The Southern Scuffle has been well received by wrestling coaches and fans alike, but this year's turn-of-the-calendar tournament is expected to be the biggest and the strongest.
"We want to run the type event that every program in the country wants to be a part of," said Heath Eslinger, coach of Scuffle host University of Tennessee at Chattanooga.
Among newcomers in the 33-team field Jan. 1-2 at McKenzie Arena are Stanford, Central Michigan, Iowa State, Pittsburgh and Kent State.
Those committed to returning include defending NCAA and Scuffle champion Penn State and NCAA runner-up Oklahoma State, along with Minnesota and Cornell, which finished third and fifth. Other top-10 finishers that will be in this year's field are Missouri (seventh) and Oregon State (eighth).
Price of admission is $15 for adults and $5 for children each day.
"The Scuffle is becoming the toughest event in the sport, definitely an early preview of the NCAA tournament, and we want to make it the best event in the sport," Eslinger said.
With each team expected to bring 15 wrestlers, the tournament will go from eight mats to 10 that Wednesday for an expected field of 495. It will be cut to four mats on day two. That field will include 135 qualifiers, eight championship finalists and four champions from last season's NCAA tournament.
"Chattanooga and the wrestling community in the Southeast have really gotten behind what we are trying to do with the Scuffle, and it is our goal to make the Scuffle bigger and better each year," Eslinger said.
Other teams committed to the tournament are Air Force, American, Arizona State, Appalachian State, Army, Bucknell, Campbell, The Citadel, Cleveland State, Drexel, Duke, Hofstra, Navy, North Carolina, Northern Colorado, Old Dominion, Penn and Virginia.
Contact Ward Gossett at firstname.lastname@example.org or 423-886-4765. Follow him at Twitter.com/wardgossett.
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 ...