Penn State is coming to Chattanooga along with Cornell, Minnesota, Stanford and Central Michigan.
Defending NCAA champion Penn State will be among two dozen college wrestling teams that will converge on McKenzie Arena on Jan. 1-2 when the University of Tennessee at Chattanooga hosts its first Southern Scuffle. Cornell and Minnesota, which are expected to be ranked in the national top five, also will take part, and Stanford and CMU highlight the Mocs' six-meet home schedule. They'll visit for a Nov. 20 tri-match.
The Scuffle, which UTC acquired when former host UNC Greensboro dropped its wrestling program, will be a schedule highlight along with the Southern Conference tournament, which the Mocs got this year for the same reason. UTC wasn't scheduled to host the tournament for another two years, but after UNCG dropped its program, next-in-line VMI was unable to secure its gym on the needed date.
"We're excited about both events," Mocs coach Heath Eslinger said. "We feel the Scuffle is the premier event outside of the NCAA tournament. We don't want to just maintain the tournament. We want to enhance it and make it even better."
The Mocs' other home opponents are Old Dominion, new SoCon wrestling member Gardner-Webb, Ohio University, Cleveland State and longtime conference rival Appalachian State. Among the Mocs' road trips are the Lone Star Duals in Dallas and the national duals at Stillwater, Okla.
"Only 24 teams go [to the national duals]. There are four regionals and our regional is at Oklahoma State. The winner of each regional will then advance to a Final Four," Eslinger said. "The National Wrestling Coaches Association has built the duals and is hoping that the NCAA will partner with them in the future so we have a true national duals champion."
Because of the national duals, Eslinger said, teams will wrestle their conference schedules earlier in the season.
"From next season on, the team that wins the conference [best record in dual meets] will go to the national duals," he said.
UTC is not facing Southern Illinois-Edwardsville, another new SoCon affiliate member for wrestling. SIUE is moving up from the Division II ranks and is completing its last year of a mandatory three-year probationary period.
Ward Gossett is an assistant sports editor and writer for the Times Free Press. Ward has a long history in Chattanooga journalism. He actually wrote a bylined story for the Chattanooga News-Free Press as a third-grader. He Began working part-time there in 1968 and was hired full time in 1970. Ward now covers high school athletics, primarily football, wrestling and baseball and University of Tennessee at Chattanooga wrestling. Over a 40-year career, he has covered ...