The University of Tennessee at Chattanooga wrestling team opened the Southern Conference portion of its 2013 schedule with 22-20 win over The Citadel today. The Mocs treated the Legends Weekend crowd to a hard-fought battle over a talented Bulldog team, improving to 5-6 overall and 1-0 in league action.
Nearly 600 fans filled Maclellan Gym to see the Mocs honor the Jim Morgan era of UTC wrestling. And just like so many of Coach Morgan's championship squads, it took a full team effort to pull out the win today.
"It was a good win," stated UTC head coach Heath Eslinger. "They are a good team and we knew we had our hands full. We had to wrestle well in every weight class. I think we left some on the table. I think there are a couple more weight classes we can win in that dual meet. We have to figure out how to do that because those are the matches that are going to get us to the national tournament."
The Mocs started strong behind a 12-3 major decision win from sophomore Nick Soto (Spring Hill, Fla.). Ranked as high as No. 18 in the nation at 125, Soto defeated Joaquin Marquez to improve to 18-6 overall and give the Mocs a 4-0 lead.
UTC handed the lead right back at 133 when freshman Marvin Lopez (Cleveland, Tenn.) surrendered an 8-0 major decision to Aaron Hansen. The Bulldogs took the lead when No. 8 Ugi Khishignuam posted an 8-1 win over senior Dean Pavlou (Cleveland, Tenn.) at 141.
Junior Alex Hudson (Marietta, Ga.) evened the team score again with a 9-3 victory against Jordan Dix at 149. He posted a takedown at the buzzer in the first period to grab a 4-1 lead that he would not let go.
The Citadel went back up 11-7 after a major decision win at 157, but that would be the last lead for the Bulldogs on the day. It may have been the intermission session that sparked the Mocs the rest of the way. Coach Morgan and dozens of his wrestlers were honored on the mat following the 157-pound match
"Having those guys back here is awesome," said Eslinger. "Without those guys we would not be wrestling today. We would be among the 200+ programs that dropped wrestling. Without that era and those guys who were on that mat today, we would not have wrestling at this institution. What we owe them...we can't thank them enough. We need to honor them every year, because they bring a lot to the table. Coach Morgan developed a culture, environment and family-like atmosphere that people want to stay connected to for a long time. I need to be working hard to duplicate exactly what he did."
When action resumed, senior Josh Condon (Powder Springs, Ga.) dominated his match at 165 with Vincent Bellaran. He was up 12-4 when he put Bellaran on his back at the 5:52 mark to give UTC a 13-11 lead.
"Josh Condon is a senior and he is supposed to do that," said Eslinger. "He is one of the best kids in the country and he needs to believe he can go out and do that every time."
Freshman John Lampe (Fairdale, Ky.) had a huge win at 174. He moved up a weight and scored a 3-2 victory over Jack Duane, giving the Mocs some breathing room with a 16-11 lead.
After losing a decision at 184, Chattanooga had a 16-14 advantage with two matches left. No. 18 Niko Brown (Kissimmee, Fla.) clinched the win with his pin against Marshall Haas at the 5:44 mark. It was Brown's team-high 21st win of the season, as well as his team-best seventh pin of the year.
"When you are a senior and you are doing the right things, that is what you are supposed to do," added Eslinger. "You go out and you control the match and you do what your team needs and you get the job done. Some kids have it and some don't. Niko has found it and he has to hold on to it and keep getting better."
It was a good thing Brown scored the fall, because The Citadel's 14th ranked heavyweight Odie Delaney pinned freshman Kevin Malone (Carrollton, Ohio) to make the final score 22-20.
"It was a good team effort, but I am not completely satisfied," said Eslinger. "You want to keep making improvements. We did at some weights, but we did not at others."
Chattanooga is now the lone team in the SoCon without a loss. Appalachian State (3-1), Campbell (2-1) and Southern Illinois-Edwardsville (1-1) each have one loss, while The Citadel drops to 2-2 in league action and 3-5 overall.
UTC hits the road for two matches this weekend. The Mocs visit Gardner-Webb on Friday, Feb. 1, for a 7:00 p.m. (E.S.T.) match against the Runnin' Bulldogs. Chattanooga then travels to Appalachian State for a 2:00 p.m. bout against the Mountaineers on Sunday, Feb. 3. The next home dual is set for Sunday, Feb. 10, against Davidson. Match time is 2:00 p.m. in Maclellan Gym and tickets are on sale now on GoMocs.com or at the UTC Ticket Office at (423) 266-MOCS (6627).
125: Nick Soto (UTC) - MD 12-3 - Joaquin Marquez (CIT) - UTC 4-0
133: Aaron Hansen (CIT) - MD 8-0 - Marvin Lopez (UTC) - 4-4
141: Ugi Khishignyam (CIT) - Dec. 8-1 - Dean Pavlou (UTC) - The Citadel 7-4
149: Alex Hudson (UTC) - Dec. 9-3 - Jordan Dix (CIT) - 7-7
157: Matthew Frisch (CIT) - MD 10-2 - Trey Stavrum (UTC) - The Citadel 11-7
165: Josh Condon (UTC) - Fall 5:52 - Vincent Bellaran (CIT) - UTC 13-11
174: John Lampe (UTC) - Dec. 3-2 - John Duane (CIT) - UTC 16-11
184: Josh Tuck (CIT) - Dec. 10-3 - Robert Prigmore (UTC) - UTC 16-14
197: Niko Brown (UTC) - Fall 5:44 - Marshall Haas (CIT) - UTC 22-14
285: Odie Delaney (CIT) - Fall 3:53 - Kevin Malone (UTC) - UTC 22-20