published Tuesday, February 18th, 2014

UTC rally falls short against Virginia Tech wrestlers


125--Joe Dance (VT) major dec. Byron Smith, 16-3; 133--Dennis Gustafson (VT) major dec. Nick Soto, 14-5; 141--Erik Spjut (VT) dec. Mike Pongracz, 2-0; 149--Zach Neibert (VT) major dec. Austin Sams, 10-0; 157--Alex Hudson (UTC) major dec. Sal Mastriani, 11-0; 165--Corey Mock (UTC) major dec. Chris Moon, 8-0; 174--Levi Clemons (UTC) dec. John Dickson, 10-4; 184--Nick Vetterlein (VT) major dec. John Lampe, 10-2; 197--Chris Penny (VT) dec. Scottie Boykin, 8-2; 285--Dawson Peck (UTC) pinned Ty Walz, 2:10.

Ending a streak of eight wins in a row, the University of Tennessee at Chattanooga wrestling team climbed on the bus from Columbus, Ohio, with a two-match losing streak.

"It's disappointing. I really think we belong here," coach Heath Eslinger said.

The Mocs suffered their second loss Monday at the NWCA's national duals, which features a majority of the top teams in the country, falling 22-17 to Virginia Tech.

"We didn't wrestle our best," Eslinger added.

Ranked 19th in the latest polls, the Mocs fell hard Sunday to No. 20 North Dakota State, 28-10.

"I was completely disappointed with that one, but [NDSU] wrestled well," Eslinger said. "They're another program like us, an FCS school finding a way to compete with the top teams in the country. We just didn't match up well with them."

UTC wrestled better Monday against 14th-ranked Virginia Tech -- eventually, anyway.

The Hokies jumped to a 15-0 lead with major decisions at 125, 133 and 149 pounds and a decision at 141 before UTC scored its first points on 157-pound Alex Hudson's major decision. It was followed by another major decision from Corey Mock (165) and a decision from Levi Clemons (174). However, the Mocs could muster only one more victory, a pin from heavyweight Dawson Peck, a transfer this semester from Virginia Tech.

The Mocs' Nick Soto was ahead at 133 with a minute left and got turned twice to lose by major decision, and 184-pound John Lampe was down 3-2, escaped to tie and then tripped, and his opponent got a takedown and near-fall out of it.

"When you compete against the best in the country, you can't be off, and we were," Eslinger said. "We definitely didn't wrestle our best, and we have to do that to beat teams like this, but I definitely believe we belong here."

One team highlight was Peck's pin of Ty Walz.

"It was huge for him. That's the guy he was behind when he transferred," the coach said.

The Mocs have a chance to get back on the winning track Sunday when they close out the regular season at VMI. A win would give them the Southern Conference regular-season championship outright.

Contact Ward Gossett at or 423-886-4765. Follow him at

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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