By Darrell Patterson
The UTC wrestling Mocs won their 27th SoCon championship Saturday up at VMI. Nick Soto, Alex Hudson, Josh Condon and Niko Brown all won championships. Deav Pavlou was runner up but will get to join those four in the NCAA tournament. The Mocs Heath Eslinger was the conference coach of the year.
It was another dominating victory for the University of Tennessee at Chattanooga wrestling team as the Mocs locked down their third-straight Southern Conference Championship title at the Virginia Military Institute’s Cameron Hall on Saturday.
The Mocs, who also claimed the SoCon regular season title, amassed 102.5 team points during the Championship, aided by four first-place finishes and four runner-ups. Campbell University took second place with 62.5 points, edging The Citadel’s 59.0 points, good enough for third place.
Gardner-Webb University took fourth place with 49.5 team points while Southern Illinois University Edwardsville was fifth overall with 29.5 points. Appalachian State took sixth, earning 27.0 team points, edging Davidson’s 25.5. Host VMI finished eighth with 23.5 team points.
Chattanooga’s head coach Heath Eslinger was named the Southern Conference Coach of the Year, as voted on by the league’s head coaches.
In a tournament that saw two seventh-seeded wrestlers win their weights, Davidson’s sophomore Anthony Elias was named Most Outstanding Wrestler, voted on by the league’s head coaches during the Championship.
Odie Delaney claimed his fourth Southern Conference title, including his third at the heavyweight division. The Citadel standout defeated Kevin Malone of Chattanooga 3-1 in the title round.
Thirteen student-athletes earned a berth in the NCAA National Championship tournament, with the winner of each weight class securing a spot. Additionally, the Southern Conference was awarded additional spots at 125 pounds, 141 pounds and 165 pounds.
Four Mocs earned bids to the national championship tournament, with Nick Soto picking up the 125-pound title. Teammate Dean Pavlou was the runner-up at 141 pounds, grabbing the second spot available at that weight. Alex Hudson finished first at 149 pounds, claiming that weight’s bid while top-seeded Josh Condon won the 165-pound division. Niko Brown was the tournament’s best at 197 pounds with a decisive 10-6 victory in the title match.
Upsets were a recurring theme through the tournament, sparked by Elias’ outstanding performance at 133 pounds. The sophomore, seeded seventh in his weight, won all three of his matches by upset, kicking his day off with a 7-3 win over second-seeded Brett Boston of Appalachian State. He continued his upset bit, earning a spot in the finals after edging Gardner-Webb’s Robbie Golde 9-6 in the semis.
Elias completed the improbable run from the seventh seed as he took down top-seeded Aaron Hansen of The Citadel in the championship match, 9-5.
But Elias wasn’t the only seven seed to claim a title as Campbell’s James Cook had his hand raised at the end of the 184 championship bout. Like Elias, Cook notched a win over the two seed, besting Appalachian State’s Jake Johnson 10-4. In the semifinals, Cook stunned the crowd, pinning The Citadel’s Josh Tuck with a last-second fall, sticking the Bulldog in 6:43.
Cook locked up a berth to NCAA tournament with a narrow 3-2 edging against Chattanooga’s top-seeded Robert Prigmore.
In the 174 pound division, another lower seed claimed the title as Hunter Gamble of Gardner-Webb needed a tiebreaker in the title match to secure another upset. Gamble, seeded sixth, did what it took to get a chance at the title, winning 1-0 over third-seeded Jake Residori of SIUE, followed by another one-point win over VMI’s John Dommert 3-2.
Once in the championship match, Gamble once again pulled out a thriller, taking down Chattanooga’s John Lampe 2-1, but needed a tiebreaker to do so.
2012-13 SoCon Freshman of the Year Ugi Khishignyam of The Citadel lived up to the hype, claiming his first Southern Conference title at 141 pounds. The rookie did not show his age, opening his inaugural Southern Conference championship experience with a 22-7 technical fall at the end of regulation. Khishignyam continued his torrid pace, pinning Davante Andujar in just 3:44.
In the championship bout, the Bulldog edged Chattanooga’s Dean Pavlou 3-2, sending Khishignyam to the NCAA tournament with the weight’s automatic qualifier.
Another Bulldog will be joining Khishignyam in Des Moines, Iowa. Matt Frisch picked up one of The Citadel’s three first-place finishes, taking the 157 pound title. The Bulldog lived up to his No. 1 seed, opening the championships with a 12-2 major decision, followed by a 10-3 decision in the semifinals. Once in the title match, Frisch collected a 7-4 victory for the berth in the tournament.
Earning a spot at the NCAA tournament for the fourth time was The Citadel’s Odie Delaney, who took the title at the heavyweight division with a 3-1 decision over Chattanooga’s Kevin Malone. Delaney did not allow a point in the championship until the meeting Malone in the finals.
Delaney opened things off with a first-period fall in just 1:56, followed by a 6-0 decision in the semifinals. The Bulldog was locked in with Malone as the two big men traded blows before Delaney came out on top 3-1.
Dominic Parisi of Appalachian State will also be headed to Des Moines, earning one of the conference’s extra bids at 125 pounds. Parisi and runner-up Eric Montoya needed to wrestle one another for the rights to the second bid. Parisi took the win by a narrow 6-5 margin.
At 141 pounds, by way of his runner-up finish, Pavlou will also be headed for the NCAA tournament, as will App State’s Zac Strickland, the 165-pound runner-up.
For more information regarding the NCAA tournament, please visit SoConSports.com or NCAA.com.
1) Chattanooga - 102.5
2) Campbell - 62.5
3) The Citadel - 59.0
4) Gardner-Webb - 49.5
5) SIUE - 29.5
6) Appalachian State 27.0
7) Davidson - 25.5
8) VMI - 23.5