans to wrestle. They were working with a patchwork lineup, in part because 145-pound Gage Richmond was left at home in bed dealing with the flu.
"As a team we didn't function very well, and my hat's off to Walker Valley. They deserved to win," Higgins said. "We were extremely fortunate."
And if not for a couple of shifts in the upper weights, it might have been Walker Valley accompanying Cleveland on its trek to Franklin.
The Trojans coaches inserted rarely used Christian Dean (182) and bumped Blaike Henry from 182 to 195 and Luke Reno from 220 to 285 and pulled out victories in each match to leave the team score knotted at 21, the third tie of the evening.
Walker Valley went ahead 24-21 when 106-pound Drake Haney avenged a loss earlier in the season to Jake McClure with a 12-10 decision.
However, the match played into a pair of Soddy-Daisy's strengths, and Austin Houser (113) and Jacob Stevens (120) responded to the Mustangs' challenge with back-to-back pins to regain the lead and ice the victory.
"I think every team sets the same goals at the start of the year -- to win the state duals championship and the [traditional] championship," Higgins said. "I'm thankful that our kids fought, scratched and clawed -- did what they had to do to earn a spot in the state duals."
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 ...