Caleb Hopkins at the 2021 NCAA Championships (Photo/Tony Rotundo; WrestlersAreWarriors.com)
Appalachian State University
The Mountaineers, placing second in the Southern Conference this year in the regular season (7-1) and conference tournament, will be seeing NCAA Qualifiers Cody Bond (157), Anthony Brito (141), Sean Carter (133), Thomas Flitz (174), Will Formato (165), All-American Jonathan Millner (149) and Codi Russell (125) again for the 2021-22 season. In 2021, the Mountaineers saw an overall dual record of 7-2, with losses to NC State (ACC) and Campbell University (SoCon). The Mountaineers also served three shutouts to Bellarmine University(45-0), Davidson College (38-0), and Presbyterian College (54-0). This upcoming season is looking promising for the Mountaineers, seeing all National Qualifiers return next year as well as the addition of a couple homegrown hammers Landon Foor (174) and Triston Norris (285), both from North Carolina. Postseason honors awarded were to Jonathan Millner as MVP, Caleb Smith (125) receiving an Arthur Ashe Jr. Sports Scholar Award, NWCA DI Scholar All-Americans Will Formato (165), Thomas Flitz (174), Sean Carter (133), and Anthony Brito (141) and a 3.18 team GPA.
In their inaugural year of Division I competition, the Bellarmine Knights had an overall record of 1-9, and a conference record of 1-7, picking up their only victory against Presbyterian College (32-18). Since this is their first year wrestling at the Division I level, the Knights could not compete at the Southern Conference Championships. Senior Eric Beck (165) scooped up the program's first Division I dual meet win (5-2), followed by Sophomore Devan Henricks (174), picking up a close 6-5 decision against SIU Edwardsville. The Knights' first Southern Conference dual meet victory was laid on Presbyterian College, 32-18. Major wins for this match include Hendricks (174), 3:21 fall over Victor Tello, and Alex Rhine (157) winning by technical fall over Bryton Goering. Postseason honors include a 3.43 team GPA.
The three-time reigning Southern Conference Champions (2019-2021) will see another season of NCAA Qualifiers Josh Heil (141) and Chris Kober (197) returning for another year of eligibility. The Camels will get another year of competition from NCAA Qualifiers Taye Ghadiali (HWT), Caleb Hopkins (184), Austin Murphy (174), and Zurich Storm (125). The overall season record for Campbell was 8-1, picking up a loss to Virginia Tech (ACC), but finishing undefeated in the conference at 7-0. The Fighting Camels pitched two shutout wins against VMI (39-0) and Davidson College (42-0). Postseason awards for Campbell include Amateur Wrestling News' Rookie Head Coach of the Year and SoCon Coach of the Year to Head Coach Scotti Sentes. Heil and Caleb Hopkins (184) received NWCA Scholar All-American honors, with the Camels finishing at No. 15 in the 2020-21 NWCA DI Scholar All-America team rankings after posting a 3.3589 GPA.
The University of Tennessee, Chattanooga
The Chattanooga Mocs closed out the 2020-2021 season with an overall dual record of 8-4 and 6-2 in Southern Conference action. While only dropping losses to Appalachian State (13-20) and Campbell University (15-17), the Mocs also picked up a shutout win during the season opener against Emmanuel College (48-0). All four NCAA qualifiers are slated to return next season: Logan Andrew (197), Fabian Gutierrez (125), Drew Nicholson (165), and Matthew Waddell (184). Weston Wichman (157) was named the Southern Conference Freshman of the Year, with strong performances against Oklahoma State's Jalin Harper by fall (4:44), and a 7-3 decision over Benjamin Barton of Campbell. Notable alum, Pez Whatley (1970-1972), was inducted into the 2021 WWE Legacy Hall of Fame in April.
