published Monday, March 19th, 2012

Mat Mocs take stock

MOCS' FINAL RECORDS

25-8--Nick Soto (Fr., 133); 25-12--Kevin Malone (Fr., 285); 22-11--Brandon Wright (Sr., 165); 21-16--Levi Clemons (Soph., 184); 20-12--Robert Prigmore (Jr., 184); 21-11--Dan Waddell (Sr., 157); 19-10--Dean Pavlou (Jr.,149); 17-8--Niko Brown (Jr., 197); 17-11--Shawn Greevy (Soph., 141); 16-8--Jared Presley (Fr., 157); 14-10--Kelly Felix (Sr., 149); 9-14--Cole Gallagher (Fr., 125); 7-3--Trey Stavrum (Fr., 165); 5-2--Manny Ramirez (Sr., 125); 5-4--Bradley Rogers (Jr., 285); 3-3--Josh Condon (Soph., 174); 1-0--Demetrius "Bucky" Johnson (Sr., 125); 1-3--Ethan Hames (Fr., 133), Cole Hayes (Fr., 125); 1-4--Cory Canada (Fr., 165); 1-8--Blake Thomas (Fr., 125); 0-14--Joe Burns (Soph., 149).

The rest of the team: Jacob Akins (Fr., 133), Jesse Beaver (Fr., 165), Alex Hudson (Jr., 149), Alex Kooser (Fr., 157), John Lampe (Fr., 165), Marvin Lopez (Fr., 133), T.J. Mitchell (Soph., 133), Austin Sams (Fr., 141), Adrian Thomas (Fr., 133), Adam Wilson (Soph., 133); Jake Young (Soph., 174).


PROJECTED 2012-13 LINEUP

125--Demetrius "Bucky" Johnson; 133--Nick Soto; 141--Shawn Greevy; 149--Dean Pavlou; 157--Alex Hudson; 165--John Lampe; 174--Jake Young; 184--Robert Prigmore; 197--Niko Brown; 285--Kevin Malone.

There will be little respite for University of Tennessee at Chattanooga wrestlers although the 2011-12 season was just completed.

"We'll take a couple of days off, but guys that want to be All-Americans better go back to work tomorrow," coach Heath Eslinger said.

The team didn't reach its goal of getting at least one wrestler onto the NCAA tournament awards podium, and it was a shortcoming that left Eslinger disappointed yet philosophical.

"You have to evaluate your whole body of work and look at where you have been, where you are and where you are going," he said. "We're not where we want to be, so we'll continue working and remain committed to our vision of Chattanooga wrestling."

The Mocs' Southern Conference dual-meet victory string ended at 38 with a home loss to Appalachian State, and that eventually ended a string of regular-season championships at seven. Yet they rebounded to win their seventh league tournament crown in eight tries.

"This season was a success," Eslinger said. "Demetrius [Johnson] and Jake Young were out with injuries. We had a bunch of blue-collar guys that wrestled well on a consistent basis, but I don't think we had any thoroughbreds in our lineup.

"We keep that blue-collar mentality and our break will come. UTC has had 12 All-Americans total, and they're getting a heck of a lot harder to come by because the field is getting tougher."

Appalachian State tied for 21st with 28 points in the NCAA tournament with Austin Trotman finishing third at 184 pounds and Kyle Blevins winding up fourth at 165. The Citadel tied for 48th with 4.5 points and UTC tied for 51st with 3.5.

A UTC team that was so close to breaking into the Top 25 rankings could count among its 12 victories a win over then 12th-ranked Stanford. The Mocs hosted their first Southern Scuffle tournament and finished seventh in a strong field that included national powers Penn State, Cornell, Minnesota and Oregon State.

Penn State won its second NCAA title in a row Saturday night, and Minnesota and Cornell were second and fourth with Iowa in between.

"At the end of the day we want All-Americans, and we have to figure out what it takes to get guys on the stand," Eslinger said. "Part of that is having guys that believe they belong there."

Nick Soto is one of those guys, Eslinger said of the freshman 133-pounder, "especially if his first year is indicative of where he's headed."

UTC already plans to redshirt 174-pound sophomore Levi Clemons, who was among the five Mocs in the NCAA tournament, especially if former conference freshman of the year Young is healthy. Front-runners to replace senior conference champs Dan Waddell (157) and Brandon Wright (165) are junior Alex Hudson and freshman John Lampe.

With transfer Manny Ramirez (125) having completed his one semester of eligibility, the Mocs hope Johnson will be granted a medical hardship by the NCAA. If not, there is depth at the weight plus the addition of just-signed Zachary Bridson from New Hampshire.

Other signees or commitments to date are heavyweight Caleb Denny of Cincinnati; Heritage High standout Landon Reed, who figures to wind up at 141 or 149; and Jared Johnson, a 197-pound candidate from Missouri who chose the Mocs over Missouri and Oklahoma.

BONUS POINTS

Eslinger (34-22) is sixth on the Mocs coaching all-time wins list. He passed Terry Brands (2003-05) and Ralph Manning (1991-95). Next on the list are Chris Bono (2007-09) with 39 and Mark Leen (1996-2001) with 43. ... The coach said former conference champion Josh Condon (157/165) could work his way back into the starting lineup. ... UTC again will host the Southern Scuffle next season. Tentative dates are Jan. 1-2.

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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