It was as low-scoring as any collegiate wrestling match can be without points being taken away, and in the end the University of Tennessee at Chattanooga topped 25th-ranked Campbell 18-12 Sunday at Maclellan Gym.
In doing so, the Mocs earned a share of the Southern Conference regular-season title, the program's 17th league championship and first since 2016.
UTC (7-6, 5-1) took six of the 10 matches in a clean dual in which neither team scored any bonus points, leaving Campbell (6-6, 3-1) and Appalachian State (6-6, 3-1) with one league loss each. Appalachian State beat Campbell 19-17 last month, and Appalachian State beat UTC 21-14 this month.
"This is one we marked early in the year," first-year Mocs coach Kyle Ruschell said in a UTC release. "We knew it was home, we knew it was going to be tight, and if we wrestled like that we knew we could win. There were two or three (matches) that we were supposed to win. There were two or three that they were supposed to win, but our guys fought hard.
"Everything we've been preaching, it all came together."
The Mocs were up 12-6 through six bouts before the visitors tied it with wins at 174 and 184 pounds. UTC junior Rodney Jones faced Campbell's Austin McNeil in a pivotal 197-pound match and, after scoring an escape point, led 4-3 entering the final period.
McNeil escaped to tie it, but Jones was able to get a takedown to take a 6-4 lead and held on for a 6-5 win. UTC heavyweight Connor Tolley needed a decision over Odgerel Batkhishig to secure the win and was up 3-2 after five minutes of action in the final match. Tolley led by a point late in the bout before sealing the Mocs' victory with a takedown.
"It feels amazing," Tolley said in the release. "Honestly, it's more about doing it as a family. Everything that we've done and being able to have this platform that the Lord blessed me with is just amazing. It's more than just wrestling; it's great being a part of a brotherhood."
Other UTC winners Sunday, the Mocs' senior day, were senior Alonzo Allen to start the match at 125, junior Chris Debien at 141 and freshmen Ryan Resnick (157) and Drew Nicholson (165). The latter two won by a point each.
"These are those high-pressure situations we want to put our guys in, where it comes down to you and you have to win," Ruschell said. "They came out, looked at the score and made the guys wrestle to a full seven minutes."
The Mocs have one more dual, at Indiana on Feb. 24, before competing in the SoCon tournament beginning March 10 in Boone, North Carolina. The NCAA tournament is March 21-24 in Pittsburgh.
Perfect start for softball
The softball Mocs are 5-0 after their opening weekend, closing their time at Kennesaw State's Phyllis Rafter Memorial event with victories Sunday over Morehead State, 10-2, and the host Owls, 15-4.
UTC is 5-0 in softball for just the second time, with the best undefeated start in program history stretching through seven games in 2016.
Against Morehead State, Amanda Beltran, Katie Corum and Emma Sturdivant all homered, and Aly Walker went 3-for-4 with a double, two RBIS and three runs scored. Beltran also was 3-for-4, and Corum and Sturdivant each totaled two hits, Sturdivant with four RBIs and Corum with three.
Celie Hudson (2-0) was the winning pitcher, striking out seven in a one-hitter but walking six. She was backed by 14 hits from her UTC teammates.
Against Kennesaw State, the Mocs had 15 hits, with Sturdivant finishing 4-for-5 with a double and three RBIs, Walker going 3-for-3 with two RBIs and Hayleigh Weissenbach hitting a triple and collecting four RBIs.
Mariah Ramirez (3-0) was the winning pitcher, allowing five hits and walking two while striking out four in five innings. Hudson worked the sixth.
Mixed results for tennis
The UTC women's tennis team won 5-2 Saturday against Belmont in Nashville, improving to 4-2.
UTC took the doubles point, with Delaney Edwards and Emma Van Hee winning at No. 1 and Lilly Holmes and Annie Tarwater winning at No. 2. In singles, UTC got wins from No. 1 Bogdona Zaporozhets, No. 2 Polina Goloputova, No. 4 Caroline Hall and No. 6 Van Hee.
Belmont is 3-4.
The UTC men lost 5-2 at UNC Asheville on Sunday, dropping them to 3-4 overall and ending a three-match winning streak. UTC's wins came from No. 3 Kerim Hyatt and No. 6 Pablo Llebeili.
UNCA is undefeated through six matches.
Golfers begin in top three
The UTC men's golf team opened its spring schedule Sunday with a 6-over-par 294 at UNC Greensboro's Martin Downs Collegiate, putting them tied for third with Samford at the event in Palm City, Fla.
Freshman Leon Bader shot a 71 and was tied for fifth to lead the Mocs, with Etienne Brault (73) tied for 15th.
Fellow SoCon programs are ahead of the Mocs, with Mercer first at 284 and UNCG second at 293. The event continues today.