UTC wrestling clinches SoCon title

UTC wrestling clinches SoCon title

February 10th, 2014 by Ward Gossett in Sportscollege

UTC wrestler Jared Johnson picked up a 6-0 win at 197 points as the Mocs defeated Davidson 37-9 in Southern Conference action.

Photo by Doug Strickland/Times Free Press.

UTC 37, DAVIDSON 9

(Meet started at 125)

125--Byron Smith (UTC) won by forfeit; 133--Anthony Elias (D) won by forfeit; 141--Mike Pongracz (UTC) major dec. James McCord, 9-1; 149--Kevin Birmingham (D) dec. Austin Sams, 10-4; 157--Alex Hudson (UTC) won by forfeit; 165--Kevin Cooper (UTC) dec. Patrick Devlin, 8-3; 174--Michael Hooker (UTC) dec. Nathaniel Powers, 8-4; 184--John Lampe (UTC) won by forfeit; 197--Jared Johnson (UTC) dec. Michael Moore, 6-0; 285--Dawson Peck (UTC) pinned Eddie Isola, 1:48. Records: UTC 15-5, 6-0 SoCon; Davidson 4-12, 0-5.

Even with a pair of leaders sitting out and reserves stepping in, the University of Tennessee at Chattanooga upped its record to 15-5 rather handily.

Wrestling at Davidson Sunday afternoon, the 19th-ranked Mocs gave 133-pound Nick Soto and 165-pound Corey Mock, two of their wins leaders, a day off along with 174-pound Levi Clemons and 197-pound Scottie Boykin.

"We just needed to get ready for next weekend. We had some other guys with us and it was a chance for them to wrestle, coach Heath Eslinger said.

The 19th-ranked club still won 37-9, upping its season record to 15-5 and its win streak to eight while clinching the program's 29th Southern Conference championship.

"It's good. It's one of the boxes we want to check each year, but I don't think we come into season talking about conference tournament so much as scoring more points in the national tournament and continuing to compete with some of the top 25 teams out there," the coach said.

The win also was UTC's 23rd all-time in 23 matchups with Davidson.

"They're improved. They really are, but we wrestled pretty well," Eslinger said.

The 15 wins is the program's best effort since a 16-1 record in 2006-2007.

The Mocs forfeited at 133 pounds but turned to Kevin Cooper, Michael Hooker and Jared Johnson to fill the lineup.

"It was good for those guys to get wins. They wrestled well," Eslinger said.

Cooper, who has done most of his wrestling at 149 pounds posted an 8-3 decision at 165 pounds to improve his record to 7-6 and give him his first conference win. Hooker, who has wrestled at 149 and 157, secured an 8-4 win at 184 pounds and Johnson, who was injured early and has sat behind Boykin most of the season, won 6-0. Hooker now stands 9-11 overall and 2-0 in the conference while Johnson is 4-4 and 1-0.

The Mocs knocked off Campbell, the league's only other unbeaten, by a lopsided 32-10 margin Saturday evening. Sunday's victory is their ninth in their last 10 meets.

UTC's next competition will come Sunday when it competes in the national duals in Columbus, Ohio. After that their only remaining match is Feb. 23 at VMI. Pairings for the duals are expected to be announced Tuesday afternoon or Wednesday morning.

"We're excited about that opportunity," said Eslinger, who will put his team on a bus for Columbus on Saturday.

Eslinger's career record is 60-35-0 in five seasons, putting him third on the program's all-time win list behind Jim Morgan and Andy Nardo.

Contact Ward Gossett at wgossett@timesfreepress.com or 423-886-4765. Follow him at Twitter.com/wardgossett.