The calendar is playing tricks with the Soddy-Daisy Showdown.
"It happens to us every seven years with the tournament right at the new year," Trojans wrestling coach Jim Higgins said. "We bumped it ahead (a week) for this year and next year."
The scheduling quirk — the tournament normally falls on the first Saturday after New Year's Day, but that would have been Jan. 2 this year — left Soddy-Daisy with only nine teams in the field.
Yet Higgins, with TSSAA approval, came up with an idea that should be beneficial to each of the participating squads. They'll be allowed to enter two wrestlers for each weight class, although only one will accumulate points toward team scoring.
"It's an awesome format," said Cleveland coach Jake Yost, whose Blue Raiders will be there Saturday. "I'm excited. It'll be different, but it gives more kids the opportunity to compete."
Higgins sees potential in the change, and he referenced results from the University of Tennessee at Chattanooga's home tournament last weekend.
"The TSSAA normally doesn't allow this type tournament, but I believe it's a direction we need to go for the future of the sport," Higgins said. "At the (Southern) Scuffle last week, John Smith's son from Oklahoma State wrestled unattached and made it to the finals. This change gives a tournament a different spin."
The format also gives coaches an opportunity to see their wrestlers in a different light than challenge matches within the team.
"All of us, I'm pretty sure, have kids that were in the lineup last year and aren't in the lineup this year, plus we have youngsters that haven't yet been in the lineup," Higgins said. "A lot of times with challenge matches, you have two guys that are practice partners and therefore know each other pretty well. With this format, coaches can see who is ready to compete under the lights."
The team scoring also takes a backseat.
"We're not worried about team scores at a Jan. 9 tournament," Yost said. "We're there to get better for the end of the season, and this tournament will help us reach our goals."
Centennial, Chattanooga Christian, Cookeville, Dobyns-Bennett, Gibbs, Independence and McCallie will join Cleveland and Soddy-Daisy at the tournament. McCallie is ranked fourth in the latest Tennessee wrestling coaches' poll, with Cleveland eighth and Soddy-Daisy 10th.
The tournament starts at 10 a.m. Higgins anticipates the medal matches beginning around 4 p.m. All-day admission is $10 for adults and $5 for students, with children younger than 6 admitted free.
The Central Invitational is also going on Saturday, starting at 9 a.m. Participating teams are Christian Academy of Knoxville, East Hamilton, East Ridge, Howard, Knox Central, Rhea County, Sale Creek, Shelbyville, Silverdale, St. Andrew's-Sewanee, St. Benedict, Tullahoma, Tyner and Union County.
Georgia holds areas
The wrestling postseason in Georgia officially begins this weekend with area duals competitions, including the 7-AAAA at Ridgeland, the 6-AAA at Sonoraville and the 3-A at Trion.
Defending state champion Gilmer is the clear favorite in 7-AAAA, but the other state playoff berth spot is expected to be a tight battle involving 2015 area and state runner-up Northwest Whitfield, Heritage, Southeast Whitfield and Ridgeland.
Defending 6-AAA champion Sonoraville will have a much tougher field to conquer, including tournament-tested teams Ringgold and Coahulla Creek. Gordon Lee is expected to be in the hunt at the 3-AA tournament at Lovett, while Trion, coming off a tournament win at Rockmart, is the favorite in 3-A.
Contact Ward Gossett at firstname.lastname@example.org or 423-886-4765. Follow him on Twitter @wardgossett.