published Saturday, March 9th, 2013

Mocs have six No. 1 seeds, two No. 2s for tournament

Mocs' opening matches

Legend -- Appalachian State (App); Campbell (Cam); The Citadel (Cit), Davidson (Dav), Gardner-Webb (GWU), Southern Illinois-Edwardsville (SIUE), Virginia Military (VMI).

125 -- No. 1 Nick Soto receives bye, vs. winner between No. 4 Dominic Parisi (App) and No. 5 Cortez Starkes (GWU); Soto beat Parisi twice, 10-2 major decisions both teams.

133 -- No. 3 Alex Ward vs. No. 6 Robbie Golde (GWU); they didn't meet, but UTC's Marvin Lopez beat Golde 7-0 in the dual meet.

141 -- No. 2 Dean Pavlou vs. No. 7 Chris Johnson (App); Pavlou beat Johnson by a 13-4 major decision in the dual.

149 -- No. 1 Alex Hudson vs. No. 8 Brandon Brindley (SIUE); Hudson won by technical fall (4:35) in the dual meet.

157 -- No. 4 Trey Stavrum vs. No. 5 Ted Gottwald (VMI); Stavrum defeated Gottwald 8-5 in the dual meet.

165 -- No. 1 Josh Condon vs. No. 8 Adam Osmoe (SIUE); Osmoe (3:45) was one of five SoCon opponents Condon pinned.

174 -- No. 1 John Lampe vs. No. 8 Ian Solcz (SIUE); Lampe defeated Solcz 9-3 in the dual.

184 -- No. 1 Robert Prigmore vs. No. 8 Deshoun White (SIUE); Prigmore pinned White in 6:08 in the dual.

197 -- No. 1 Niko Brown vs. bye, winner between No. 4 Urayoan Garcia (VM) and No. 5 Marshall Haas (Cit); Brown pinned Garcia in 4:41 and Haas in 5:44.

285 -- No. 2 Kevin Malone vs. No. 7 Joe Cummings (App); Malone beat Cummings twice -- once at the Hokie Open (6-2) and then in the dual (5-0).

Best records entering the conference tournament

35-4 -- Ugi Khishignyam (Cit), 141

34-7 -- Odie Delaney (Cit), 285

31-13 -- Eric Montoya (Cam), 125

27-3 -- Niko Brown (UTC), 197

27-13 -- Matt Frisch (Cit), 157

25-10 -- Alex Medved (GWU), 157

24-6 -- Nick Soto (UTC), 125

23-10 -- Dominico Parisi (App), 125

22-10 -- Zack Strickland (App), 165

22-11 -- Dean Pavlou (UTC), 141

20-16 -- Aaron Hansen (Cit), 133

When his phone rings and goes unanswered, it's likely that Heath Eslinger is out running.

That's what the University of Tennessee at Chattanooga wrestling coach does when he gets antsy, according to Rocco Mansueto, one of his assistants.

Eslinger ran a lot earlier this week and might even have jogged up and down the aisle of the team's charter bus Thursday as it made its way to Lexington, Va., site of today's Southern Conference tournament.

The fourth-year coach, with a 45-28 record and already fourth on the Mocs' all-time wins list, was ready for action and anticipating that the mood was similar among his team members, who'll be shooting for the school's third consecutive league tournament championship.

"We're in a really good spot, but this tournament is one you have to win to get what you want," Eslinger said. "It doesn't matter if you're seeded first or eighth."

The Mocs have an ample array of talent, going into the meet with six wrestlers the league's coaches believe are the primary targets in their weight classes. UTC's other four starters also are pegged to get to the medals podium tonight.

Seniors Josh Condon (165), Robert Prigmore (184) and Niko Brown (197) are joined by sophomore Nick Soto (125), junior Alex Hudson (149) and freshman John Lampe (174) as No. 1 seeds.

Senior Dean Pavlou (141) and sophomore Kevin Malone (285) are projected to make the finals as No. 2 seeds, while freshman Alex Ward (133) is a third seed and sophomore Trey Stavrum is a fourth seed.

Ex-McCallie standout Ward, Lampe and Stavrum, a former Baylor wrestler, are making their first conference tournament appearances, but the rest have been here before. Soto is one of just three 2012 champions back for title defenses (along with Pavlou and Citadel heavyweight Odie Delaney).

The Mocs have more experience than a first glance would reveal.

Pavlou is a three-time finalist and two-time champion, Condon won a title in 2011 at 157 pounds, Brown is a two-time medalist with a 2011 finals performance on his resume, Prigmore was a 2012 finalist, Hudson went to the tournament as a freshman in 2010, and Malone was a 2011 finalist.

If any No. 1 seed raised any eyebrows, it was probably the one accorded to Prigmore.

"I was surprised," Eslinger said. "It wouldn't have surprised me if he had been a No. 2, a No. 3 or a No. 6. It's a balanced weight class. It means that, like me, other coaches believe he can win it."

A year ago Prigmore lost to Appalachian's Austin Trotman, who went on to earn All-America honors.

"He was wrestling one of the best guys in the world, a guy who now has proved himself on an international level," Eslinger said. "I'm excited for Prig. This is the tournament he's been thinking about all season, and if anyone on the team is ready it's him."

Though they have six top-seeded wrestlers, the Mocs will have a tournament title battle, especially with The Citadel, which grabbed the other four top-seeded slots.

"Based on seeds and all-conference selections, yeah, they'll be a challenge," Eslinger acknowledged, "but Campbell put together a good season and Appalachian has some really good guys."

The tournament begins at 10 a.m. with quarterfinals. Championship finals are scheduled to start at 7 p.m. The 10 winners receive automatic NCAA tournament berths, and there are additional spots for runners-up at 141, 165 and 285.

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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