It was to be a glorified practice. Instead of 30 guys and 15 individual matches at once in the University of Tennessee at Chattanooga's wrestling room in the depths of McKenzie Arena, it was 12 matches one-on-one in front of a sparse but knowledgeable crowd at Maclellan Gym.
Coach Heath Eslinger insisted from the outset there was no blue and no gold but rather blue-and-gold against gold-and-blue.
No match was more indicative of the daily up-tempo regimen than the 157-pound bout between former Southern Conference champion Dan Waddell and Josh Condon, who replaced him last year while Waddell recovered from knee and shoulder injuries.
The two tied 6-6 at the end of regulation, and it wasn't until the waning seconds of a sixth overtime period that Condon managed an escape for a 7-6 victory.
"I felt like whoever won that one would be a future All-American," Eslinger said.
The challenge matches aren't necessarily over. Eslinger said Thursday's winners were the likely starters for the Nov. 6 opener at Salem, Va., but added that starting positions could change often.
"This is one match and it will shape the lineup for Kent State, but the Hokie Open [the next day] will tell us a lot," he said. "Every day they live their lives, but then they're going through a job interview every afternoon. I'm the guy that's hiring and I'm going to put 10 out there who are going to compete, and we're getting to the point now where starters are having to compete and go really hard every day."
The competition will get even better as some wrestlers return from injury and other issues.
Bucky Johnson, projected to move up from 125 pounds to 133 this year, is expected back in mid- to late January along with Jake Young, the 174-pounder who was the Southern Conference freshman of the year last season. Both are recovering from knee injuries and subsequent surgery. Also, Dean Pavlou, a Southern Conference champion last year at 149 pounds, was suspended from Thursday's matches.
"Coach is helping me with my temper issues," Pavlou said with a smile of embarrassment.
Freshman Devaunte Brown (133) is still awaiting final clearance from the NCAA clearinghouse.
UTC Blue-Gold meet
125-Joe DeAngelo (Fr.) dec. Adam Wilson (Fr.), 8-4; 141-Shawn Greevy (Fr) tech. fall over Trevor Herron (Fr.).
125-Prescott Garner (So.) tech. fall over DeAngelo, 3:33; 133-Cody Hood (Fr.) dec. Greg Shepherd (Fr.), 7-1; 141-Cody Cleveland (Sr.) tech. fall over Greevy, 4:38; 149-Alex Hudson (So.) pinned Jared Presley (Fr.), 2:59; 157-Josh Condon (So.) dec. Dan Waddell (Jr.), 7-6, OT; 165-Brandon Wright (Jr.) pinned Landon Vannatta (Fr.), 5:25; 174-Levi Clemons (Fr.) tech. fall over Dalton Temple, 5:15; 184-Jason McCroskey (Jr.) pinned John Salada (Fr.), 2:10; 197-Niko Brown (So.) dec. Robert Prigmore (So.), 6-3; 285-Matt Lettner (Sr.) dec. Kevin Malone (Fr.), 2-1, OT.