The University of Tennessee at Chattanooga is wrestling its final home meet of the season this afternoon, and coach Heath Eslinger hopes to have at least 1,000 in the stands when the Mocs honor four seniors.
The meet with Southern Conference opponent VMI begins at 2 p.m. at Maclellan Gym.
The four seniors are Cody Cleveland (141 pounds), Jason McCroskey (184), Matt Lettner (285) and Cody Stokes. A Central graduate, Stokes completed his eligibility last season. He is scheduled to graduate in May with a degree in education.
Cleveland is a sixth-year wrestler, having been awarded a hardship season after a knee injury last year. Currently working on his master's degree, the former All-American is 10-0 this year and ranked ninth nationally.
McCroskey, who is scheduled to graduate in May with a degree in engineering, has another year of eligibility. He leads the Mocs with a 21-8 record.
Lettner has missed much of the season, most recently with a knee injury, but is expected to return to the lineup today. Lettner, majoring in general management, has been on the dean's list each of the last four semesters and is scheduled to graduate in May.
A win today would give UTC its 19th straight conference victory at home. The Mocs have not lost a SoCon home meet since a 26-12 defeat by VMI in 2003. A win also would give them their seventh straight regular-season league championship.
"The conference win streak doesn't have a lot to do with me because this is only my second season [as head coach], but it is definitely a streak we want to continue," Eslinger said.
(UTC wrestler listed first)
125--Preston Garner vs. John Pope; 133--Bucky Johnson vs. Luke Todd; 141--Cody Cleveland vs. David Yost or Ryan Goodsell; 149--Dean Pavlou vs. Mike Long; 157--Josh Condon vs. Mike Burnett; 165--Dan Waddell vs. Ted Gottwald; 174--Brandon Wright vs. Matt Brock; 184--Jason McCroskey vs. John Dommert or Evan Dill; 197--Niko Brown vs. Ronnie Ellsworth; 285--Matt Lettner vs. No. 17 Josh Wine.
Records: UTC 11-10, 4-0 SoSon; VMI 4-9, 1-3.
He wants to use this meet as a springboard to the March 5 conference tournament in Boone, N.C.
"It's our last live preparation for the tournament, and it's important for the guys' attitudes and intensity level to be where they need to be," Eslinger said. "Too, it's the last home meet for a great group of guys in Lettner, Cleveland, McCroskey and Stokes."
The only probable lineup change is Lettner reclaiming his heavyweight spot.
A UTC highlight lately has been the re-emergence of Dean Pavou at 149 pounds. The sophomore has won six of his last eight matches.
"He's listening and he's at least taking baby steps of putting into practice what we're trying to do. We want him to realize how good he is and how many points he could score," Eslinger said. "He doesn't need to be winning 2-1 when he could score a dozen. Winning 2-1 is one thing, but just winning 2-1 'cause you're not willing to work, well, that's not OK."
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 ...