UTC Mocs wrestlers are 23rd nationally

UTC Mocs wrestlers are 23rd nationally

January 15th, 2014 by Ward Gossett in Sports - College

UTC's Nick Soto (yellow) takes on Oklahoma State's Brian Crutchmer (orange) during the Southern Scuffle NCAA wrestling tournament at McKenzie Arena in Chattanooga on Wednesday, Jan. 1, 2014. Soto won the bout 3-2.

Photo by C. B. Schmelter/Times Free Press.

"Chattanooga Strong," the University of Tennessee at Chattanooga's wrestling watchword, received a national endorsement late Tuesday afternoon.

The Mocs moved into the National Wrestling Coaches Association Top 25 poll at No. 23.

"It's good for the program and we'll definitely use it in recruiting: 'Chattanooga is a great place to be,'" coach Heath Eslinger said. "It's good for the kids to get a pat on the back because they've done a really good job. I think it shows we're moving in the right direction."

The Mocs' rise followed a 4-1, fifth-place showing at last weekend's Virginia Duals, improving their dual meet record to 10-5.

"I think we definitely got some respect this past weekend. Hopefully we can stay [in the top 25]," Eslinger said.

UTC hasn't been ranked since 2008, when the Mocs under coach Chris Bono finished the season at No. 18.

"We have been consistent. That's been our strength and that's what we have to continue," Eslinger said.

The Mocs have two wrestlers ranked in the national top 20 in their weight classes. Once-beaten Corey Mock is No. 6 at 165 pounds, and Nick Soto is No. 11 at 133.

"What's awesome is that we're doing it with a bunch of blue-collar guys that are doing well in the academic and social parts of their lives," Eslinger said.

The only senior in the lineup is 157-pound Alex Hudson, and three regular starters are true freshmen: Mike Pongracz (141), Scottie Boykins (195) and Dawson Peck (285).

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