published Wednesday, February 12th, 2014

Chattanooga area AAA state wrestlers go early to Franklin

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    Soddy-Daisy wrestling coach Jim Higgins and his Trojans have moved to Region 4 with other area Class AAA powers, leaving local Class A/AA schools a chance for region glory in the new traditional classification.
    Photo by C. B. Schmelter.
    enlarge photo

Most of the area’s Class AAA wrestling teams left Tuesday for the state tournament in Franklin, opting to go a day earlier than planned to avoid any travel issues.

“We don’t want to put the kids at risk — the physical risk and also taking a chance on them being unable to wrestle in the state tournament,” Soddy-Daisy coach Jim Higgins said.

The AAA portion of the tournament is to begin Thursday afternoon, and the TSSAA had no plans to make allowances for teams that might be confronted with weather issues.

The group making early departures included Ooltewah, East Hamilton, Cleveland, Bradley Central and Walker Valley.

Cleveland was the first to get away, departing at mid-afternoon Tuesday.

“They say the weather is going to be bad and we don’t want to have to deal with it,” Blue Raiders coach Jake Yost said just before his team left. “Why take chances? There’s no reason not to go early. We’ll take the kids to a movie or go bowling and have no reason to stress about it.”

Yost and his bosses had been told that the Interstate 24 mountain drive past Monteagle probably was going to be icy this morning, and the Blue Raiders’ original plan was to leave today.

“We usually go up the day before. We won’t be stressing about getting there or the kids being on weight,” Yost said.

Permission for the Hamilton County schools to travel early came from the central office.

“I’m getting packed now. We’re probably going to practice first, which we were given permission to do, and then we’ll leave after that,” Higgins said.

Bradley had not planned to leave until this morning.

“We were prepared to spend the night at the wrestling building and leave early in the morning to avoid the weather,” Bears coach Ben Smith said late Tuesday afternoon. “My principal, Todd Shoeemaker, wanted to make sure we got over Monteagle before the weather got bad.”

The Bears were taking a school bus, and that was another concern.

“[Road crews] may get Monteagle clean, but I don’t want a bus full of kids going over Nickajack in the snow. These buses slide,” Bradley athletic director Turner Jackson said.

Smith said the Bears probably would go for a run this morning and then try to get a workout in this afternoon at Williamson County Agricultural Expo, the tournament site.

Walker Valley coach Alan Morris planned to gather and leave with his team about 6 last night.

“I hate this rush-packing,” he said. “I’m sure I forgot something.”

Contact Ward Gossett at or 423-886-4765. Follow him at

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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