The University of Tennessee at Chattanooga will be looking to keep a title string alive when the Southern Conference wrestling tournament begins Saturday morning at McKenzie Arena.
The Mocs have won either the regular season championship or tournament title every year since 2005, an 11-year streak.
"It's important. If you're showing up you'd like to win but we don't talk about it a lot," Mocs coach Heath Eslinger said. "We have talked a lot less about winning and more about each guy doing his job. We have focused on the process more than the outcome and it has made our year a lot more fun. We're in the last leg and I think the guys feel good, are still having fun and are not ready for the season to be over."
This weekend will be the end for most of the wrestlers who'll begin their SoCon championship and NCAA tournament berth quests at 10 a.m. Saturday.
Fourteen of the 20 finals berths are expected to be won by a competitor from UTC or Appalachian State, which went 6-0 to win the league's regular season title.
Top-seeded wrestlers for the Mocs are Manny Ramirez (125), Nick Soto (133) and Dan Waddell (157). Appalachian has top seeds in Mike Kessler (141), Kyle Blevins (165) and Austin Trotman (184).
Second-seeded from the two schools are Shawn Greevy (141), Brandon Wright (165), Levi Clemons (174) and Kevin Malone (285) for the Mocs and Paul Weiss (197) for the Mountaineers.
The Citadel has No. 1 seeds in Tortogtokh Luvsandorj (174), Kelby Smith (197) and Odie Delaney (285). No other team earned a No. 1 seed.
On paper, UTC would appear to have an edge.
"I don't see it as a two-team race because our ocnference has improved a lot. There are a couple of teams that could sneak up on us if we're not ready. Appalachian and us have a bit of an advantage but I think The Citadel has a very good squad. They are kind of the darkhorse. If we're not ready it could get interesting," Eslinger said.
The Mocs are likely anxious to get back on the mat with Appalachian, which came to Chattanooga and won a battle of unbeatens on its way to the conference title.
"I know the Citadel has some firepower and obviously Chattanooga is chomping at the bit to compete and turn the table," Appalachian coach JohnMark Bentley said. "At this point of the year it's about getting individuals ready and having conference champions and All-Americans. We haven't talked a whole lot about the team race."
SoCon wrestling pairings For Saturday's tournament at McKenzie Arena
Legend: A (Appalachian State), C (Campbell), Cit (Citadel), D (Davidson), G (Gardner-Webb), UTC (Chattanooga), V (VMI).
125 -- No. 1 Manny Ramirez (UTC) receives bye; No. 5 Matt Zarth (D) vs. No. 4 Michael Slaughtere (G); No. 3 Richard Alarcon (Cit) vs. No. 6 Tanner Bidelspach (C); No. 2 Tony Gravely (A) receives bye.
133 -- No. 1 Nick Soto (UTC) receives bye; No. 4 Brett Boston (A) vs. No. 5 Anthony Elias (D); No. 3 Kyle Casaletto (Cit) vs. No. 6 Robbie Golde (G); No. 7 Joe Jarrells (V) vs. No. 2 Joey Rizzolino (C).
141 -- No. 1 Mike Kessler (A) receives bye; No. 5 Jordan Tolbert (C) vs. No. 4 Zeb Stewart (V); No. 3 Jordan Dix (Cit) vs. No. 6 Alex Hamm (G); No. 7 Ben Hartshorn (D) vs. No. 2 Shawn Greevy (UTC).
149 -- No. 1 Savva Kostis (A) receives bye; No. 5 Davante Andujar (G) vs. No. 4 Seth Vernon (Cit); No. 3 Dean Pavlou (UTC) vs. No. 6 Kevin Birmingham (D); No. 7 David Yost (V) vs. No. 2 Mark Hartenstine (C).
157 -- No. 1 Dan Waddell (UTC) receives bye; No. 5 Pierre Frazile (Cit) vs. No. 4 Alex Medved (GW); No. 3 Chip Powell (A) vs. No. 6 Ted Gottwald (V); No. 7 C.T. Talevi (D) vs. No. 2 Nick Rex (C).
165 -- No. 1 Kyle Blevins (A) receives bye; No. 5 Justin Guthrie (G) vs. No. 4 Carry Joseph (V); No. 3 Ryan Krecker (C) vs. No. 6 Tyler Mullen (D); No.7 Mike Harpeer (Cit) vs. No. 2 Brandon Wright (UTC).
174 -- No. 1 Turtogtokh Luvsandorj (Cit) receives bye; No. 5 Carter Downs (A) vs. No. 4 Matt Brock (V); No. 3 James Cook (C) vs. No. 6 Erin O'Dell (G); No. 7 Ian Solez vs. No. 2 Levi Clemons (UTC).
184 -- No. 1 Austin Trotman (A) receives bye; No. 5 Jason Porter (G) vs. No. 4 John Dommert (V); No. 3 Josh Tuck (Cit) vs. No. 6 John Merickel (C); No. 7 Chris Cirenza (D) vs. No. 2 Robert Prigmore (UTC).
197 -- No. 1 Kelby Smith (Cit) receives bye; No. 5 Travis Porter (G) vs. No. 4 Niko Brown (UTC); No. 3 John Weakley (C) vs. No. 6 Uryoan Garcia (V); No. 7 Ed Isola (D) vs. No. 2 Paul Weiss (A).
285 -- No. 1 Odie Delaney (Cit) receives bye; No. 5 Andrew Embree (V) vs. No. 4 Joe Nolan (C); No. 3 Justin Kozera (G) vs. No. 6 Joe Cummings (A); No. 2 Kevin Malone (UTC) receives bye.
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 ...