Wrestling Mocs try for SoCon titles, NCAA spots

Wrestling Mocs try for SoCon titles, NCAA spots

March 8th, 2014 by Ward Gossett in Sports - College

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UTC's SoCon wrestling lineup

125--Byron Smith (Fr., 7-14); 133--Nick Soto (Jr., 30-9); 141--Michael Pongracz (Fr., 20-12); 149--Austin Sams (Soph., 8-17); 157--Alex Hudson (Sr., 28-6); 165--Corey Mock (Jr., 27-3); 174--Levi Clemons (Jr., 23-13); 184--John Lampe (Soph., 17-10); 197--Scottie Boykin (Fr., 19-13); 285--Dawson Peck (Fr., 12-1).

Despite entering the Southern Conference tournament today with five top-seeded wrestlers, University of Tennessee at Chattanooga coach Heath Eslinger reminded his regular-season champions that there are no sure things.

The tournament begins at 10 a.m. at Campbell University in Buies Creek, N.C.

"There's no such thing as a lock this time of year," Eslinger said.

Mocs drawing top spots are Nick Soto (133 pounds), Levi Clemons (174), John Lampe (184), Scottie Boykin (197) and heavyweight Dawson Peck.

Corey Mock, UTC's 165-pounder, missed a top seed by a single point. The junior went 5-1 in the conference with only a 4-3 loss to The Citadel's Turtogtokh Luvsandorj, who didn't lose a SoCon match. Mock is a No. 2 seed.

There are three 165-pound berths at stake for the NCAA tournament, and if seeding holds true to form, Mock would meet Gardner-Webb's Austin Trott in the semifinals. Mock beat Trott by technical fall early in the season.

UTC's 157-pound Alex Hudson (157) and Michael Pongracz (141) also received No. 2 seeds.

A 2013 champ at 149, Hudson was 6-1 in SoCon matches and his only league loss was 7-5 in overtime to The Citadel's Aaron Walker, the weight class's top seed. The conference will send two from that weight class to the NCAA tournament.

Pongracz is in one of the six weight classes that have only one guaranteed NCAA berth, and the freshman likely will have to avenge a seven-point loss to The Citadel's Ugi Khisignyam to get to the nationals. Ranked No. 18 by the NCAA coaches' panel, he possibly could advance with a wild card, however.

"There are 16 [guaranteed] slots, but it's possible we could get one or two more after the fact this year," Eslinger said.

The 24th-ranked Mocs' lineup is rounded out by freshman Byron Smith (125) and sophomore Austin Sams (149), who stepped in when Shawn Greevy was injured.

"With Greevy being injured, Sams has done well. He might just shock the conference," Eslinger said.

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