The University of Tennessee at Chattanooga will have some new faces and some old faces in new places when it opens its wrestling season this evening at Maclellan Gym against Old Dominion.
The meet starts at 6 p.m.
There are a number of veterans, including seniors Bucky Johnson (125 pounds), Kelly Felix (149), Dan Waddell (157) and Brandon Wright (165). All four are Tennessee natives and won their state of TSSAA state championships.
"We have some weight classes that are super competitive, and we have great leadership from the seniors," Mocs coach Heath Eslinger said. "Our test is making progress from match to match, week to week and month to month. We are beginning with the end in mind."
A former state champ from Franklin, Felix has been in a touch-and-go scrap with former Southern Conference champion Dean Pavlou. Waddell and Wright dropped weight classes from 165 and 174, respectively. The new 174-pounder is expected to be Josh Condon, who wrestled at 157 last year.
There will be newcomers at 133, 184 and heavyweight.
A true freshman will be at 133 pounds, but Eslinger didn't know Wednesday if it would be Nick Soto (Springstead, Fla.) or former Bradley Central standout Ethan Hames. Robert Prigmore, who wrestled at 197 and heavyweight last year, is finally getting to compete at his true weight of 184, and redshirt freshman Kevin Malone (6-foot-4, 280-plus) steps in at heavyweight.
Prigmore did last year what Condon is doing this season.
"They have done what's best for the team," Eslinger said. "Prigmore is a true 184-pounder. Condon won't be cutting any weight, but he's a good enough wrestler to go whichever weight he wants and compete."
Niko Brown will be at 197 pounds, but Eslinger was looking at options at 141 and 174 in addition to 149.
Shawn Greevy, who filled in often last year when Cody Cleveland was injured, was expected to be a shoo-in in at 141, but Eslinger and his staff have been very pleased with former Bradley wrestler Trevor Herron. It could be Condon or Levi Clemons at 174.
"We realize this ODU dual is super important, but in reality it is preparation for March," Eslinger said in reference to the Southern Conference and NCAA tournaments. "We're trying not to be outcome-driven but performance-driven. We're focusing on improvement, wrestling hard and taking some risks every match. With that said, though, we're suiting up to win."
Both teams are headed for Blacksburg, Va., to compete in Virginia Tech's one-day Hokie Open tournament Sunday. The Mocs will be back home to wrestle new SoCon affiliate member Gardner-Webb on Nov. 11.
• Mocs wrestler Jake Young, who sat out last year with a torn ACL, has had surgery for a second ACL injury and is out for the year. He was expected to wrestle at 174 or 184 pounds.
• Former Moc Jon Sioredas is one of ODU's assistant coaches and is entering his sixth season with the Monarchs. He was a two-time SoCon champion, wrestler of the year and outstanding wrestler at the conference tournament. Ranked second nationally at one point in his senior season, Sioredas earned All-America honors with a fifth-place NCAA finish.
There is another connection between the Mocs and Monarchs. New UTC assistant coach Patrick Bond, most recently at Illinois, wrestled in high school for ODU coach Steve Martin.