SOUTHERN SCUFFLE AT McKENZIE ARENA
• Admission: $20 per person reserved, $15 general admission, $5 students each day.
Wednesday, Jan. 1
• 9 a.m. -- Round of 64; Noon -- Round of 32, Consolations first round; 3 p.m.-- Consolations second round; 5:45 -- Round of 16; Consolations third round.
Thursday, Jan. 2
• 9 a.m. -- Championship quarterfinals; 11:30 a.m. -- Consolations fifth round; 12:30 -- Consolations sixth round; 1:30 -- Championship semifinals, consolation quarterfinals; 3:30 -- Consolation semifinals; 7 -- Medal rounds for first, third, fifth, seventh.
There is no question why Penn State returns to the Southern Scuffle, which seems to improve every year.
"Three or four years ago, the first time we went, it wasn't nearly as competitive as it is now," Penn State coach Cael Sanderson told Jim Carlson of PennLive. "When you have us, you have Minnesota, you have Oklahoma State, you have Missouri, there's just a ton of good teams. You have Cornell. Iowa State, I think, is a new team this year, so it just keeps getting more competitive."
Three of the top four teams in the latest college wrestling polls are here: No. 1 Penn State, No. 2 Minnesota and No. 4 Oklahoma State. No. 3 Iowa is competing in the Midlands tournament, but a clear majority of the Top 25 are in Chattanooga, which has elevated the Scuffle's status since taking over from Greensboro, N.C., as the tournament's host three years ago.
"There are more teams, but it is nice to see the consistency of teams coming back," said coach Heath Eslinger of the host University of Tennessee at Chattanooga. "I'm a big believer when you're in post-tournament evaluations to look at the return customers, and I like to think people are coming back because of the quality of the event.
This year's field of 34 teams is the largest in the Scuffle's 11-year history and is the toughest any of the teams will see until they reach the NCAA championships in Oklahoma City in March.
UTC has made a concerted effort to follow the NCAA's fan-friendly mindset.
"Heath and the crew do a good job of getting the crowd involved," said former Mocs assistant Rocco Mansueto. "They are making the tournament more of an experience for the fan. It's not just about the wrestling. They want the Scuffle to be an experience, and they want wrestlers and fans to be part of something that is really unique."
The NCAA tournament is one of tradition.
"It's a methodical event, and a lot of the reason is because it's also about the fans. If the Scuffle can find a way to mirror that, it will be even more successful," Mansueto said.
The McKenzie Arena gates will open at 8 a.m. today and Thursday, and wrestling will start promptly at 9 with competition on eight mats. There are brief interludes, but the field will be pared in the championships to round-of-16 matches, which are to begin at 5:45 p.m.
Thurday's wrestling will continue until about 4 p.m., and then the medal rounds for first, third, fifth and seventh will begin at 7 p.m.
General admission tickets are $15 per person per day, while reserved seating tickets (lower level) are $20 per person per day. Student tickets are $5.
Contact Ward Gossett at firstname.lastname@example.org or 423-886-4765. Follow him at Twitter.com/wardgossett.
Southern Scuffle’s Faces in the Crowd
A look by weight at the hunted and the hunters, a group that includes 34 All-Americans and eight NCAA finalists, in the 11th annual Southern Scuffle:
• The target: Nahshon Garrett, Cornell (6-1); 3rd in 2013 Scuffle; 2013 All-American.
• Pack leaders: Nico Megaludis, Penn State (2013 Scuffle champion, 2-time Scuffle medalist, 2-time NCAA finalist); Josh Martinez, Air Force (4th, 2013 Scuffle); Jerome Robinson, Old Dominion (5th, 2013 Scuffle).
• Dark horse: Anthon Zanetta, Pittsburgh.
• Local flavor: UTC’s Byron Smith (Fr., 4-6).
• The target: Jon Morrison, Oklahoma State (7-0); 2013 Scuffle champion; 2013 All-American.
• Pack leaders: Ryan Mango, Stanford (All-American); David Thorn, Minnesota (All-American, 3rd, 2012 Scuffle); Nick Soto, UTC (Jr., 15-4; former Scuffle finalist; currently ranked No. 15).
• Dark horse: Mark Grey, Cornell.
• Local flavor: Zach Watson, Virginia (Fr., 6th, 2013 Scuffle; 5-time Tennessee state champion from Baylor).
