Tennessee's state wrestling tourney could be tight

Tennessee's state wrestling tourney could be tight

February 14th, 2012 by Ward Gossett in Sports - Preps

Soddy-Daisy coach Steve Henry, right, watches during the final match of the night as wrestlers react to a pin by teammate Josh Deckelman in this file photo.

Photo by Jake Daniels /Times Free Press.

Soddy-Daisy won the TSSAA Class AAA wrestling duals championship two weekends ago. Then the Trojans scored more points than any other Tennessee team in any traditional region tournament.

They're walking right into a brawl this weekend in Franklin, though, and the Division II half of Williamson County's Agricultural Expo should be no different.

"I'm telling the kids they are a favorite. I think I have to," Trojans coach Steve Henry said.

The Division I traditional state tournament begins Thursday, and the Division II tournament starts at 10 a.m. EST Friday. Saturday's championship finals now are scheduled to start at 6 p.m. EST.

While most might expect Region 4 champion Soddy-Daisy and Region 3 winner Cleveland to battle to the wire for the Division I title, Henry took it a step further.

"I'll be keeping an eye on Cleveland the whole time, but I don't think it's just Cleveland," he said. "Science Hill, Bradley Central, Franklin, Independence and Clarksville -- they're all going to be factors, along with Ravenwood and Cordova. Each is a formidable team."

The target on Cleveland might be slightly larger than that on Soddy-Daisy because the Blue Raiders came from behind and overcame six Trojans finalists to win the 2011 title.

"It will be an exciting race -- tough kids scrapping it out," Raiders coach Eric Phillips said. "If we wrestle well, we'll be right in the thick of it. We're in a fight and I'm expecting Soddy-Daisy, Science Hill, Bradley and Ravenwood will be throwing punches at us.

"I expect Independence will be right in the thick of it, too -- some good individuals and guys in the upper weights that can go."

There are teams with multiple qualifiers that might not have a significant impact, but Phillips said there was no way Pigeon Forge would be in that group.

"They've proven it. They have returning medalists," he said, "as do Soddy-Daisy, Bradley and Independence."

Henry has hammered the same point since last August when school resumed. Soddy-Daisy had the wherewithal to win the 2011 state title and didn't finish what it started.

"I left [Franklin] with a humongously bad taste in my mouth. I just wanted to get out of there," the coach said. "It had nothing to do with the kids. They had great effort. Look how many we had in the finals. We came up short by 6 1/2 points, and there are plenty of places we could have made that up. It's a message I've driven home. We simply came up short and we have to man up and say that.

"I'm focusing this year on us winning the ones we're supposed to win and winning some maybe we're not supposed to win in order to get those extra points."

He is looking for a more definitive and positive attitude.

"We can't go out there hoping to win but rather with the idea that we're going out and take charge and make sure we win," Henry said.

Division II is expected to be a four-team race among duals champion Christian Brothers, duals runner-up Father Ryan, Baylor and McCallie.

Christian Brothers got 13 of the top seeds at last week's Division II seeding meeting but only one top seed. Father Ryan has five No. 1 seeds but no seconds, and McCallie has six wrestlers seeded to the finals. Baylor received two top seeds, five second seeds, two third seeds and two fourth seeds.

"It's going to be close," Baylor coach Ben Nelson said. "It should be fun and it should be tight between those four teams. This year, more than ever, I don't see any team running away from the others."

Father Ryan and Baylor are in similar situations.

"We have a handful of weights where guys are expected to finish high. If that's the case, then it will be up to teammates to step up and get on the medals stand somewhere," Nelson said. "Whichever team is able to do that most consistently is going to finish No. 1."

His Red Raiders might have an ace up their sleeve in Houston Clements, who'll be in the lineup at 160 pounds. He was unseeded.

"That was interesting," Nelson said. "I hope it works in our favor. I'm expecting him to wrestle well."

Baylor's top seeds are Zach Watson (126), seeking his fifth state championship, and Matthew Cate (152). McCallie's No. 1 seeds are Alex Elsea (113), Tim Westbrooks (132) and Tye Youngblood (285).

Contact Ward Gossett at wgossett@timesfreepress.com or 423-886-4765.