2021 NCAA All-American Jonathan Millner (Photo/Tony Rotundo; WrestlersAreWarriors.com)
InterMat has released its preseason All-SoCon first and second teams, along with preseason conference Wrestler of the Year, preseason Newcomer of the Year, and preseason team favorite. We've used the term "Newcomer" since there is the possibility of wrestlers that competed at the national tournament in 2021, being called "freshmen."
1st Team Preseason All-SoCon
125: Codi Russell (Appalachian State) - 3x National Qualifier; 2x SoCon Champion
133: Sean Carter (Appalachian State) - 2021 SoCon Champion
141: Anthony Brito (Appalachian State) - 2021 SoCon Champion
149: Jonathan Millner (Appalachian State) - 2021 NCAA 8th Place, 2x SoCon Champion, 2x NCAA qualifier
157: Cody Bond (Appalachian State) - 2021 SoCon Champion
165: Drew Nicholson (Chattanooga) - 2021 SoCon Champion
174: Austin Murphy (Campbell) - 2021 SoCon Champion, 2021 NCAA Round of 12 finisher
184: Caleb Hopkins (Campbell) - 2021 SoCon Champion
197: Chris Kober (Campbell) - 2x SoCon Champion
285: Michael McAleavey (The Citadel) - 2021 SoCon Champion
2nd Team Preseason All-SoCon
125: Fabian Gutierrez (Chattanooga)
133: Jake Rotunda (The Citadel)
141: Shannon Hanna (Campbell)
149: Josh Heil (Campbell)
157: Troy Nation (Campbell)
165: Will Formato (Appalachian State)
174: Thomas Flitz (Appalachian State)
184: Matthew Waddell (Chattanooga)
197: Logan Andrew (Chattanooga)
285: Taye Ghadiali (Campbell)
Preseason SoCon Wrestler of the Year: Jonathan Millner (Appalachian State)
Appalachian State's Jonathan Millner is the lone returning All-American in the Southern Conference. Miller is coming off a season where he amassed a 16-4 overall record and finished eighth at the NCAA Championships while competing at 149 lbs. The All-American honors for Millner marked the first time since 2017 that a wrestler from Appalachian State (Denzel DeJournette) got onto the NCAA podium.
Half of Millner's 16 victories came with bonus points and two came via fall. Millner entered the postseason with an 11-1 record and on an eight-match winning streak. At the SoCon Championships, Millner majored past national qualifier Selwyn Porter (The Citadel) to set up the most anticipated bout of the conference finals. He would face three-time SoCon champion Josh Heil (Campbell), amid a very tight team race. Millner prevailed 2-0 to win his second SoCon title, which garnered the seventh seed at his second NCAA Tournament.
Millner secured All-American honors in St. Louis with his 10-7 win over Duke's Josh Finesilver.
He enters the 2021-22 season with a 68-17 career record for the Mountaineers. InterMat's preseason national rankings have tabbed Millner at #9 at the 149 lb weight class.
Preseason SoCon Newcomer of the Year: Brayden Abell (VMI)
VMI's recent run of improved recruiting is evident with the Class of 2021, which features three freshmen in the projected lineup for the Keydets. 133 lber Brayden Abell comes to Lexington all the way from Oakdale, California, where he was a two-time state placewinner for Oakdale High School. Abell was fourth and sixth in the state as a sophomore and junior (California did not conduct an official state tournament in 2021). On a national level, Abell was a two-time placewinner at the Reno Tournament of Champions (3rd, 7th) and fifth at the Doc Buchanan. After the 2019 season, Abell was third at NHSCA Sophomore Nationals.
Preseason SoCon Team Favorite: Campbell
As has been the case recently, the SoCon race will come down to Campbell and Appalachian State. If past conference tournaments are any indicator, every single point and bonus point will matter. The 2021 tournament saw Campbell pull out a win by five points, while ASU crowned conference champs at the first five weights.
Campbell returns seven wrestlers with past NCAA experience (though two are projected to compete at 125) and has a very balanced lineup. Years of strong recruiting have allowed coach Scotti Sentes to have great depth at most weights. Last season saw the Camels finish with three conference champions and they've had at least three for each of the previous three years.
While Campbell can boast balance and depth, they have their own share of star power. Three-time conference champion Josh Heil has spent most of his collegiate career around the top ten nationally. He has earned top-12 seeds at the NCAA Tournament on two occasions and was #20 at the 2021 tournament. 174 lber Austin Murphy was seeded 11th at his first NCAA Tournament, in March, and finished a match shy of All-American status.