Heath Eslinger is always looking for measuring sticks to see where his University of Tennessee at Chattanooga team stands in the college wrestling world.
He should get a good look today when the Mocs wrestle at 16th-ranked Virginia. It's the first Saturday for 2012-13 season competition.
Before they tangle with Virginia, the Mocs will wrestle Ohio University at 9 a.m. and Anderson at 10:30. The Virginia meet is scheduled to begin at noon.
"I think the guys are ready for this. They're pumped," Eslinger said. "I'm ready and I think they're ready for us to compete against somebody other than ourselves."
The Mocs will be looking for their first season-opening win under Eslinger, who begins his fourth year with a 34-22 record. UTC lost to Old Dominion in last year's opener and to Kent State the previous two.
Following today's three matches in Charlottesville, the Mocs will travel to Salem, Va., to compete in Virginia Tech's one-day Hokie Open. With that in mind, Eslinger had at least 25 wrestlers on the bus when the Mocs pulled out Friday afternoon.
He also may use more than one lineup for the three Saturday meets and said the Mocs will use everybody in Hokie Open competition. It's possible that several more team members will make the trip independently and wrestle unattached.
The UTC lineup against Virginia is expected to be Nick Soto (125), Marvin Lopez (133), Dean Pavlou (141), Alex Hudson (149), Trey Stavrum (157), John Lampe (165), Jake Young (174), Robert Prigmore (184), Niko Brown (197) and Kevin Malone (285).
"It's too early to tell if we'll be better than last year," Eslinger said. "I think we have a lot of potential, but nobody gives out trophies for potential. Everything is an opportunity to get better, and everything is a means to an end in March [the NCAA tournament]."
Two starters from last season, Shawn Greevy (141) and Levi Clemons (174), are expected to take redshirt years along with true freshmen Campbell Lewis (125/133), Zach Britson (125) and Jared Johnson (197).
Soto is the Mocs' only ranked wrestler. He's listed No. 14. It's likely he'll meet ninth-ranked Matt Snyder, a redshirt senior for Virginia.
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 ...