Appalachian State 21, UTC 17
(Meet started at 174 pounds)
125 -- Manny Ramirez (UTC) major dec. Brett Boston, 13-1;
133 -- Nick Soto (UTC) major dec. Brett Boston, 14-3;
141 -- Mike Kessler (A) dec. Shawn Greevy, 8-2;
149 -- Savva Kostis (A) pinned Kelly Felix, 7:46;
157 -- Dan Waddell (UTC) dec. Chip Powell, 5-2;
165 -- Kyle Blevins (A) dec. Brandon Wright, 6-3.
174 -- Levi Clemons (UTC) dec. Carter Downs, 8-3;
184 -- Austin Trotman (A) pinned Cory Canada, 1:35;
197 -- Paul Weiss (A) dec. Robert Prigmore, 8-3;
285 -- Kevin Malone (UTC) dec. Joe Cummings, 6-4.
Records: Appalachian 10-3, 4-0; UTC 11-4, 4-1.
The rivalry is officially renewed.
Appalachian State rode into town, a fan bus on its heels, and rode out with a 21-17 wrestling victory over the University of Tennessee at Chattanooga.
The win ended the Mocs' string of home conference wins at 21 and their run of consecutive Southern Conference victories at 39. It also was the Mountaineers' first win over UTC in 10 tries, the Mocs having last lost to Appalachian in 2003 and represented Appalachian's first win in Chattanooga since 1998.
"Any time you can come into a hostile environment like this and win it is good," Appalachian coach John Mark Bentley. "It's a big win and I'm going to enjoy this day."
The Mountaineers brought a bus of fans from Boone, an unprecedented move in Southern Conference wrestling circles according to UTC associate athletic director Matt Pope.
"I think our fans gave our guys a little momentum," Bentley said.
The third-year coach is of a mindset similar to that of UTC coach Heath Eslinger in wanting to see the sport blossom within the conference.
"I'd love to see every team take a fan bus to big away conference meets," Bentley said. "Southern Conference wrestling is getting better. I told our coaches after the meet that [UTC] is going to keep working hard and that we have to also."
The teams halved the 10 matches and the difference came in bonus points. Appalachian got two -- including one in overtime at 149 pounds -- and the best the Mocs could manage was major decisions (one extra team point) from 125-pound Manny Ramirez and 133-pound Nick Soto.
That 149-pound match was pivotal in the outcome with UTC coaches feeling the Mocs needed to win two of three between 149, 157 and 165. They got one, a decision from Dan Waddell (157).
Kelly Felix battled at 149 and scrambled out of at least two takedown-to- near fall situations, but he was unable to secure any points. Each finished with a single escape. As they closed in the initial overtime period, Appalachian's Savva Kostis made one consistent move -- from takedown to back points to pin. His victory took the Mountaineers from a 14-12 deficit to an 18-14 advantage and the Mocs couldn't make up the difference.
"The pins? One we expected [from Mountaineeers 184-pounder Austin Trotman] but one we didn't. That's one [at 149] we have to win. The guy was gassed. All we needed was a takedown," Eslinger said. "Kelly has to figure it out. We needed to attack his legs. That's the difference in being good and being great."
Felix has been challenged all year by Dean Pavlou, a conference champ last year, but has won each challenge. Eslinger didn't close the door on a change.
"We have a couple of spots where we need to make sure we have the best guy in there," he said.
Although the Mocs lost the meet and some streaks, Eslinger was anything but discouraged, knowing perhaps that the outcome might have been different if he'd been able to use 197-pound Niko Brown. However, with Brown still out with a knee injury, the Mocs had to do some adjusting and wound up losing at both 184 and 197.
"It was a great match in a great atmosphere and I know you measure so much by wins and losses," he said. "Losing those streaks might be a good thing. This is the start of a new era. Our guys are moving in the right direction. You always want to win the conference but maybe in the past we've dominated a conference that was easily dominated. We want to dominate in a good conference and I think we're raising the level of competition."
While both teams have conference meets remaining, each is favored to win, UTC at VMI on Feb. 20 and Appalachian against Davidson and VMI.
The Mocs will wrestle at the National Duals on Feb. 12 in Stillwater, Okla., and will make their next home appearance when they host the Southern Conference tournament at McKenzie Arena on March 3.
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 ...