published Monday, December 31st, 2012

PSU leads Scuffle field: UTC to host best college wrestling teams in the nation at Southern Scuffle

UTC wrestling head coach Heath Eslinger
UTC wrestling head coach Heath Eslinger
Photo by John Rawlston /Chattanooga Times Free Press.

The Southern Scuffle

At McKenzie Arena

Admission -- $5 18-under, $15 adults

Today

Noon -- workout areas available at McKenzie Arena main floor and UTC wrestling room

7 p.m. -- team and individual registration

Tuesday

9 a.m. -- ticket office and doors open to public

10 -- pigtail and round of 32

1:30 p.m. -- pigtail & consolation first rounds

3:30 -- Round of 16 (eight mats)

5 -- consolation second round

6:30 -- championship quarterfinals; consolation third round

Wednesday

9 a.m. -- Doors open

10 -- consolations fourth round

Noon -- semifinals; consolation quarterfinals

2 p.m. -- consolation semifinals

6 -- Medal-round matches

Top-ranked Penn State will be the favorite for the Southern Scuffle wrestling tournament Tuesday and Wednesday at McKenzie Arena, but the Nittany Lions will have to get through a field worthy of the NCAA championships to win it.

"The heavy hitters are here," host coach Heath Eslinger said. "It's almost a prequel to the NCAA tournament."

The tournament begins at 9 a.m. on the University of Tennessee at Chattanooga campus and continues through Wednesday's medal rounds, which begin at 6 p.m.

Among those joining Penn State are second-ranked Oklahoma State, No. 3 Minnesota, sixth-ranked Missouri, No. 8 Cornell, No. 11 Virginia Tech and No. 20 Virginia. Old Dominion, 24th in the latest national polls, does not have a complete team but will have some representatives in the field along with Boston College.

"Adding Oklahoma State is huge, and while Penn State is the favorite on paper I'm sure Oklahoma State is coming here to win the tournament," UTC's Eslinger said.

Teams not back from last year's Scuffle at McKenzie include Oregon State, Indiana and Hofstra, "but this is the 50th anniversary for the Midlands [tournament] and they made a push to get a lot of teams. I think we'll have them back next year," Eslinger said.

"The Southern Scuffle is the toughest tournament this side of the NCAA championships," said Martin Floreani, co-founder of Flowrestling.org. "Coach Eslinger has done an amazing job building this tournament into a can't-miss event. It was a no-brainer for Flowrestling to partner with UTC to showcase the event."

Floreani will webcast the tournament with a four-camera crew.

"We are beyond excited about watching Penn State, Oklahoma State, Minnesota, Cornell, Mizzou and many other top programs battle for team and individual titles," he said.

For those unable to attend the Scuffle, Floreani's two-day event coverage via the Internet will be available for $20.

The Nittany Lions won last year's tournament by 14 points over Minnesota. Missouri was third, Cornell fourth and Virginia sixth.

UTC finished seventh thanks mostly to freshman 133-pounder Nick Soto, who wrestled his way to a runner-up finish. The Mocs also had medalists in senior Dan Waddell (third/157) and junior Dean Pavlou (sixth, 149), senior Brandon Wright (eighth/165) and junior Niko Brown (seventh, 197).

Soto has dropped to 125 and Pavlou to 141. Brown remains at 197.

"I expect to have guys in the finals," Eslinger said. "Last year, the Scuffle was a springboard to a great second semester for us. This year we ended the first semester on a great note. We were healthy and in a great mood.

"I would have liked to beat Oklahoma State and Rutgers. We had a chance against Rutgers and didn't get the job done in a couple of places, but I am super pleased with this group of kids, and if we'll be consistent the results will take care of themselves."

Like others, UTC is looking for answers at a couple of weight classes.

"Last year [Minnesota's] David Thorn came in as the No. 1 seed [at 133 pounds] and [teammate] Chris Dardanes left as the starter," Eslinger said.

Dardanes finished fourth last year in his first NCAA tournament, while Thorn's season was cut short by injury.

The Mocs are looking for someone to step up at 133 pounds and 165.

"Those are the two spots where there is advertising on the door -- two weights where we haven't had anyone solidify his position," Eslinger said.

Marvin Lopez and Alex Ward have been the Mocs' primary competitors at 133, and John Lampe and Josh Condon have been working at 165.

about Ward Gossett...

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 ...

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