For the fourth time this season, the University of Tennessee at Chattanooga wrestling team won nine of 10 matches in a dual meet.
This one, a 37-3 victory over VMI on Sunday afternoon in Lexington, Va., assured the Mocs of their fourth Southern Conference regular-season championship in five years with Heath Eslinger as their coach. The win also was the 29th in 30 league meets in the Eslinger era and their 15th consecutive SoCon victory.
"The 29-1 is good and it's something we want to continue, but as a staff and a team we want guys on the podium at the NCAA tournament," Eslinger said. "That's one of the good things, but there are so many other things that are important. Our academics are in order, and you're not reading about our guys being in negative situations."
The decision was 21st-ranked UTC's 16th victory of the year, its best showing since 16-1 in 2007, and this schedule included seven Top 20 opponents.
UTC 37, VMI 3
125--Byron Smith (UTC) dec. Dalton Henderson, 13-9; 133--Nick Soto (UTC) dec. Michael Flora, 11-6; 141--Michael Pongracz (UTC) dec. Emmitt Kelly, 5-4; 149--Shabaka Johns (VMI) dec. Austin Sams, 8-6; 157--Alex Hudson (UTC) major dec. Edward Gottwald, 14-1; 165--Corey Mock (UTC) major dec. Mark Darr, 8-0; 174--Levi Clemons (UTC) pinned Jake Koch, 2:02; 184--John Lampe (UTC) major dec. Hardy Hendren, 20-8; 197--Scottie Boykin (UTC) major dec. Andrew Embree, 12-2; 285--Dawson Peck (UTC) pinned Juan Adams, 3:20.
Records: UTC 16-7, 7-0 SoCon; VMI 3-16, 1-6.
"This was a good win," Eslinger said. "The meet was Alex Hudson's last regular-season match, and the guys were excited for him. It's another conference championship, but it's a signal that we need to start dialing in. Now it's on to things that can really set us apart."
The Southern Conference tournament is March 8 at Buies Creek, N.C., and the NCAA tournament is March 20-22 at Oklahoma City.
The Mocs as a team were aggressive, scoring 30 takedowns and a combined 107 points to eight takedowns and 39 points for the Keydets. Eslinger, though, was stiff, even stingy, in his initial critique.
"We didn't wrestle great. Our performance was about what we anticipated," he said. "I wish we could've won all 10. Don't like having one kid upset on the way home. What's sad is that he had a chance to win and didn't capitalize."
The 37 points were the most since a 37-9 victory over Davidson on Feb. 9 and second only this season to a 50-point outburst against Life University on Nov. 16. UTC did it with a pair of pins -- from 174-pound Levi Clemons and heavyweight Dawson Peck -- major decisions from Hudson (157), Corey Mock (165), John Lampe (184) and Scottie Boykin (197) and regular decisions from Byron Smith (125) and Nick Soto (133).
"I'd say the big wins were from Hudson, Lampe, Boykin and Peck, and Byron Smith got a win. That was big for him," Eslinger said.
Contact Ward Gossett at email@example.com 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 ...