Raiders, Trojans AAA mat favorites

Raiders, Trojans AAA mat favorites

February 1st, 2013 by Ward Gossett in Sports - Preps

Tennessee state duals

Site: Williamson County Agricultural Expo/Arena; 4215 Long Lane, Franklin. Directions from Chattanooga: I-24 West to I-840 West to I-65 North.

Price of admission: $10 per person per day. TSSAA will honor, with photo ID, TACA member and TSSAA champion event cards.

Today's schedule (EST)

2 p.m. -- Gates open

3 -- Weigh-ins all divisions

4:30 -- AAA round of 16; quarterfinals Division II, A/AA

5:30 -- AAA round of 16; quarterfinals Division II, A/AA

8:30 -- AAA quarterfinals; semifinals Division II, A/AA

The openers

(from top of bracket)

Class AAA

Cleveland (22-2) vs. Cordova (8-12); Clarksville (28-4) vs. Dobyns-Bennett (21-4); Heritage (26-4) vs. Blackman (22-4); Knoxville Halls (10-5) vs. Independence (21-13); Science Hill (29-9) vs. Soddy-Daisy (13-4); Collierville (25-9) vs. Maryville (18-4); Wilson Central (28-0) vs. Maryville (18-4); Wilson Central (28-0) vs. Bearden (15-2); Beech (26-8) vs. Ravenwood (33-12).

Class A/AA

Pigeon Forge (19-7) vs. Martin Luther King (14-4); Stone Memorial (14-9) vs. Eagleville (15-24); Sycamore (17-12) vs. East Ridge (17-7); Greeneville (15-7) vs. Hixson.

Division II

Father Ryan (22-2) vs. Brentwood Academy (19-10); McCallie (8-5) vs. St. Benedict (25-8); Christian Brothers (26-1) vs. Montgomery Bell Academy (20-6); Baylor (14-3) receives bye.

Saturday schedule

7:30 a.m. -- Gates open

8:30 -- Weigh-ins all divisions

10 -- Consolations

Noon -- Consolations

2 p.m. -- AAA championship semis, consolation quarterfinals; A/AA consolation final; Division II consolation semifinals

4 -- AAA consolation semifinals; Division II consolation finals

6 -- AAA consolation finals

8 -- Championship meets all classifications

Debates are raging across the state regarding clear favorites in Tennessee's state wrestling duals championships.

Christian Brothers in Division II is the one receiving overwhelming support, and numerous observers expect a AAA repeat title bout between Cleveland and Soddy-Daisy and a Hixson matchup with Pigeon Forge in A/AA.

The Chattanooga area has six contenders in the three divisions: Baylor and McCallie in DII and East Ridge in A/AA in addition to Cleveland's Blue Raiders, Soddy-Daisy's Trojans and Hixson's Wildcats.

The tournament begins today at 4:30 p.m. EST at the Williamson County Agricultural Expo in Franklin.

"Unless there's some crazy strategy, I don't see how anybody can touch Christian Brothers," Cleveland coach Jake Yost said of Division II. "I would anticipate another all-purple final last year."

Yost was referring to Christian Brothers and Father Ryan, a match Christian Brothers won last year.

"Christian Brothers," Baylor coach Ben Nelson responded when asked about a DII favorite. "They've had the season to support their No. 1 ranking, to be honest, and to be the favorite. It will be up to everybody else to step their games up."

Thanks to a first-round bye for Nelson's team, it's expected that CBHS will be Baylor's first action following a Purple Wave win over Montgomery Bell Academy.

"That could be a pretty good match," McCallie's Mike Newman said of Baylor's battle with CBHS. "Baylor's [injured] guys may not yet be 100 percent, but having them back in the lineup is going to help."

On the other hand, Newman pointed out that CBHS again is loaded from 106 through heavyweight.

"They've had some injuries, too, but there are 14 seniors available. They're solid at every weight," he said.

"It's really hard to be interested in anything else when you've been part of this Cleveland/Bradley/Soddy-Daisy blood feud the last several years," Soddy-Daisy coach Jim Higgins said. "If I had to guess I'd think Hixson and Pigeon Forge have the best chances in A/AA."

Hixson coach Garrick Hall, who has produced a pair of championship teams, was cautious when asked for a prediction.

"This may be the year for Pigeon Forge. They've been there but haven't been able to get past Central or East Literature," he said. "We have to wrestle our 'A' game just to get past the first round. The kids have to be ready to go every time out. I've told them every team has earned the right to be there."

As for the likelihood that Cleveland and Soddy-Daisy will wrestle again for the AAA title, Higgins gave a quick "Dancing with the Stars" two-step.

"I'm curious about that Ravenwood/Wilson Central dual," he said. "From what I've heard, both are solid across the board, so it should be a fairly good matchup."

His Cleveland counterpart was just as quick.

"On the other side of the bracket, Wilson Central, Ravenwood and Soddy-Daisy are all solid teams," Yost said. "If you're talking about experience and having been in big matches, I'd have to go with Soddy-Daisy. I want to give Wilson Central some credit, but when it comes down to it the lack of experience will catch up with them."

While the usually blunt Higgins wouldn't come right out and say it, he is anticipating getting to the championship final and dueling again with Cleveland.

"We're not taking anybody lightly. We definitely tried to do our homework and prepare as best we could," he said. "I'm not looking past the semifinal match on our side, but I believe in my team and I find it hard to believe that Cleveland could stumble enough not to make it to the finals. Lord knows they're hungry. They're a darn good team, but we have a darn good team, too."