SoCon Mid-Season Recap

2x All-American Jon Jon Millner (photo courtesy of Tony Rotundo;

The SoCon has seen quite a bit of action this season: upsets, match-ups with top-ranked teams, and plenty of traveling. Here's a breakdown from A to V of what's been going on in the SoCon.

Appalachian State University, 4-1 overall, 1-0 conference

The season started out on the road to #9-ranked NC State, winning 4 out of 10 matches. Nailbitinig bouts of the evening included #15 Will Formato (165) and #26 Sean Carter's (133) sudden-victory overtime wins. The Mountaineers lost to the Wolfpack 26-12, but turned around and beat the other ACC foe then-#21 North Carolina 19-16. Carmichael Arena was absolutely electric after Will Miller (174) upset #8 Clay Lautt with a 7-5 decision. This win earned Miller the honor of being named NCAA and SoCon Wrestler of the Week.

In between, App State headed to Vegas and put three wrestlers on the podium at the Cliff Keen Las Vegas Invitational. Jon Jon Miller led the way with a fourth-place finish, while Will Formato was seventh and Tommy Askey eighth.

Varsity Gym's doors were open on December 20, where Appalachian served up back-to-back shutouts against Bellarmine (39-0) and Queens (50-0). Remember, Queens is a newly-minted Division-I program in North Carolina and in the south…so we may see an addition to the SoCon in the near future.

A New Year's tradition - The Southern Scuffle - held in Chattanooga, Tennessee; produced three placers from the Mountaineers. There most definitely would have been a fourth; however, Jon Jon Millner (149) did not compete. Caleb Smith (125) earned his third fifth-place finish, Tommy Askey (157) finished seventh, and Sean Carter (133) took home eighth place. This past Sunday, Binghamton traveled to Boone for some dual-meet action. Appalachian won eight of the ten bouts, dropping losses at 184 and heavyweight.

This Friday is definitely going to be special, as #9 Virginia Tech heads to Boone to face off against the #20-ranked Mountaineers. I'm most excited to watch 149 - a likely meeting between two highly-ranked opponents: #8 Jon Jon Millner and #11 Caleb Henson. 125 lbs will surely be a fun match to watch - #21 Caleb Smith and #20 Eddie Ventresca. App State is already 1-1 with ACC competition…let's see what happens next.

Bellarmine University, 7-1 overall, 0-1 conference

Bellarmine opened the season with a few open tournaments - the Patriot Open and the Bob Del Rosa Intercollegiate Open, and the Lindenwood Open. Overall, the Knights had seven champions from all Open events. Following the Lindenwood Open, Bellarmine went head-to-head against Lindenwood in dual team action, another program new to the Division I scene. Out of the ten bouts, the Knights picked up wins at 133, 149, 157 (FFT), and 174 to seal the deal and secure the 23-15 win - heavyweight Thadd Huff pinned Lindenwood's Kramer. High off a win, the team headed to Boone for their first piece of Southern Conference dual meet action of the season, losing to App State 39--0.

The Knights have made some history this season as well - going to the inaugural Soldier Salute in Coralville, Iowa and winning a national title at the NWCA National Duals. After two days of battling it out against 6 teams, Bellarmine reigned supreme and brought home the national championship. Bellarmine heads to Gardner-Webb on Friday, January 13 to face off in SoCon dual team competition.

Campbell University, 6-5 overall, 1-0 conference

Campbell started their season off with two back-to-back events - Battle in the River City and Battle at Bragg. The Fighting Camels posted a 2-1 record at the Battle in River City, boasting wins against Little Rock (18-15) and Buffalo (36-3), dropping their loss of the day to #14 Iowa State (34-3). Troy Nation (157) recorded the lone victory against Iowa State, posting an 11-8 decision over Isaac Judge.

The Camels hosted Battle at Bragg, which was truly an event to remember. While there have been matches wrestled on aircraft carriers, I don't believe there have been any wrestled on a military base, during a hurricane, while being the first collegiate dual streamed on UFC Fight Pass. In an event where competition was stopped to close the aircraft hangar doors in the midst of a literal hurricane, the Camels were met by #5 Michigan and #16 UNC. Campbell lost both duals, picking up two wins at 165 (Dom Baker) and 197 (Levi Hopkins) against the Wolverines (final 26-6), and won three bouts against UNC at 133 (Gabe Hixenbaugh), 157 (Troy Nation), and at heavyweight (Taye Ghadiali).

