It's been quite a week for coach Jim Higgins and his Soddy Daisy wrestling team.
The Trojans have had an outstanding season and had high expectations after winning both the State Duals and Traditional titles a year ago. That Trojan train had been rolling right on down the track, but they sort of got derailed a bit last week when three starters were kicked off the team before the duals ever started.
Soddy Daisy came home a bit shaken after finishing third, but Higgins used this week as a springboard for the final two weeks of the season.
It's safe to say that hope has been restored after the Trojans won their fourth-straight Region 4 title at Ooltewah's Edward M. Foster Gymnasium Saturday afternoon.
The Trojans had trailed Hixson by 2.5 points following Friday's rounds, but after advancing eight of 11 semifinalists into the championship finals Saturday morning and then winning seven of those eight later in the day, the Trojans did indeed prevailed with 224.5 points. They also qualified 10 for the state tournament, which begins Thursday in Franklin.
Hixson had a strong second day as well and advanced nine to Franklin while taking runner-up honors with 173.5 points. East Ridge was third with 158 while Central and Signal Mountain completed the top five teams with 116 and 114.5 points, respectively.
"This was about on par for what I was expecting," said Higgins as he held a shoulder bag on one side and a baby carrier on the other. Youngest son Quinton, who was born in early December, was sound asleep in the carrier with no cares in the world as he had total confidence his daddy had everything totally under control.
"This is his first wrestling match," he smiled as he looked down at his future Trojan.
"I'm extremely pleased with the effort. These guys fought for each other all the way through. We had talk earlier this week and I told them it's all about the present and the future, that we weren't going to look back. It feels good to win my first region as the head coach, but I feel so much better today than I did last week and I feel like we're heading in the right direction," he added.
"I'm really proud of freshman Conner Stiles, who had only wrestled two or three varsity matches before qualifying for the state today. That's a big deal for him. I'm also proud of Luke Reno, who lost in the finals. He's wrestled tough all year, but he had a tough kid today in C.J. Baker.
"Blaike (Henry) is firing on all cylinders and didn't allow a point all weekend while Jacob (Stevens) is a fireball and always goes for the throat from the start. And I was really happy with Gage (Richmond), who won at 145 and avenged his loss to the Frazy kid," Higgins nodded.
Notre Dame's Luke Mullin captured the first individual title with a 10-0 major decision at 106 before Soddy Daisy's Austin Houser prevailed at 113. Teammates Jacob Stevens and Tucker Russo followed with wins at 120 and 126.
Other champions for the Trojans included Austin Williamson at 138, Gage Richmond at 145, Garrett Alexander at 170 and Blaike Henry at 182.
East Ridge had three champions, including Brandon Cantrell at 195, C.J. Baker at 220 and Will Garner at 285.
Michael Labbe won at 160 to join Notre Dame teammate Mullin in the winner's circle. Other champs included Central's Larry Dickerson at 152 and Ooltewah's Matt Lemons, who won everything at 132.
The 126-pound final between Soddy Daisy's Russo and Notre Dame's Packy Mullin was voted the Best Match. The score was tied 1-1 after regulation but in a quick and most decisive way, the Trojan freshman scored a takedown at the end of the first overtime to prevail, 3-1.
Soddy Daisy's Stevens was voted the Best Wrestler after pinning his way to the championship, including the last one that ended in just 35 seconds.
Stevens had one of five pins in the finals and his was the second quickest. East Ridge's Cantrell needed just 21 seconds to prevail at 195.
Hixson coach Garrick Hall had nothing but good things to say about his kids, who will take nine to Franklin next week.
"I thought we gave the best effort we possibly could and we're taking nine next week, which is the most for us in a long, long time. I was really happy for Nick Peck, who was unseeded at 145 but finished fourth. That's big for our program.
"Soddy Daisy did about what I expected as they're a solid team from top to bottom," Hall nodded.
East Ridge coach Brad Laxton was also pretty-much happy with the way things turned out.
"I hate it for those who didn't advance, but we qualified seven and I'm happy about that. I wish that my 220-pounder had been a little more aggressive, but we finished third behind Soddy Daisy and Hixson and we're proud of that," he nodded.
There were a handful of upsets among the top seeds, including two number-ones and four seconds.
