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Staff photo by Troy Stolt / Bradley Central 138-pound wrestler Taron Patterson shoots a takedown attempt against Baylor's Garrison Dewdy during Baylor's home wrestling match against Bradley Central high school on Tuesday, Dec. 8, 2020 in Chattanooga, Tenn.

After a 12-year absence, the TSSAA state wrestling tournament is returning to Chattanooga. Due to the Williamson County Expo Center — which has hosted the past 11 state tournaments — being used as a COVID-19 testing center, the TSSAA has selected alternative sites for the upcoming wrestling state championships and announced the move on Monday.

The traditional state tournament will be held at the Chattanooga Convention Center on Feb. 18-20. The public school's Class A/AA portion of the tournament will be held on Thursday, Feb. 18, followed the next day by Division II and the girls' state tournament and finishing with the public school's Class AAA portion on Saturday, Feb. 20.

The state duals will remain in Williamson County but held at high schools within that county on Feb. 6, rather than one site. Nolensville, Centennial and Indepdenence high schools as well as Mill Creek Middle will serve as the host sites. Eight schools will compete in Class AAA, while four schools will compete for a championship in Class A/AA and D-II as well as the girls' dual meet.

"I hate the fact that we lost it to begin with because our area has always been so strong in supporting wrestling," said veteran Hixson coach Garrick Hall. "This is a really big deal for the kids just to get to have their season and compete again, but now to be able to have the state tournament closer to home is just another bonus.

"It will allow so many of the local programs to save money because now we can stay home, practice in our own facility to get ready and the kids will sleep in their own bed and not have to pay for a hotel stay and food. We used to go up a day early to practice at one of the schools near the site but with the virus, I doubt any schools would allow teams to come into their facility to prepare now."

Hall has coached high school wrestling since 1996, with the last 16 seasons as Hixson's head coach.

"I had told our kids to be prepared for anything that could happen this season, and they know it'll be a limited schedule but just to have the season and now the state tournament here is a relief. The kids are in virtual classes for school so the only time they're around other kids their age is at practice. You should see the way their demeanor changes once they were allowed to come back to practice and be around their friends. You could just see it. This is so important to the kids' mental health."

The TSSAA has not yet announced whether parents or a specific number of fans will be allowed to attend, but it did recently release a statement that attendance for winter sports will be limited to those in the same household as the student-athlete, plus coaches, first responders and media. Those crowd limitations are set until further notice, according to the mandate released by the TSSAA in mid-December.

A complete tournament schedule for both events will be published at tssaasports.com once details are finalized.

Contact Stephen Hargis at shargis@timesfreepress.com or 423-757-6293. Follow him on Twitter @StephenHargis

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