After two days on the road getting to Oklahoma State, the University of Tennessee at Chattanooga wrestling team will take part in the national duals today in Stillwater.
The duals, organized by the National Wrestling Coaches Association, are divided into four six-team regionals and the winners advance to the national duals championships next weekend.
To get there, though, the Mocs will have to get past 10th-ranked Wyoming at 2 this afternoon and then face top-ranked and No. 1 seed Oklahoma State.
"We have a good chance," UTC coach Heath Eslinger said of the team's opener. "I like the matchups. We match up better with them than any of the other teams out there. I think we'll be ready to wrestle. The goal is to win and to win at this level. The kids are excited about it."
The Mocs are no strangers to quality competition and have a win over then 12th-ranked Stanford among their 11 victories this season. They still will be without 197-pound Niko Brown, sidelined with a knee injury.
"He's moving pretty well and actually practiced some this week," Eslinger said Friday. "We expect him to be ready for the [Southern Conference] tournament."
Cory Canada stepping in or Robert Prigmore moving up from 184 are probabilities for Brown's spot, but that isn't the only weight class that is unsettled. Eslinger indicated that Dean Pavlou would wrestle one of the team's matches, going either against Wyoming in the 2 p.m. opener or against Oklahoma State or the Ohio State-Boise State loser at 6 p.m.
The Mocs had 14 wrestlers on the bus, including 125-pound Blake Thomas and 165-pound Trey Stavrum.
Key matches should await 125-pound Manny Ramirez, 133-pound Nick Soto, 157-pound Dan Waddell, 165-pound Brandon Wright, 174-pound Levi Clemons and 184-pound Prigmore.
Soto (14th), Waddell (27th) and Wright (31st) are ranked among the nation's top 35 in their respective weight classes after the initial power ratings were released two weeks ago.
Wyoming has ranked wrestlers in Michael Martinez (18th, 125), Zach Zenner (17th, 133), Dakota Friesth (32nd, 157), Shane Onufer (third, 165), Pat Martinez (20th, 174), Joe LeBlanc (1st, 184) and Alfonso Hernandez (seventh, 197).
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 ...