Bucky Johnson is back with the wrestling Mocs, and the timing couldn't have been better.
The 125-pounder and his University of Tennessee at Chattanooga teammates host a pair of nationally ranked teams this afternoon.
"It's a big afternoon. Two top-20 teams. Stanford finished 10th and Central Michigan 11th at the nationals last year," UTC coach Heath Eslinger said. "These are the biggest dual meets for us in terms of national caliber competition. Obviously, conference dual meets are important, but this is a big day."
A senior, Johnson has been sidelined with a knee injury.
"He's coming off the injury but he has done everything right in order to get back," Eslinger said. "Having him back is huge. I think the team rallies around him. They've seen how hard he's worked, and it motivates everybody."
The Mocs likely also will weigh in two other 125-pounders, but Eslinger is eager to get Johnson back in the lineup.
"Bucky is a senior and a leader on the team," the coach said. "He deserves that spot and definitely brings the most weapons to the table."
Expected to join Johnson are Nick Soto (133), Shawn Greevy (141), Kelly Felix (149), Dan Waddell (157), Brandon Wright (165), Josh Condon or Levi Clemons (174), Robert Prigmore (184), Niko Brown (197) and Kevin Malone (285).
"This obviously is a day to get better and to have some big wins," Eslinger said. "From an individual standpoint there are guys that can have a good day."
Stanford will wrestle Central Michigan at noon and UTC will wrestle Stanford at 2 and take on Central Michigan at about 3:30.
Stanford coach Jason Borrelli is the son of CMU coach Tom Borrelli.
"Both are great friends and guys that I respect greatly," Eslinger said. "Central Michigan is probably the program I have used as a model for what we're doing here. What he has done is sustainable. You can't model after Penn State or Ohio State in terms of resources and wrestling in those areas. Central Michigan is a place like Chattanooga. It's a mid-major with the support of the administration. If we can do similar things over time, we can do some things that are unique."
Stanford is 4-1, winning four straight after a season-opening loss at Northwestern. This is the season-opening weekend for Central Michigan.
Stanford's Cardinal have two wrestlers ranked in the top 10 in their respective weight classes. Ryan Mango is No. 6 at 133 and Nick Armuchastegui is No. 1 at 174. Both are returning All-Americans. CMU's Chippewas have two top-15 ranked performers: ninth-rated 184-pound Ben Bennett and 15th-rated heavyweight Peter Sturgeon.