The Bulldogs closed out their season with an overall record of 4-6 and a conference record of 3-5, with wins against St. Thomas University, Gardner Webb University, Presbyterian College, and Bellarmine University. The Bulldogs picked up a shutout win in the season opener against St. Thomas (54-0). NCAA Qualifier and Southern Conference Champion Michael McAleavey (HWT) will be returning for a final season with the Bulldogs, after being named to the All-Southern Conference team alongside teammate Jake Rotunda (133). Notable performances included McAleavey with a 15-3 overall record this season, Selwyn Porter (149) with a 13-4 overall record, and Jake Rotunda (133) with a 10-3 record for the season. These three Bulldogs will be returning next season to see more Southern Conference action. Postseason honors include Grant Speer receiving the Todd L. Dorney Award, as well as Cole Burke, Kyle Kretzer, Grant Speer, and Cooper Youngblood being inducted into the Chi Alpha Sigma National College Athlete Honor Society.
The Davidson Wildcats ended the season with an overall and conference record of 3-5, picking up wins to Bellarmine University (27-16), a tiebreaker over The Citadel (22-21), and Presbyterian College (39-9). The season opener against Bellarmine showed some significant wins by fall from Kyle Gorant (133) and Gavin Henry (184). The Wildcats tiebreaker win against The Citadel saw them add wins at 197, 133, 141, 157, and 165. The tiebreaking criteria was Gorant's injury default over Jake Rotunda, and Gavin Damasco's (141) fall over Tyler Seely. The victory over Presbyterian was a strong showing for the Wildcats, picking up wins at eight of the bouts, dropping matches at 125 and 149. The Wildcats had to end their season early and were unable to compete at the Southern Conference Championships. Postseason honors awarded were to freshman Bryce Sandlerlin (157) as part of the Southern Conference All-Freshman Team, Gorant earning an NWCA Scholar-All American honor, and the Wildcats placed 13th in the NWCA Scholar Team list with a GPA of 3.42.
The Runnin' Bulldogs ended their conference season with a 4-4 record and an overall dual record of 4-7, adding wins against Bellarmine University (38-6), VMI (29-11), Presbyterian College (38-6), and Davidson (32-6). National qualifiers and redshirt sophomores Jha'Quan Anderson (184) and RJ Mosley (165) will be returning next season. Some notable performances this season can be seen by Anderson, winning a 7-2 decision over App State's Julian Gorring, and Anthony Perrine (HWT) picking up another win over the Mountaineers in the same dual against Michael Burchell, 6-3. Postseason honors were awarded to RJ Mosley, an NWCA DI Scholar All-American, and the Runnin' Bulldogs, who tallied a cumulative GPA of 3.3015, ranking 22nd among all NCAA DI programs.
The Blue Hose ended the dual season with an overall record of 1-6, and a conference record of 0-6. In their lone victory of the season, the Blue Hose defeated the Emmanuel College Lions 27-12, picking up wins at 125, 133, 141, 149, and 165 weight classes. Bernadino Gomez (125) notched some impressive wins against The Citadel (MD 16-6) and Bellarmine (Fall 1:21) this season, along with another win over The Citadel (Dec. 2-1), and over Gardner-Webb (Dec. 7-1) to end the season with a fourth-place Southern Conference finish. Other strong performances at the Southern Conference Championships were from Zachary Phillips (157), scoring a first-round fall (2:26) over Weston Wichman of UTC.
Virginia Military Institute
The Keydets finished their season with an overall record of 4-5 and a conference record of 3-4. Notable dual wins include, Sacred Heart University (30-9), Davidson College (24-18), and Bellarmine University (37-9). Freshmen Tyler Mousaw (197) and Blake Showers (157) were named to the All-Southern Conference Freshman Team, with Mousaw posting a 12-2 record and Showers receiving eight wins in his freshman season. Mousaw (197) also took third at the Southern Conference Championships, with wins against Mason Fiscella (App State, Fall 3:38), and over Ben Stemmet (The Citadel, Fall 3:53). Post season awards: Freshman of the Year - Mousaw, Lifestyle Achievement Award - Zach Brown, Most Improved Wrestler - Josh Yost, Coach's Award - Ciff Conway, and Most Outstanding Wrestler - Mousaw.