The Camels traveled to West Point, New York to wrestle in the Black Knight Invitational, bringing home two champions: Taye Ghadiali and Gabe Hixenbaugh and six other place-winners. Mid-December brought the Boilermaker Duals, where Campbell continued to show up, with a 3-0 record for the day. The barnburner dual of the day was against Utah Valley, the Camels posted a 17-16 win, after being tied 16-16, it came down to criteria. Campbell and Utah Valley had split the dual, equally winning 5 matches apiece. After scoring total points scored, Campbell came out on top. Anthony Molton (125) upset Purdue's #8 Matt Ramos, in a sudden victory overtime win. Campbell won against the EIWA's Drexel 19-16 and B1G's Purdue 29-9 - marking a program first for beating a B1G opponent.

Most recently, Campbell hosted a conference competition - beating Gardner-Webb 25-12, and #17 Nebraska, dropping a 37-6 loss. The pair of wins at this dual were earned by heavyweight #12 Taye Ghadiali and #29 Domenic Zaccone. Next up for the Camels is the ever-exciting Virginia Duals, held in Hampton, Virginia where they'll be up against Kent State, Oklahoma University, Maryland, and South Dakota State.

UT-Chattanooga, 4-7 overall, 1-0 conference

The season started at the Battle in the River City for the Mocs, dropping three dual team losses to #12 Wisconsin (35-3), Buffalo (21-9), and Little Rock (28-5). Rocky Jordan (174) picked up the lone win against Wisconsin and accounted for another against Buffalo. Brayden Palmer (133) claimed victories against Buffalo and Little Rock.

On the road again, UTC battled against Northern Illinois (18-15) and Cleveland State (20-13), picking up wins against the two at the Boilermaker duals, and dropping a 23-16 loss to the host school - Purdue. #27 Brayden Palmer (133), #16 Rocky Jordan (174), and Jake Boyd (197) went undefeated for the weekend. And they couldn't wait to get on the road again - (please laugh at my Willie Nelson joke) - off to Illinois they went. UTC picked up two victories - #27 Noah Castillo (149) and Lincoln Heck (157) served up the lone pair of wins for this dual.

Chattanooga then hosted #2 Iowa in McKenzie Arena, winning four of the ten bouts. The upset of the evening was at 174 - #16 Rocky Jordan edged out #14 Nelson Brands in a 3-1 decision. Like a band of wrestlers, they go down the highway - to Boiling Springs, where they fought hard against SIUE (L, 20-15). and Clarion (26-10).

My favorite New Year's tradition rolled around - the Southern Scuffle. Out of the 21 team entries, Brayden Palmer (133) stayed alive to take second place, matching up against #2 Daton Fix in the finals. This was the best performance for UTC since Nick Soto placed second in 2012. Another fun stat - out of the fifty-some Southern Conference entries into this tournament, Palmer was the lone SoCon wrestler to stay alive in the championship bracket. If you didn't catch the interview I did with him after his semi-final bout, you should check it out.

After battling a week of sickness and even considering defaulting from the tournament, Palmer pushed through and delivered a great performance through the rest of the weekend. This past weekend the Mocs were once again, on the road again - this time to VMI. After dropping only two bouts to the Keydets, Chattanooga walked away with a 30-9 victory.

Up next for the Mocs? They'll be competing in Maclellan Gym against West Virginia, which will be streamed on ESPN+. I really think this is going to be a great match - WVU just picked up a win over #21 Pitt, and they have top-25 ranked starters at 125, 149, 165, and we can't count out Jordan Titus (141) who just knocked off #1 Cole Matthews (PITT). It'll for sure be an electric atmosphere.

The Citadel, 4-0 overall, 0-0 conference

The Citadel has had an undefeated dual season so far - opening up the season against Queens (45-0), traveled to Long Island University (23-18), and hosted a pair of duals against Truett McConnell (51-6) and Kaiser (43-3). The Citadel hosted their namesake Open tournament; coming out of the weekend with two champions: Selwyn Porter (157) and Ben Haubert (174) and three place winners: Hayden Watson (149, 3rd), Patrick Brophy (197, 3rd), and Thomas Snipes (157, 5th).

The Navy Classic was the #NextTournamentUp (see what I did there?), where the Bulldogs brought home four placers at 125, 133, 174, and heavyweight. A new tournament I see The Citadel traveling to now would be the Soldier Salute - this was held at Xtream Arena in Coralville, Iowa. This tournament hosted military schools - The Citadel, VMI, Army, Navy, and Southern Conference's own Bellarmine. Up next for the Citadel, they'll host App State at McAlister Field House on Sunday, January 15 for their conference opener.

Davidson College, 2-4 overall, 1-0 conference

Kicking off his first season as head coach - Nate Carr, Jr. and the Wildcats hosted Michigan State at Baker Sports Complex. They were shut out 52-0, but at 165 Jaden Hardrick had the closest point margin, only taking a 2-1 loss to Caleb Fish. To The Citadel they went for their second open tournament of the season, where Noah Frack (149) placed fifth and Gavin Henry (197) took home sixth. The King Open and the Navy Classic were two events the 'Cats competed in, Noah Burstein (133) brought home a championship title from the King Open.

