If there was any question that the University of Tennessee at Chattanooga's stronghold on Southern Conference wrestling had slipped this year, the Mocs responded with a dominating performance at the SoCon Tournament today. Chattanooga scored 102 points - nearly 30 more than the second place team - to win its 26th SoCon Tournament in school history.
The Mocs finished second in the league during the regular season for the first time since 2004. Appalachian State snapped UTC's seven year streak of regular season championships and was looking for the sweep at today's tournament in McKenzie Arena.
The Mocs did not disappoint the home fans and all but had the team title wrapped up after the semifinals. Eight individuals advanced to the championship matches and one more made it to the consolation finals. Chattanooga had four win individual trophies and nine place in the event.
2012 SoCon Freshman of the Year Nick Soto (Spring Hill, Fla.) got UTC going at 133. Ranked No. 16 in the nation, he was the favorite as the No. 1 seed, but had to work for the crown tonight. He led Campbell's Joey Rizzolino by only one point at 5-4 with less than a minute remaining, but scored a takedown late to seal the 8-4 decision.
Junior Dean Pavlou (Cleveland, Tenn.) was UTC's second title winner at 149. He defeated The Citadel's Seth Vernon 4-2. Pavlou was inserted into the lineup this week, beating out teammate senior Kelly Felix (Franklin, Tenn.). Felix had been the starter all year, but was 4-2 in league action.
After a scoreless first, Pavlou started the second on the bottom and wet up 2-0 with a reversal. Vernon escaped but Pavlou scored a takedown with 10 seconds left in the period for a 4-1 lead. Vernon escaped quickly in the third, but Pavlou fought him off for his second career SoCon Championship.
Senior Dan Waddell (Chattanooga, Tenn.) had one of the most exciting matches of the evening with a buzzer-beater win at 157 for the Mocs. Waddell, the No. 1 seed, fell behind to Campbell's Nick Rex 3-2 after an escape by Rex in the third period.
Waddell tried to get the go-ahead score, but as the clock wound down, it looked like Rex would have the upset win. Then with two seconds left, Waddell went up top, grabbed Rex in a head lock and slammed him to the mat for a 4-3 decision. It was Waddell's second SoCon title and his first since winning at 149 during his freshman season.
Senior Brandon Wright (Germantown, Tenn.) was UTC's fourth winner with a huge upset at 165. He scored an overtime victory over Appalachian State's 15th-ranked Kyle Blevins. With the score tied at one, neither individual was able to get a point in the first extra frame. In the first tiebreaker, Wright posted a reversal to go up 3-1. Blevins escaped in his turn on bottom and tried to get the go-ahead takedown. Wright fought off a strong attack to score his second-straight league trophy.
The Mocs had four runners-up, including senior Manny Ramirez (Fayetteville, N.C.) at 125, sophomore Shawn Greevy (Mechanicsburg, Pa.) at 141, junior Robert Prigmore (Westlake, Texas) at 184 and freshman Kevin Malone (Carrollton, Ohio) at heavyweight. Sophomore Levi Clemons (Kissimmee, Fla.) placed third at 174 while junior Niko Brown (Kissimmee, Fla.) battled injuries throughout the day and failed to show.
ASU and The Citadel tied for second with 72.5 points. Both teams had four in the finals and both won at three weights. Campbell finished fourth with 65 teams points, followed by VMI with 25.5. Gardner-Webb was sixth with 21 points and Davidson rounded out the team scoring with 6.5 points. The 2012 NCAA Championships are set for March 15-17 at the Scottrade Center in St. Louis, Mo.
1. Chattanooga - 102
2. Appalachian State - 72.5
The Citadel - 72.5
4. Campbell - 65
5. VMI - 25.5
6. Gardner-Webb - 21
7. Davidson - 6.5
INDIVIDUAL CHAMPIONSHIP RESULTS
125: No. 2 Antonio Gravely (ASU) - Dec. 12-9 - No. 1 Manny Ramirez (UTC)
133: No. 1 Nick Soto (UTC) - Dec. 8-5 - No. 2 Joey Rizzolino (Campbell)
141: No. 1 Mike Kessler (ASU) - Dec. 9-4 - No. 2 Shawn Greevy (UTC)
149: No. 3 Dean Pavlou (UTC) - Dec. 4-2 - No. 4 Seth Vernon (Citadel)
157: No. 1 Dan Waddell (UTC) - Dec. 4-3 - No. 2 Nick Rex (Campbell)
165: No. 2 Brandon Wright (UTC) - Dec. 3-2 (TB1) - No. 1 Kyle Blevins (ASU)
174: No. 1 Turtogtokh Luvsandorj (Citadel) - Dec. 2-1 - No. 3 James Cook (Campbell)
184: No. 1 Austin Trotman (ASU) - Tech Fall 21-6 (0:00) - No. 2 Robert Prigmore (UTC)
197: No. 1 Kelby Smith (Citadel) - Dec. 3-2 - No. 3 John Weakley (Campbell)
285: No. 1 Odie Delaney (Citadel) - MD 9-0 - No. 2 Kevin Malone (UTC)
SECOND-PLACE MATCH FOR AUTOMATIC NCAA BID
197: John Weakley (Campbell) - Fall 1:20 - Travis Porter (GWU)
MOST OUTSTANDING WRESTLER
Austin Trotman - Appalachian State
COACH OF THE YEAR
John-Mark Bentley - Appalachian State