The University of Tennessee at Chattanooga wrestling team has been streaking since it hosted its first Southern Scuffle to open 2012.
The Mocs are on a seven-meet win streak, strolling through four wins at the Lone Star Duals and winning over Cleveland State University, Campbell and Davidson. The closest victory margin of the calendar year was 20 points over Utah Valley.
They’re putting that streak on the line along with a number of individual win streaks when they tackle The Citadel in a Southern Conference match this afternoon in Charleston, S.C. UTC is 10-3 overall, 3-0 in the league; the Bulldogs are 5-6-1, 1-1.
“The kids have been awesome,” Mocs coach Heath Eslinger said. “Consistency over time yields good results.”
His program’s wrestling philosophy is simple.
“Every day, do the right thing. That won’t change. It isn’t rocket science,” Eslinger insisted. “We have a good group of guys that believe in what we’re doing, and right now we’re wrestling well.”
Shawn Greevy (141 pounds), Levi Clemons (174) and Robert Prigmore (184) each has seven consecutive wins.
“It isn’t really at the front of my mind,” Prigmore said before leaving for Charleston. “I have been breaking things down into segments — each takedown, each period, each match, and trying to win all the little points.”
The Scuffle was a turnaround for 157-pound Dan Waddell, who played fourth in the pretigious tournament. The former Baylor standout has won five matches in a row.
“The Scuffle was a big confidence booster, and I think at this point in the season guys are beginning to realize they should be winning every match,” he said. “I think a lot of us have gone from seeing what happens in a match to the mindset that we’re going to go out there and win.”
Brandon Wright (165), Kevin Malone (285) and Nick Soto (133) have six-match win streaks.
“To be honest, Soto probably started the win streak with everybody coming around and turning the corner,” Waddell said. “He got some big wins and everybody fed off that and what he was doing. You can’t have wins like that without some positives coming out of it.”
Soto, a freshman, finished as a Scuffle runner-up. He’s ranked 14th in the country.
Any change in outlook, Waddell indicated, has come from the team members, not the coaches.
“The coaching staff is real steady, but I think everybody is having a little more fun,” he said. “The guys in the wrestling room right now are doing the right things. People aren’t trying to avoid things in practice. Each of us knows he’s going to work hard, and no one is complaining. There’s been a change in the practice room. Guys we have in the room now go hard and have fun doing it. The coaching staff is doing the same things, but everybody in the room sees things from their point of view.”
No one, though, is thumping his chest.
“If wrestling’s taught me one thing, it’s that you have to be humble because there is always somebody out there with a longer win streak. Right now it’s about winning duals,” Prigmore said.
The Mocs’ 38-match Southern Conference win streak will be put to the test today against The Citadel, which lost 21-19 to league co-favorite Appalachian State. It was at The Citadel on Feb. 14, 2004, that UTC last lost a league match.
“Appalachian’s two-point win got our attention,” Waddell said. “Appalachian’s a good team, but wrestling is a sport where individual matchups are a big deal and it’s hard to predict how you’ll do against one team based on how they did against someone else.”
A perfect example is the Mocs’ win over Ohio University and that school’s next-day victory over Appalachian.
Yet there doesn’t seem to be any pressure.
“I’m excited. I think the whole team is in a good place and that we’ll go out and wrestle hard,” Prigmore said. “We’ve never been under any pressure to win — just wrestle hard and let things play out. That’s the cool thing about this team. You have a guy on a losing streak training with a guy on a win streak, and one works as hard as the other.
“The team is focused on the conference and what’s ahead. The team has been pretty mature about leaving everything else at the [practice room] door and working hard.”
Ramirez set to debut
Senior transfer Manny Ramirez, who graduated from UNCG with a year of eligibility remaining, will make his UTC debut today at 125 pounds. ... Mocs 197-pounder Niko Brown, one of the team’s most consistent performers this year, is questionable after suffering a knee sprain last week in a win over Davidson. ... There were 17 wrestlers on the athletic director’s honor roll for the fall semester. Those with a 3.0 or better semester were Brown, Joe Burns, Clemons, Cole Hayes, Kelly Felix, Alex Kooser, John Lampe, Dean Pavlou, Jared Presley, Bradley Rogers, Austin Sams, Soto, Blake Thomas, Waddell, Adam Wilson, Wright and Jake Young. The Mocs ranked seventh nationally in grade point average according to the National Wrestling Coaches Association.
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 ...