A homecoming of sorts was held for Coach Carr, as the team traveled to Lock Haven for some dual meet MACtion (I'm on a roll here LOL). The three wins recorded for the evening were at 197, heavyweight, and 149, finishing the team up with a 31-13 score. Three Wildcats placed at the Patriot Open, hosted by George Mason University. Coming in at third place, Bryce Sanderlin (165) and Gavin Henry (197), while Marc Koch (157) took home a sixth-place finish.

Queens and Presbyterian headed to Baker Sports Complex, where the 'Cats took back-to-back dual team wins. Up against Queens, Davidson took the victory in 9 out of the 10 bouts, while winning 8 out of the 10 versus SoCon competitor Presbyterian. At Franklin & Marshall, the team took a pair of dual team losses, losing to F&M 29-9, and a close match to Brown 22-19.

The team will be back in action this Sunday, January 15 against Bellarmine University - this dual is going to be extra special, as this will be the first time a Southern Conference dual has been hosted in a theater. Catch this match at the Duke Performance Hall on the historic Davidson College campus this weekend - and you might even see a familiar face or two, too (wink, wink).

Gardner-Webb, 1-6 overall, 0-1 conference

Gardner-Webb had a strong start to the season against Bloomsburg, picking up a dual team 27-10 win; and taking a loss to George Mason 22-10. Seven Runnin' Bulldogs placed at the Patriot Open - with Zach Price (141) and RJ Mosley (165) taking home championship titles. The team ended 2022 with three consecutive dual losses against Clarion (33-6), SIUE (22-19), and Ohio (23-15). 2023 started off at the Southern Scuffle, where all thirteen competitors were knocked out of the competition on the first day. Picking back up on their dual schedule, they faced off in their first SoCon dual versus Campbell (25-12). #29 RJ Mosley (165) started the match off with a sudden victory overtime win, while Drew West (125) clinched a close 6-5 decision. To close out the dual Tyler Brignola (157) won by forfeit.

They then wrestled #17 Nebraska, only posting two wins at 165 and 133 (Todd Carter) to have a final team score of 37-6. Mosley was named SoCon Wrestler of the Week on 01/11 (this week) after his performance against Campbell University and #17 Nebraska - picking up back-to-back wins in dual meet action. It came down to the wire against #25 Bubba Wilson (Nebraska), when Mosley scored a takedown in sudden victory overtime. Gardner-Webb will host Bellarmine this Friday in Boiling Springs, followed by a tri-meet between Army and Queens.

Presbyterian College, 3-5 overall, 0-1 conference

The Blue Hose started their season with four placements at the Princeton Open - the highest placement of the weekend going to Jacob Brasseur (133), taking third place. A program-first for their opening dual of the season: wrestling B1G opponent Michigan State. The lone win of the evening came from Reed Douglass' (174) 13-8 decision over Marty Larkin, putting the final team score at 46-3. Malcolm Wiley (197) was crowned the champion at The Citadel Open.

Adding to their dual team record, the team beat Queens in a 37-6 victory - only dropping bouts at 125 and 141. The Blue Hose shut out Truett McConnell 41-0, serving up a pin and two technical falls. In their conference opener, Presbyterian dropped the dual 26-7, winning at 125 and 184. Hosting MAC and ACC opponents George Mason and Duke, Presbyterian took back-to-back losses (32-6, 23-19). Malcolm Wiley (197) pushed the team score forward, earning bonus points with a 2:59 fall over Brayden Ray. This is an exciting first for the program - beating EIWA opponent Brown University 25-15. The win was followed by a 33-9 loss to Franklin & Marshall. They'll #CueTheBagpipes on January 22 when they host The Citadel and VMI.

Virginia Military Institute, 5-1 overall, 0-1 conference

Last, but most certainly not least, there's VMI. They started the season off red hot with five dual team wins against Southern Virginia University (53-0), Franklin & Marshall (24-15), Duke (28-9), Fairmont State (53-0), and Shenandoah University (53-0). Their open tournament series started off with a bang as well - at the Southeast Open there were seven placers in the Freshman/Sophomore division; the Journeymen Classic, a historically stacked tournament, yielded 11 placers - with five second-place finishes, four third-place finishes, and three fourth-place finishes; while at the Navy Classic Tyler Mousaw (197) took home the highest placement at third.

Job Chishko (157) matched that third-place finish at the inaugural Soldier Salute. In their first Southern Conference dual of the season, the Keydets hosted Chattanooga where they lost a 30-9 dual meet, picking up wins at 165 (Braxton Lewis) and 197 (Tyler Mousaw).

VMI is headed to Brooklyn this weekend to wrestle Clarion and Long Island, and on the way back home they'll face off against Sacred Heart in Connecticut.


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