UTC wrestlers ready for return of Southern Scuffle

Staff photo by Matt Hamilton / UTC wrestling coach Kyle Ruschell talks with 125-pounder Fabian Gutierrez during a home match last season. The Mocs host the Southern Scuffle tournament Saturday and Sunday at McKenzie Arena.

After a one-year hiatus due to the coronavirus pandemic, the University of Tennessee at Chattanooga wrestling program is back to hosting the Southern Scuffle this weekend at McKenzie Arena.

The two-day event starts at 10 a.m. Saturday and features some of the top programs - and individuals - in the country. Seven of the top 25 programs in the current rankings will be in attendance, and although No. 2 Penn State won't be sending its entire squad, some of the Nittany Lions will compete at the event.

There are a total of five national champions to go along with 26 All-Americans in the field this year. Twenty-nine wrestlers are ranked in the top 10 and 76 are in the top 25.

"It's the best tournament, second to the NCAA tournament," UTC coach Kyle Ruschell said on the "Mocs on the Mic" podcast in October. "You're not going to get a better feel (for what the NCAA tournament is like), and I've been to all of them.

"The Southern Scuffle, our administration, our fans, everybody does a great job of supporting it to make it that feel, and that's why these teams want to come and get that feel three months out from the national tournament. That's enough time to make adjustments, figure out their lineups and understand what it feels like. It's going to just be a lot of fun to watch, but more importantly I think our Mocs are going to get after it; there's no holding back and we have nothing to lose, so we've got to go after these guys and attack."

The Mocs are 3-5 in dual meets this season, with two losses coming against ranked opponents from the Big Ten (Rutgers and Illinois) and another loss against West Virginia. UTC has one wrestler on its roster who is currently ranked: 125-pounder Fabian Gutierrez, No. 20 at his weight. He's seeded fourth entering the Southern Scuffle, while Matthew Waddell is the only other Moc who earned a top-eight seed, coming in eighth at 184 pounds.

Compiled by Gene Henley. Contact him at ghenley@timesfreepress.com.