B.B. Branton: Sports Christmas Presents For Chattanooga

Monday, December 24, 2012 - by B.B. Branton

It’s been an excellent sports year for Chattanooga from the filming of a movie at Engel Stadium to national championships to hall of fame inductions.

The following have given the Chattanooga area a Christmas present of good publicity, notoriety and name recognition. 

In Keeping with the 12 Days of Christmas ... here are my 12 Highlights of 2012 …

Stephen Fox – No question the biggest and brightest present under the tree is a U.

S. Amateur and world team championship won by UTC golfer Stephen Fox … A life-changing few months for the quiet golfer with the magical 60 degree wedge … and we cannot wait until he tees it up with Bubba Watson on the first tee at The Masters on that Thursday morning in April …

UTC Women’s Basketball … wrapped in Blue and Gold, the Lady Mocs gave their fans one of the greatest gifts in program history and a night to remember … UTC gained national attention for its season-opening win against Tennessee, 80-71, before 8,000+ at McKenzie Arena on Nov.9 … Taylor Hall had 24 points and nine rebounds for the Wes Moore-coached squad, while teammate Alex Black added 14 points and four rebounds.

Janna Jahn – A tip of the cap to Janna and her Engel Stadium foundation board as they have tirelessly worked to put Engel Stadium back in playing shape … the Jackie Robinson movie “42” was filmed, in part, here and upon its release in the spring will bring attention to our city and remind young and old alike about “The House that Joe Built” 80 years ago.

Chattanooga State Softball … led by national tournament most valuable player and outstanding pitcher, Ashley Czechner, the Lady Tigers of Chattanooga State captured the programs first national championship in May in St. George, Utah … The Tigers defeated Salt Lake (Utah) Community College, 4-1, on a three-hitter by Czechner for the NJCAA Division I title as coach Beth Keyln-Randolph was named tournament coach of the year..

Wesley Cash – the former Baylor School and U. of Georgia tennis player won his second tennis grand slam in 2012 with doubles titles on indoor, grass, clay and hard courts … He also won all four in 2002 ... Dr. David Moore of Elite Sports Medicine in Nashville gave Wes one of the best Christmas presents ever – a new strong right knee in 2010 and two years later Wesley cashed in his chips along with a strong serve, backhand and net play and ran the table in the 55s to claim a grand slam.

Sue Bartlett – GPS tennis coach won the Women’s 55s National Clay Courts title this fall and will also head to Turkey as a member of the Great Britain Women’s 50s … Bartlett led her native country to the team gold medal in 2009 and has also earned the team silver (2010) and a bronze (2011) … The former UTC All-American has led GPS to team and individual state championships in 24 years as the Bruisers head coach.

Zan Guerry – Zan and his son Jeff who won their second senior father-son national doubles title in November …  The Chattem exec has won 31 national championships in singles and doubles ... He has won at least one national title in six decades starting with his first championship in the 11s in 1960 at Manker Patten.

Davis Tull – UTC sophomore defensive end has been named to four All-American teams … the former walk-on with a 3.43 grade point average has earned American Football Coaches Association first team honors and second team recognition by Associated Press, The Sports Network and Walter Camp … The Southern Conference Defensive Player of the Year led the SoCon with a UTC single-season record 19.0 tackles for loss and 12.5 sacks … he finished the year fifth on the team with 56 tackles while forcing three fumbles ... He is currently second on the Mocs' all-time list with 17.5 career sacks.

Heath Eslinger … UTC wrestling coach who took the bull by the horns and brought the impressive Southern Scuffle to McKenzie Arena (Jan. 1-2) to start 2012 with a bang for wrestling fans ... (the tourney was previously at UNC Greensboro until the Southern Conference school dropped varsity wrestling after the 2010-11 season) … defending NCAA champs Penn State, plus national powers Cornell, Minnesota and others also brought teams … Eslinger has added Oklahoma State, South Dakota State (with former UTC coach Chris Bono) and Northern Colorado to next week’s impressive field – Jan 1-2 … championship finals are Jan. 2 at 6 p.m.

Hannah Vanbiber … the Covenant College grad who works for CityScope magazine did a great service to our community with the inaugural edition of the CityScope High School Football Preview this past summer …Doubtful that anyone else has ever produced a four-color, high-end prep football preview yearbook for the Chattanooga area … Hannah (editor) and graphic designer Emily Long are to be commended.

And For Lifetime Service !! …

Luther Masingill – For his long overdue induction into the national radio broadcasters hall of fame … led by the tireless efforts of David Carroll (WRCB-TV Ch.3) and James Howard (WDEF Radio, 92.3 FM), Masingill was inducted in November .. The Chattanooga Central High School graduate  is also a member of the inaugural class of the Tennessee Radio Broadcasters Hall of Fame (May 2012) … known mainly as an on-air radio personality keeping Chattanoogans informed on current happenings in our area, Luther has ties to the Chattanooga sports world as he once served as the p.a. announcer for the Chattanooga Lookouts under Joe Engel.

Gary Davis – For the retiring Coca Cola exec and his four decades of great work with various youth sports programs, especially Dixie Youth Baseball ... he started with the company by driving a truck in the summers while at Furman and worked his way up the corporate ladder to become one of the best spokesmen in the company … Gary, who led McCallie to Mid-South Conference Championships in swimming and baseball in the late 1960s, was a DYB district director in the early 1990s.


contact B.B. Branton at william.branton@comcast.net

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