Soddy Daisy's Jacob McClure got pinned in the first semifinal of the morning at 106 while Hixson's Landon Goforth lost a 6-2 decision to Notre Dame's Noah Bankston at 132.
Ironically, East Hamilton's Briar Potter was seeded second at 106 and he too lost in the semis. So there was a match between the top two seeds at that weight, only in the consolation finals.
Other seconds to fall included Chattanooga Christian's Carter Thomas, who was knocked off in Friday night's championship quarters. DeAngelo Johnson (160) of East Ridge, Ooltewah's Jordan Zink (182) and Central's Truman Martin (195) all lost in the semifinals.
LEGEND, FINAL TEAM SCORES & NUMBER OF STATE QUALIFIERS
1. Soddy Daisy (SD) 224.5 (10); 2. Hixson (Hix) 173.5 (9); 3. East Ridge (ER) 158 (7); 4. Chattanooga Central (Cen) 116 (6); 5. Signal Mountain (SM) 114.5 (6); 6. Notre Dame (ND) 99 (4); 7. Ooltewah (O) 96.5 (5); 8. Howard (How) 65 (3); 9. East Hamilton (EH) 58.5 (2); 10. Chattanooga Christian (CCS) 47 (3).
11. Red Bank (RB) 30 (O); 12. Tyner (T) 27 (1); 13. Brainerd (Br) 13 (O); 14. Sequatchie County (Seq) 11 (0); 15. Sale Creek (SC) 8 (0); 16. Boyd-Buchanan (BB) 6 (0); 17. Silverdale (Sil) and Whitwell (W) tied with 1 point and no qualifiers.
106 -- Luke Mullin (ND) major dec. Renardo Bussey (How), 10-0;
113 -- Austin Houser (SD) dec. Grayson Layne (Hix), 2-1;
120 -- Jacob Stevens (SD) pinned Brandon Whitley (ER), :35;
126 -- Tucker Russo (SD) dec. Packy Mullin (ND), 3-1 in overtime;
132 -- Matt Lemons (O) dec. Noah Bankston (ND), 7-5;
138 -- Austin Williamson (SD) dec. Ameer Jibrin (Hix), 2-1;
145 -- Gage Richmond (SD) dec. Michael Frazy (Cen), 9-5;
152 -- Larry Dickerson (Cen) pinned Jordan Russell (O), 3:34;
160 -- Michael Labbe (ND) dec. Aaron Alemany (H), 5-3 in overtime;
170 -- Garrett Alexander (SD) dec. Cale Shelton (SM), 3-1;
182 -- Blaike Henry (SD) pinned Harrison Hall (SM), 2:15;
195 -- Brandon Cantrell (ER) pinned Micah Pressley (SM), :21;
220 -- C.J. Baker (ER) dec. Luke Reno (SD), 5-2;
285 -- Will Garner (ER) pinned Antonio Woodall (How), 1:38.
CONSOLATION FINALS FOR THIRD PLACE
106 -- Jacob McClure (SD) dec. Briar Potter (EH), 7-4;
113 -- Bryson Lemons (Cen) pinned Warren Weaver (SM), 2:16;
120 -- Steven Skavenitis (Hix) pinned Matt Meeks (EH), :42;
126 -- Isaiah Hawthorne (Hix) pinned Spencer Griffy (ER), 1:22;
132 -- Landon Goforth (Hix) pinned Conner Stiles (SD), 1:36;
138 -- Robert McAvoy (ER) pinned Tyler Reid (O), 3:32;
145 -- Sam Murray (CCS) dec. Nick Peck (Hix), 8-3;
152 -- Kyler Kayonek (SM) dec. Chase Daughtery (T), 4-2;
160 -- Joe Drennan (SM) pinned DeAngelo Johnson (ER), 2:35;
170 -- Chris Nicholson (Hix) pinned James Hughes (Cen), 1:39;
182 -- Jordan Zink (O) dec. Chris Gaither (CCS), 7-2;
195 -- Truman Martin (Cen) pinned Ladarius Griffith (How), 3:18;
220 -- Max Kuenzli (CCS) pinned Casey Wallen (Hix), 2:54;
285 -- Sam Stephenson (Cen) major dec. Jacob Keltch (O), 10-1.
(Email John Hunt at email@example.com)