Shane Turner had high hopes when he assumed the head-coaching duties for Red Bank's wrestling program.
Even with just 18 wrestlers in the room when the season started, he remained optimistic. And even after parting ways with three or four, his mindset was upbeat.
"We had some guys that were more concerned about themselves than the team. There's no room for selfishness," Turner said. "We want the guys to be aware of how individual actions impact their teammates, their coaches, their school and their community."
The Lions, now 11-6, are within a win of tripling last year's victory total, and they're within a single point of having a top-five finish in each of the three tournaments they've entered.
They're coming off a runner-up finish at the Central Invitational last weekend behind Trent Comeaux (106), a finalist in each of the three tournaments, and state-ranked Devin Crawl, who has won the 170-pound title in all three.
"It's coming around faster than I thought," Turner said. "We have four dual meets and one more tournament (Halls, Jan. 18) and we're in the postseason. The teaching phase is over. It's fine-tuning and getting bodies ready for the postseason."
The Lions have a big meet next Tuesday, hosting Hixson at 6 p.m.
"We saw them early (at the Thanksgiving weekend Heritage Duals) and they spanked us pretty good," Turner said.
That match could determine one of the area's A/AA state duals berths.
Beyond that, Turner and the Lions are excited about the new A/AA traditional state tournament.
"Guys that were staunchly against it are guys that have 35 wrestlers in the room," he said. "I've been on both sides of the fence (previously coaching at Soddy-Daisy and Baylor), and Tennessee had evolved to the point where it was really a five- or six-team competition. Red Bank can't compete with schools that have 1,200-plus students. Now there's a glimmer of hope. You don't have to have a full lineup in order to compete. I think we'll eventually get more kids involved in the small-school division."
A young Ooltewah team finished fourth among 14 teams in the William Blount tournament last weekend.
Leading the way was heavyweight champion Jacob Keltch, who coach Wendell Weathers said was one of the hardest workers in the practice room.
"Right now all I care about is that they're fighting hard. Our record is 7-7, but I'm tickled to death with where we are," Weathers said.
The Owls have operated without two potential region medalists in junior Matt Lemons (132), a transfer who decided to go back to LaFayette, and sophomore Tyler Reid, who probably would have been Ooltewah's 160-pounder. Reid is out for the year after breaking his forearm in three places in the football team's playoff game with East Hamilton.
Brother Martin swept through some of the area's best teams including Cleveland, host Soddy-Daisy and McCallie to win last weekend's Soddy-Daisy Showdown.
It's no wonder, really. The New Orleans school has a wrestling roster of 155 and the facilities for that many to work out daily.
Coach Robert Dauterive's second and third teams also have varsity tournament championships to their credit this year.
The Tennessee postseason's new look includes a Division II East/Middle qualifying tournament for the traditional (individual) state meet.
That tournament will be held Feb. 8 at Baylor and will feature the host Red Raiders, Donelson Christian, Franklin Road Academy, Knoxville Webb, Battle Ground Academy, McCallie, Ensworth, Father Ryan, Montgomery Bell Academy, Pope John Paul II and Brentwood Academy.
The tournament format is still being debated.
Also, in conjunction with the new A/AA traditional state tournament, an A/AA regional will be wrestled Feb. 7-8 at Hixson. The A/AA region competitors will be Boyd-Buchanan, Brainerd, Central, Chattanooga Christian, East Ridge, the host Wildcats, Howard, Notre Dame, Red Bank, Sale Creek, Sequatchie County, Signal Mountain, Silverdale Baptist, Tyner and Whitwell.
The Region 3-AAA tournament with Bradley Central, Cleveland, East Hamilton, McMinn County, Ooltewah, Rhea County, Soddy-Daisy and Walker Valley will be held Feb. 8 at Walker Valley.
Contact Ward Gossett@firstname.lastname@example.org or 423-886-4765. Follow him at Twitter.com/wardgossett.