Conventional wisdom suggests that any list of the best high school sports programs in most of Chattanooga and northwest Georgia will be dominated by traditional Southern staples.
Football rules down south, right? It’s good here too. So are baseball and basketball, but none of the three is the king or queen of prep sports in the picturesque city area.
The Times Free Press staff just completed a series of the 12 best prep dynasties in the area over the past 50 years, and this list of the best of the best probably isn’t what you first expected. It featured programs in eight different sports, but when considering which sports have had the most success from regional teams, wrestling and softball stood out.
The struggle led by the Baylor, Cleveland and Bradley Central dynasties earns top honors, and the list of superior programs runs much deeper than that formidable trio.
The Chattanooga area has been dominant in the TSSAA state traditional and dual championships since the beginning. A local wrestling team has won the state traditional tournament 69 times out of 100 chances to go 60-for-91 in state doubles title matches. Baylor, Bradley Central, Cleveland and McCallie have amassed 96 team titles and have more than 350 individual champions.
Of the 26 Tennessee wrestlers who have been four- or five-time individual state champions, the Chattanooga area has 22 of them, including all three five-time winners: Baylor’s Zach Watson and McCallie’s TJ Duncan and Alex Whitworth.
Signal Mountain’s Uhorchuk family can total 17 individual state championships between brothers Daniel (four from 2018-21), Caleb (four from 2020-23), Ethan (three with two seasons remaining) and Joseph (one with three seasons remaining) until their preparation is complete.
East Ridge and Soddy-Daisy each have seven team state titles, and Notre Dame (five), Hixson (four), Red Bank (four) and Central (three) have strong streaks. Red Bank still holds the state record for most individual champions in a season, with eight in 1963.
“What’s special about the history of wrestling in this area is how consistent and far-reaching it is,” Baylor coach Rex Kendall said. “This area is unmatched in wrestling mat tradition. We hope to continue to build on this tradition and stay on top.”
Northwest Georgia wrestling programs in the Times Free Press coverage area have produced results over the past 20 years equal to those of Tennessee teams in the area, although the titles are more spread out.
The GHSA began holding state duals in 2002 and area schools have won 11 titles. During that same time, regional programs also won 13 state traditional championships.
Ringgold led the way with four traditional titles and three dual championships during that span, with Lafayette following with five combined and Gordon Lee, Sonoraville and Tryon each winning three.
Softball is the second most successful sport in the area, with a deep roster of impressive programs led by Baylor and Gordon Lee, who both made the Dynamite Dozen Dynasties list.
In Tennessee, 2002 was the last season in the Chattanooga area that did not have at least one team play for a state softball title. As of this year, there have been 57 local teams that have reached the championship game with a district program, winning a state title in every classification during that span.
Baylor won a TSSAA-record 15 state titles, which included another state-record seven consecutive championships from 2015-22, a span in which the Lady Red Raiders went 224-22 overall. All seven straight state championships for Baylor have come by way of back-to-back titles against GPS, which is tied with Soddy-Daisy with eight state championships.
Baylor or GPS has won every Division II or DII-AA state title since the Bruisers fell to Father Ryan in the 2006 title game.
Hixson and Ooltewah each have four state titles, while East Ridge and Meigs County each have three and Boyd Buchanan and Red Bank each have two.
In Northwest Georgia, in addition to the Gordon Lee GHSA dynasty’s 11 state titles since 2004, the area has 14 championships. Calhoun and legendary coach Dianne Smith have four of those trophies, with Heritage and Ringgold adding three each and Dade County and Northwest Whitfield two each.
“Softball has always been strong in Chattanooga, and once Georgia players started competing in the summer with these elite summer teams, the level of play here has gone up,” Gordon Lee coach Dana Mull said. “Without question, this area, both North Georgia and Chattanooga, has some of the best softball in the South.”
Looking ahead, boys soccer – especially in northwest Georgia – could be the next sport to have multiple dynasties. Dalton is already there, but rivals Southeast Whitfield, Northwest Whitfield, Coahulla Creek and Dalton Academy also have championships in the past three seasons.
Contact Patrick McCoon at [email protected]. Contact Lindsey Young at [email protected].
READ THE SERIES: DYNAMITE DOZEN PREP DYNASTIES
No. 12: Baylor Boys & Girls Tennis
#11: Calhoun Baseball
#10: Bradley Central Wrestling
#9: Gordon Lee Softball
No. 8: Baylor softball
#7: Cleveland Wrestling
No. 6: Baylor wrestling
#5: Calhoun Football
No. 4: Dalton Boys Soccer
#3: South Pittsburgh Football
No. 2: Baylor Boys and Girls Golf
No. 1: Bradley Central girls basketball