Corey Mock was on the bus, ready for the overnight, eight-hour ride home.
Really, the University of Tennessee at Chattanooga junior couldn't wait to get home and begin preparations for the NCAA tournament two weeks from now.
"I'll celebrate on the bus ride home. I'll be happy all week and this will make training go better, but I have to stay motivated. If I celebrate too much I'll get to thinking it's all over," he said. "I have to stay hungry."
Mock turned in the most impressive performance in the Southern Conference wrestling tournament, dominating the league's wrestler of the year to secure his first conference championship. For his tournament performance - he gave up no takedowns in three wins - Mock was named the event's outstanding wrestler.
The junior, son of North Carolina coach C.D. Mock and a transfer from the Tar Heels, turned in a near perfect championship performance in a 7-1 victory over Turtogtokh Luvsandorj.
In a match of the nation's seventh- and eighth-ranked 165-pounders, according to the latest coaches' poll, the underdog prevailed.
"It was a perfect game perfectly executed; a great game plan," Mocs coach Heath Eslinger said.
"I give it all to Coach [Jon] Soriedas," Mock said. "His plan was to take top in the second period. The idea was to go into the second with the score 0-0, and the back points sealed it."
Mock actually picked up four points in the period, riding Luvsandorj for the entire two minutes to all but ensure a riding time point. More importantly, though, he tilted Luvsandorj for a three-point near fall.
"I thought once I got the three that it was over and then he got frustrated," Mock said.
Mock then added a couple of points on penalties (unnecessary roughness and stalling), plus a takedown.
"He normally isn't going to score many points, but he doesn't usually gave up many either," Mock said. "Normally you're never got to get a takedown like that on him, but when he got frustrated he left himself open."
Mock was one of three of UTC's conference champions who'll advance to the NCAA tournament that begins March 20 in Oklahoma City, Okla. He'll be joined by fellow champions Nick Soto (133) and Levi Clemons (174) and runner-up Alex Hudson (157). Eslinger said it's possible that freshman heavyweight Dawson Peck, who finished a disappointing fourth, will get a wild card berth based on his regular season performance. The coach said he would likely find out some time Tuesday.
While the Mocs won their fourth straight conference tournament championship, Saturday was a day of mixed emotions.
UTC entered the event with five No. 1 seeds but it's a long shot that the third-place finish for John Lampe (184) and the runner-up medal for Scottie Boykin (197) will be enough to get them to Oklahoma City. Mike Pongracz (141) also finished second in a weight class with only one guaranteed NCAA berth while Austin Sams (149) lost a third-place heartbreaker in a weight class that was accorded three nationals berths.
"Austin wrestled lights out and was one second away from going to the [NCAA] tournament. He lost in double-overtime," Eslinger said. "Too, Pongracz and Scottie had great years as freshmen. We won the tournament, but I was disappointed for some of our guys that had great years but didn't get the prize they'd worked for."
The coach also noted that the conference is getting stronger.
"We're not as deep as conferences like the Big 10 but there are at least a couple of strong wrestlers at each weight. Hopefully we'll go out as a conference and have a good tournament," he said.
Contact Ward Gossett at firstname.lastname@example.org or 423-886-4765. Follow him at Twitter.com/wardgossett.