Appalachian State 133 lber Ethan Oakley (Photo/Sam Janicki; SJanickiPhoto.com)
Wow, what a season it's been - there have been twists and turns and so many HUH moments - this last week of Southern Conference wrestling was no different.
UT-Chattanooga hosted a pair of duals this weekend, the Bellarmine Knights on Friday and the Indiana Hoosiers on Sunday. Chattanooga finished the season with a 9-11 overall record, and 6-2 in the conference, recording losses to Appalachian State and Campbell. The Mocs were able to post one final victory in MacLellan Gym, with a 32-8 win over the Knights. The score would have been 32-9; however, there was a point deduction for Bellarmine for a mat violation during 174. Jack Parker (125) and heavyweight Thadd Huff put points on the board, Parker with a 3-0 decision over UTC's Logan Ashton and Huff posting a first-period fall over Nick Benton. The Mocs ended the dual with three decisions, three major decisions, one tech fall, and one fall.
On Saturday, Gardner-Webb closed out their season with a 34-4 win over the Davidson Wildcats, sending seniors Drew West (125) and RJ Mosley (165) out in style. Davidson's Tanner Peake (157) was the lone winner for the 'Cats, with a major decision victory over Tyler Brignola. West and Mosley both wrestled their final dual for the Runnin' Bulldogs, winning by decision for both of their matches.
VMI hosted a pair of duals against The Citadel and Queens University of Charlotte, losing to the Bulldogs 20-12 in the first dual, and ending their season with a victory over Queens, 38-3. For their final #SoConWR dual of the season, the Keydets battled it out against the Bulldogs, winning four matches to The Citadel's six. The Citadel started off strong with back-to-back major decision victories at 125 and 133, and after another victory at 141 for the Bulldogs, VMI started to make some headway, with three consecutive wins from 149-165. The Citadel was victorious in the rest of the bouts for the evening, barring 197 - Tyler Mousaw (VMI) had a close 10-8 decision over Mark Chaid (CIT). VMI bounced back from this loss to defeat Queens 38-3, the lone loss at 141.
For the final set of duals for the weekend - Chattanooga hosted Indiana University, while App State held their final three conference duals to close out the regular season. The Mocs lost this dual 32-3, picking up their lone win at 184. #33 Matthew Waddell pushed through to finish off his senior series in MacLellan Gym with a 5-2 win over Drayton Harris. There were a couple of upsets as well - at 133, #30 Henry Porter overcame #14 Brayden Palmer by an 8-3 decision, and #12 Rocky Jordan was defeated by #14 DJ Washington. The Mocs gave up a forfeit at 125.
App State polished off a perfect conference dual season, posting a 7-0 record (technically 8-0 if you count the 39-0 win over Bellarmine). This past Sunday Varsity Gym was PACKED with fans, family, and interestingly enough - football
teams. To kick off their three-dual series of the day, the #20 Mountaineers faced off against previously undefeated conference foes, the Campbell Camels. The dual kicked off at 125 - #14 Caleb Smith (APP, 125) and Ethan Oakley (APP, 133) started off the action with two wins, Oakley defeating #22 Domenic Zaccone (CU) in sudden-victory overtime. #33 Shannon Hanna (CU, 141) picked up an 11-3 major decision victory to put 4 points on the board for the Camels. #9 Jon Jon Millner came out with an 8-0 major decision victory for the Mountaineers, setting the tone for the next four bouts. Appalachian State posted wins at 157, 165, and 174, when the Camels picked up the final three wins of the evening at 184, 197, and heavyweight. #16 Taye Ghadiali dominated his match, ending the dual with a 17-8 major decision win. The final score was in favor of the Mountaineers, 22-14, halting Campbell's conference win streak. Appalachian turned around to deliver shutouts to Presbyterian (43-0) and Davidson (47-0), making them the 2023 dual-team champions.
This set of duals was pretty spectacular. There were TWO officials on the mat (finally!!), plenty of fans, and as I mentioned before - football teams. Campbell brought their football team, and when App State heard about it they answered accordingly. A gym full of football players who may or may not have wrestled in high school is just as fun as you think it would be. A lot of yelling "TWOOO," "he's stalling," or other various heckling ensued. I was in the area near Campbell's football team, and they were the nicest group of guys. It's really awesome to see sports programs buy into each other in this way, it's a creative way to grow the sport, and it made for an awesome atmosphere to have so many students there supporting both programs. It's too bad we couldn't have an App State/Campbell football scrimmage (LOL) now that would've been added fun!
There is one dual left in the season for the SoCon, Presbyterian College will travel to Bellarmine on Thursday, Feb 23. On the 25, Bellarmine will head to the Great Lakes Conference Championships in Toledo, OH as they are still not Southern Conference Championships eligible. They'll then head to the NCWA Championships in Puerto Rico on March 9. The Southern Conference Championship will take place on Saturday, March 4 in Boone, North Carolina. I can't wait to see how the rest of this season pans out.