Con. // Overall
UTC // 3-0 // 7-6
Campbell // 4-1 // 5-6
Appalachian // 3-2 // 6-5
Citadel // 3-2 // // 4-5
Gardner-Webb // 2-4 // 4-9
VMI // 1-2 // 1-11
Davidson // 1-3 // 6-9
SIUE // 1-4 // 3-15
Sunday, Feb. 10
The Citadel at Gardner-Webb
Davidson at Chattanooga, 2
It could be a conference cakewalk — the University of Tennessee at Chattanooga's home wrestling meet at 2 p.m. today at Maclellan Gym.
History dictates it.
The opponent is Southern Conference member Davidson, another stumbling block between the Mocs and their 10th unbeaten conference season. In a series that began in 1988, UTC is 20-0 with six shutouts and 19 victories by at least 30 points.
The closest the Wildcats have come was last season at Davidson, when UTC won 30-7.
"They've struggled," Mocs coach Heath Eslinger said of the Wildcats' 2012-13 season. "But they had a win over Southern Illinois-Edwardsville the other day."
The Wildcats split the matches -- five apiece -- but took full advantage of two forfeits, a pin and a major decision for the 25-24 victory. The win over SIUE, in its first full SoCon season, allowed Davidson to end a 22-match losing streak. Its last previous win was Jan. 25, 2009 -- 23-12 over VMI.
"We're really excited that we achieved one of our goals this season in getting a conference win," Davidson coach Bob Patnesky said. "We had guys with the flu and injuries stepping up and doing what they needed to do."
Davidson now has three conference wins and a tie since returning to the league in time for the 1991-92 season. While it has a 3-100-1 league record since, all three wins and the tie have come in Patnesky's nine-year tenure.
Although it's likely that UTC will weigh in some reserves and might make some changes to the regular lineup, Eslinger and his staff will do so with caution.
"I think we learned a lesson with Cleveland [Ohio] State. We are not taking anyone lightly," he said.
The Mocs lost 21-17 to Cleveland State on Jan. 20 but since have reeled off wins over conference members The Citadel, Gardner-Webb and Appalachian State to improve to 7-6 overall and 3-0 in the league.
"We've had three good dual meets in a row, and we need to make it four and keep pressing on," Eslinger said.
While they're pressing on, the Mocs are not pressing.
"We're in a pretty good spot. Nobody is burned out. We've been keeping everybody fresh," Eslinger said. "Right now the key is for them to continue being excited about what's in front of us -- winning another conference championship and being able to wrestle that last day of the NCAA tournament."
He and his staff have tweaked the lineup in recent meets, including adding Sean Mappes at 174 pounds.
"He has stepped up," Eslinger agreed, "but there are still four weeks left in the season."
The coach still is not satisfied with what he's seen at a couple of other weights including 184 pounds, which is currently manned by senior Robert Prigmore.
"Robert's a leader on the team and a guy that we really ask a lot of, and he really gives," Eslinger said. "The bottom line is that he has to win those matches he's capable of winning. If we weren't putting that pressure on him, we'd be cheating him."
Prigmore is one of four seniors on the team -- joining Dean Pavlou (149), Josh Condon (165) and Niko Brown (197) -- but the Mocs definitely are preparing for the future.
Several redshirts and reserves competed last week in the Newberry Open. Austin Sams (149) went 5-0 and Levi Clemons (174) and Jared Johnson (197) were 4-0 in winning their weight classes. John Shrader (184) went 3-1 and Campbell Lewis (125) was 3-2.
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 ...