published Tuesday, January 28th, 2014

'Different' Cleveland team defending duals wrestling title

Cleveland's Jonathan Martin, right, wrestles Bradley Central's Colter McConnell during the Region 3-AAA duals semifinals. Cleveland's defending champion Blue Raiders are seeded first for the AAA state duals this weekend in Franklin.
Cleveland's Jonathan Martin, right, wrestles Bradley Central's Colter McConnell during the Region 3-AAA duals semifinals. Cleveland's defending champion Blue Raiders are seeded first for the AAA state duals this weekend in Franklin.
Photo by Doug Strickland.

STATE DUALS PAIRINGS

Friday, 4:30 EST

At Williamson County Agricultural Expo

Class AAA

Cleveland (23-4) vs. Beech (21-8)

Knox Halls (21-1) vs. Bartlett (20-6)

Science Hill (22-8) vs. Maryville (18-6)

Cookeville (18-3) vs. Ravenwood (25-6)

Heritage (24-1) vs. Soddy-Daisy (15-4)

Collierville (19-6) vs. Brentwood (16-3)

Blackman (19-5) vs. Bearden (21-7)

Jefferson County (22-12) vs. Wilson Central (24-1)

Quarterfinals, 8:30 EST


Class A/AA

Friday, 6:30 EST

Greeneville (20-3) vs. White House (23-9)

Eagleville (7-13) vs. Central (9-7)

Hixson (25-5) vs. East Literature (10-6)

Alcoa (33-13) vs. Pigeon Forge (20-11)

Semifinals, 8:30 EST


Division II

Friday, 6:30 EST

Father Ryan (20-11) vs. Brentwood Academy (6-12)

Montgomery Bell Academy (18-4) vs. St. Benedict (25-4)

Christian Brothers (15-5) vs. McCallie (9-6)

Briarcrest Christian (15-7) vs. Baylor (20-7)

Semifinals, 8:30 EST

Wilson Central never has won a state wrestling championship, and the upstart Wildcats were on the short end of a record-setting 78-4 beatdown a year ago.

Yet they are centered in conversations regarding this weekend's Tennessee state duals championships in Franklin.

"I haven't talked to the kids about last year. That team was solid up and down the lineup, but a bunch of those guys graduated," Cleveland coach Jake Yost said. "Now we're back with another good team."

Cleveland was the one that dropped like a tsunami on Wilson Central in the championship match, setting finals records for most points, most pins and largest victory margin. It might have been the quickest duals final.

"We don't talk about it. This is a different team, a different group of kids," Yost said. "Now, is Wilson Central thinking about it? I'd think it would be hard for them not to."

Wilson Central is Class AAA's No. 2 seed behind Cleveland, and the Wildcats likely will have to get past Soddy-Daisy before they can get a payback shot at the Blue Raiders.

And Soddy-Daisy is looking forward to it.

"We'd love to wrestle Wilson Central again," Trojans coach Jim Higgins said, "but there are good teams between Wilson Central and us and the semifinals."

Higgins sent three starters home before the last year's tournament began, "and [Wilson Central] kicked us while we were down," he said.

"I'd also like to wrestle Cleveland again, and I know our kids do, too," he added.

Wilson Central has the best record among the Class AAA teams, standing 24-1 along with Maryville Heritage, Soddy-Daisy's first-round opponent.

The Wildcats' loss came three days after Christmas when Baylor ended their 17-meet winning string 34-30, and they've since run off seven more victories. However, almost half of the 24 wins came before the Ooltewah Invitational, always the opener to the strong Chattanooga tournament series.

"I'd think definitely a Soddy-Daisy/Wilson Central match in the semifinals, and if I had to pick a winner I'd pick Soddy-Daisy," Yost said. "I have looked at some of the matchups, and I think that should be a pretty good meet."

As for his own half of the bracket, the Blue Raiders coach professed innocence.

"There are teams there we haven't seen," he said. "We haven't been at the same place as Science Hill. We were at one tournament with Ravenwood and I think they have a pretty solid lineup, but I don't know anything about Beech or Halls or Bartlett."

Chattanooga's representatives in the A/AA bracket are Hixson and Central, while Baylor and McCallie are in the Division II ranks and staring at a possible repeat of last Friday's thriller (won by Baylor by one point). Central won state championships in 2011 and 2012 while Hixson, which has been in the last eight state duals championships, has placed no worse than third in the last six years, including championships in 2009 and 2010. McCallie last won a DII title in 2006; Baylor last captured the DII crown in 2011.

Contact Ward Gossett at wgossett@timesfreepress.com or 423-886-4765. Follow him at Twitter.com/wardgossett.

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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