The University of Tennessee at Chattanooga Athletics Department and the Office of Alumni Affairs recently announced its Class of 2009 inductees into the UTC Athletics Hall of Fame. GoMocs.com is currently profiling each new member leading up to the Hall of Fame Dinner on Feb. 12.
Guy Harris is the 20th former wrestler to be inducted into the UTC Athletics Hall of Fame. He was a four-year letter winner for the Mocs from 1989-93 and a part of four consecutive Southern Conference Championship teams during his career.
Harris is most known for his All-American performance at the 1992 NCAA Championships, but the Clearwater, Fla., native originally had aspirations of playing on the hardwood, instead of the mat.
"The reason I started wrestling was because I got cut from my high school basketball team," explained Harris. "The wrestling coach said you can start for us at 98 pounds."
Three years later, Harris was a Florida High School State Champion for Clearwater Catholic. It was at the state championships that Harris was convinced to continue his career at Chattanooga.
"That's how I came up to Chattanooga and I loved it," stated Harris. "I met my wife here while we were at UTC. It's been a great experience. I've been here for 22 years. My wife went to Hixson High School, so she's from this area. It's a great place to live. Going to UTC...it was the right place for me. It's where God directed me, and I'm blessed."
After redshirting as a true freshman in 1989, Harris spent the next two seasons training behind former SoCon Champion Mark Allison in the 142-pound class.
"I had great teammates," continued Harris. "I had the older guys when I was a freshman and sophomore that beat us up in practice. Some of the older guys, I never took down, ever."
Training against some of the top guys on the team for two years prepared Harris to move up to 150 pounds and contend for a SoCon title as a junior.
"To get to the nationals you had to win conference," said Harris. "It's not like there were 50 teams there, but there was a lot of pressure at - and leading up to - the Southern Conference Tournament."
There was a strange turn of events prior to the 1992 SoCon Championships that led to Harris's All-American run. He was competing at 150 as a junior, but had to wrestle-off against fellow junior Mike Newman for the right to compete in that class at the SoCon Tournament. Newman won, forcing Harris to cut weight back to 142.
"It was a tough cut, but it forced me to run more than I've ever run in my life," recalled Harris. "I got into great shape. It was a disappointment that turned into a good thing."
The intense preparation helped him win the SoCon 142-pound trophy and earn the league's automatic bid to the NCAA Championships in Oklahoma City. There he opened with a pigtail match against second-seeded Chris Owens of Oklahoma State.
"I got pinned in the first match against a hometown guy, so the place went nuts," said Harris. "He went on to finish second in the tournament, so I got to keep competing. I had to win four in a row to place, but the Lord gave me strength."
Harris's four-match run began with a 5-1 win against Ohio State's Aaron Schetter (5-1) in another pigtail in the consolation bracket. A takedown in overtime gave him an 8-6 win over Eastern Illinois' David Marlow. He then squeaked by North Carolina's Dave Leonardis, 5-4. An 11-6 win over No. 8 seed John Dasta of Clarion put him in the seventh place match where he fell to sixth-seeded John Miller of Maryland, 9-5. His eighth place finish made him the fourth NCAA Division I All-American in UTC wrestling history.
As a senior, Harris again moved up to 150 where he won the SoCon championship in 1993. He was also one of four Mocs named to the first All-SoCon Wrestling Team as a senior.
Harris gives credit to his coaches for the success he experienced during his career. "I just appreciate the coaches at UTC. I was coached by Ethan Reeve and Ralph Manning and they had a tremendous impact on my life. Coach Reeves was like a marine drill instructor. He would work you like a rented mule and would push you. He made you realize you could push your body a lot harder than you thought you could."
"There are a lot of wrestlers that went through UTC that were better than me, but the Lord blessed me with an injury-free career and great coaches at UTC."
Harris graduated from UTC in 1993 with a degree in Business Economics. He is currently a sales manager with Certified Maintenance Service in Chattanooga, Tenn. He and his wife, Mary, who is also a UTC graduate, have three children, McKenzie (16), Hannah (14) and Noah (8).
When asked about his thoughts on getting into the Hall of Fame Harris recalled, "I got goose-bumps. I read the e-mail from (UTC Director of Athletics) Rick Hart, and it was a special moment. It was very similar to winning conference for the first time, my junior year."
Fans can come out and enjoy the Hall of Fame Dinner and Induction Ceremony on Feb. 12, 2010, at the Chattanooga Country Club. The reception begins at 6:00 p.m. (E.S.T.) with the dinner and program starting at 6:30 p.m. The event is open to all Mocs fans with a cost of $25 per person while seating is available. Contact the Office of Alumni Affairs at (423) 425-4785 for more information or to order tickets.
The inductees and award winners will also be honored at halftime of the men's basketball game against Furman on Feb. 13. For tickets to the basketball game, call the UTC Ticket Office at (423) 266-MOCS (6627).