Bradley gets used to Smith

Bradley gets used to Smith

November 18th, 2011 by Ward Gossett in Sports - Preps

Ben Smith is settling in already as the new head coach at Bradley Central, ready to take on all comers in the Bears' defense of their state duals wrestling championship.

"It's been fun -- not as much as being an assistant because there's more to worry about," said the successor to legendary Steve Logsdon. "Now we're in season and I can do what I love -- being on the mat and being with the kids."

In the preseason, Smith found out firsthand the headaches of fundraising and preparation.

"The tempo, well, we have a higher-paced [practice], but I feel like we're hitting our stride," he said. "The team is responding after three weeks of practice."

If there was a problem he's working to fix, it's finding his team cramped for space.

"The room is packed. The Kids Club is growing, and because of the success [in wrestling] of our football players, we have more football players coming out," Smith said. "They're all big boys and we're looking to get another mat and put it in the upper gym. You've got guys like Patrick Benson, who's 295 pounds, and he can't go full throttle in the room because he's afraid of taking a guy down onto someone else.

"But the family vibe, the brotherhood and the tradition are alive and well."

Cleveland favored

In a poll of several dozen area coaches, Cleveland came out on top as the state's best by two points over Soddy-Daisy. Baylor was third, Bradley Central fourth, Father Ryan fifth, Christian Brothers sixth, Ravenwood seventh and Mount Juliet eighth.

Most coaches believe the A/AA duals title will come down to defending champ Central, Pigeon Forge and Hixson.

Going for five

Baylor's Zach Watson, who'll be shooting for his fifth state championship, heads a list of area returning state champions including Soddy-Daisy's Jonah Smith (103), Jacob Stevens (112) and Campbell Lewis (130); Cleveland's Aaron Lopez (140); and Bradley's Patrick Benson (285) in Division I and Baylor's Cole Holloway (103), Brandon Brunner (119) and Barrett Gouger (285) in Division II. Watson wrestled last year at 126 pounds.

McCallie's T.J. Duncan (160) became the state's first five-time champion last season. He's now wrestling at Maryland.

Defending titles

In Division I, Cleveland won the traditional state championship, Bradley took the Class AAA state duals title and Central won the A/AA crown. In Division II, Baylor won both championships.

A proposal from the Division II committee had been submitted to change its state duals from a double-elimination tournament to single-elimination.

"The idea is to make it a one-day event and to save on expenses for a day. The other reason was we wrestle each other multiple times during the year already," McCallie coach Mike Newman said.

"I don't see Division I doing that. We went to double-elimination because people travel so far and ought to be able to get more than one match," said Soddy-Daisy coach Steve Henry, who also is president of the Tennessee Wrestling Coaches Association.

Lookout Valley skips

For the second year, Lookout Valley will not field a team, coach Bill Ward saying earlier this year that there was still a lack of numbers.

Returning strengths

In looking at Division I's returning state qualifiers, Cleveland leads with 11, followed by Soddy-Daisy with 10. Soddy-Daisy's returnees scored 34 points in last year's state tournament, Cleveland's 26.

Other potential contenders are their returning qualifiers:

8 -- Gibbs; 7 -- Ravenwood, Science Hill; 6 -- Cordova, Pigeon Forge; 5 -- Bradley Central, Clarksville, Franklin, Ooltewah; 4 -- Houston.

Returning medalists: 9 -- Cleveland; 7 -- Soddy-Daisy; 6 -- Cleveland; 4 -- Clarksville; 3 -- Bradley Central, Pigeon Forge; 2 -- Ravenwood.

Dates to remember

Dec. 3 -- Ooltewah Invitational; Old-Timers duals at Maclellan Gym

Dec. 10 -- Cleveland duals, East Hamilton "Day of duals"

Dec. 16-17 -- Bradley Invitational, McCallie Invitational

Dec. 17 -- Chattanooga Christian Invitational

Dec. 20 -- Hixson duals

Jan. 5 -- Soddy-Daisy at Cleveland

Jan. 6 -- Trojan duals at Soddy-Daisy

Jan. 7 -- Central Invitational, Soddy-Daisy Invitational

Jan. 6-7 -- Georgia area duals

Jan. 10 -- Soddy-Daisy at Baylor, Hixson at Red Bank

Jan. 12 -- Cleveland at Bradley Central, Soddy-Daisy at Ooltewah

Jan. 13-14 -- Georgia state duals

Jan. 17 -- Bradley at Sody-Daisy

Jan. 26 -- Region 4-AAA duals at Bradley Central

Jan. 27 -- Baylor at McCallie

Feb. 3-4 -- Tennessee state duals in Franklin; Georgia traditional regionals

Feb. 10-11 -- Region 3 traditional at Bradley Central, Region 4 traditional at Soddy-Daisy, -- Georgia traditional sectionals

Feb. 16-18 -- Tennessee traditional state at Franklin; Georgia traditional state in Duluth