• The target: Chris Dardanes, Minnesota (15-2); 2-time Scuffle finalist, 2012 champion; 2-time All-American.
• Pack leaders: Zain Retherford, Penn State; Mike Nevinger, Cornell (2013 Scuffle champ; 2-time All-American); Evan Henderson, North Carolina (All-American).
• Dark horse: Zach Horan, Central Michigan.
• Local flavor: UTC’s Michael Pongracz (Fr., 10-5).
• The target: Nick Dardanes, Minnesota (14-0); 3rd, 2013 Scuffle; All-American.
• Pack leaders: Drake Houdashelt, Missouri (2-time Scuffle medalist, 3rd, 4th; All-American). Scott Sakaguchi, Oregon State (2013 All-American).
• Dark horse: Andrew Alton, Penn State.
• Local flavor: UTC’s Shawn Greevy (Jr., 7-4) and Austin Sams (So., 6-10).
• The target: Dylan Ness, Minnesota (7-1); 2-time Scuffle medalist, 2nd 2012; 2-time NCAA finalist.
• Pack leaders: Alex Dieringer, Oklahoma State (3rd, 2013 Scuffle; All-American); Dylan Alton, Penn State (All-American); Kyle Bradley, Missouri (2-time Scuffle medalist); R.J. Pena, Oregon State (All-American).
• Dark horse: James Vollrath, Penn State.
• Local flavor: UTC’s Alex Hudson (Sr., 16-3) and Michael Hooker (Fr., 8-8).
• The target: David Taylor, Penn State (12-0); 3-time NCAA finalist, 2012 NCAA champion; 2-time Scuffle champion.
• Pack leaders: Nick Sulzer, Virginia (All-American, 2-time Scuffle medalist); Tyler Caldwell, Oklahoma State (2-time NCAA finalist, 3-time All-American).
• Dark horse/Local flavor: UTC’s Corey Mock (Jr., 18-0, currently ranked No. 4); and Trey Stavrum (Jr., 5-4).
• The target: Chris Perry, Oklahoma State (7-1); 2013 NCAA champion, 2013 Scuffle champion.
• Pack leaders: NCAA runner-up Mat Brown from Penn State; Scuffle runner-up Logan Storley of Minnesota.
• Dark horse: The Citadel’s Turtogtokh Luvsandorj, a sixth-place Scuffle finisher last year.
• Local flavor: UTC’s Levi Clemons (Jr., 10-8) and Barrett Walthall (Fr., 5-6).
• The target: Ed Ruth Penn State (12-0); 2-time NCAA champion, 3-time All-American, current 80-match win streak.
• Pack leaders: Kevin Steinhaus, Minnesota (2-time All-American, 2-time Scuffle 3rd-place finish); Max Thomusseit, Pittsburgh; Boza Beard, Iowa State.
• Dark horse: Gabe Dean, Cornell.
• Local flavor: UTC’s John Lamp (So., 7-2), Clay Dent (So., 0-3) and D.J. Franklin-Smith (Fr., 1-2).
• The target: Kyven Gadson, Iowa State (9-10), All-American.
• Pack leaders: Scott Schiller, Minnesota (2-time Scuffle medalist); Taylor Meeks, Oregon State (All-American); Blake Rosholt, Oklahoma State (All-American).
• Dark horse: Jace Bennett, Cornell.
• Local flavor: UTC’s Scottie Boykin (Fr., 7-8).
• The target: Tony Nelson, Minnesota (13-0); 2-time NCAA champion, 3-time All-American, Scuffle runner-up 2012.
• Pack leaders: Jeremy Johnson, Ohio (2-time All-American, 2-time Scuffle medalist); Nick Gwiazdowski, North Carolina State (All-American; 3rd, 2013 Scuffle).
• Dark horse: Jimmy Lawson, Penn State.
• Local flavor: UTC’s Kevin Malone suffered a pre-Christmas knee injury and probably is lost for the season.
2013 Scuffle top 10
• 1. Penn State 178.5; 2. Oklahoma State 158; 3. Missouri 147.5; 4. Minnesota 139.5; 5. Cornell 136; 6. Virginia 109; 7. Ohio 64.5; 8. Air Force 62.5; 9. Arizona State 58; 10. Army 48.
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 ...