Running like a thoroughbred with new shoes and an ultralight jockey, the University of Tennessee at Chattanooga left VMI flatfooted at the starting gate and galloped to a 41-0 Southern Conference wrestling victory Monday night in Lexington, Va.
The victory In the Mocs' final dual meet of the season was their first shutout since early in Heath Eslinger's inaugural season as head coach. They beat Gardner-Webb 47-0 and Anderson University 40-0 on Nov. 14, 2009.
The win also snapped a three-meet losing streak and boosted Eslinger into fifth place on UTC's all-time coching victories list. He had been tied with Ralph Manning (1991-95) but now has a record of 34-22, five wins behind his predecessor, Chris Bono (39-17, 2007-09).
The Mocs' reward was a steak with a baked potato and a steamed vegetable -- to be eaten on the bus ride home -- primarily because Eslinger was hoping to avoid another freeway snarl like the one Sunday that left them frozen on Interstate 81 for six-plus hours. The Mocs pulled out from UTC at noon Sunday but didn't get to Lexington until 1:30 a.m. Monday.
The way they wrestled, though, Eslinger might consider chartering a bus to ride around for 10-12 hours before the Southern Conference tournament at McKenzie Arena on March 3.
The biggest of the 10 wins came from 174-pound Levi Clemons, who improved to 18-14 overall and 3-1 in conference meets with a 5-2 victory over the Keydets' Matthew Brock. Brock entered the meet with a 28-12 record and ranked among the top 30 in the latest NCAA RPI and coaches' rankings.
"It puts him on the better side of the bracket for the conference tournament," Eslinger said, "and gives him confidence knowing he can beat some of the best guys in the country -- and that when he sticks to the game plan good things happen."
The Mocs received forfeit wins for Manny Ramirez (125) and Cory Canada (184) and got a pin from 133-pound Nick Soto. Shawn Greevy (141) and Brandon Wright (165) added bonus points with major decisions.
"It was a great night. We wrestled hard and we looked sharp in all 10 spots," Eslinger said.
The other UTC winners were Dan Waddell (157), Cory Canada (184), Robert Prigmore (197) and Kevin Malone (285).
"Robert didn't want to ride all this way to take a forfeit so we let him bump to 197," Eslinger said. "That's one of the things I like about Prigmore -- he loves to compete."
Prigmore's move also allowed Canada to pick up his first win. The true freshman, pressed into service when regular 197-pounder Niko Brown was injured, was 0-4 going into Monday night's meet.
UTC 41, VMI 0
125 -- Manny Ramirez (UTC) won by forfeit; 133 -- Nick Soto (UTC) pinned Joe Jarrells, 2:34; 141 -- Shawn Greevy (UTC) major dec. Zeb Stewart, 12-4; 149 -- Kelly Felix (UTC) dec. David Yost, 11-4; 157 -- Dan Waddell (UTC) dec. Edward Gottwald, 4-0; 165 -- Brandon Wright (UTC) major dec. Carry Joseph, 19-5; 174 -- Levi Clemons (UTC) dec. Matthew Brock, 5-2; 184 -- Cory Canada (UTC) won by forfeit; 197 -- Robert Prigmore (UTC) dec. Urayoan Garcia, 7-3; 285 -- Kevin Malone (UTC) dec. Andrew Embree, 6-1.
Records: UTC 12-6, 5-1 SoCon; VMI 5-11, 2-4.
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 ...