Led by two top-20 wrestlers, the University of Tennessee at Chattanooga Mocs will be looking for improvement when they take part in today's Wolfpack Open at North Carolina State.
More than 250 wrestlers are expected and Mocs coach Heath Eslinger said some of the 10 weight classes would have 32-man brackets. He was taking a full complement twice over, carrying more than two dozen competitors including 125-pound Nick Soto and 141-pound Dean Pavlou. Soto, who was named Southern Conference wrestler of the week last week, is ranked eighth nationally while Pavlou entered the rankings last week at No. 20.
Soto won in last week's Hokie Open at Virginia Tech, taking his weight-class title with a 10-9 decision over sixth-ranked Jarrod Garnett of Virginia Tech. Pavlou finished fourth and Niko Brown (197) took third.
Eslinger wouldn't say if any jobs might come open this week or if future in-house challenges might be secured.
"We'll see how this weekend goes," he said. "I think the guys we had in to start the season are the guys we'll continue to go with right now."
There are several new guys in the lineup this season, including Marvin Lopez (133), Alex Hudson (149), Trey Stavrum (157) and John Lampe (165), and Jake Young (174) is competing for the first time in almost two years.
"We have to coach them up, but if they continue to wrestle hard we'll be OK," Eslinger said.
The Mocs will have their home opener Friday, hosting Cumberland, Virginia and Iowa. The Iowa-Virginia match is scheduled for 5 p.m. and the Iowa-UTC bout for 7.
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 ...