The Chattanooga wrestling team put on a dominating performance against VMI on Senior Night at MacLellan Gym tonight. The Mocs scored a 43-3 win over the Keydets to clinch the Southern Conference regular season title for the fifth year in a row and the ninth time in the last 12 years.
“It was a good way to end the season in front of our home crowd,” stated head coach Chris Bono. “I am proud of our seniors the way they went out. We scored bonus points in most of the matches. They did a lot of things technically right tonight. It is definitely something to build on heading into the conference.”
Freshman Ethan Winel started off the evening at 197 and made quick work of VMI’s Curtis Moore. Winel pinned Moore just 34 seconds into the match to give the Mocs a quick 6-0 lead. Winel’s victory snapped his four-match losing streak and was his fourth pin of the year.
VMI came back with a win in the heavyweight match. Josh Wine scored a decision over Cody Sliger 7-2. It was the Keydets’ only points of the evening.
Freshman Demetrius Johnson scored a 12-2 major decision over Johnathan Pope at 125. Johnson is now 8-6 on the year and 3-1 in SoCon matches. Sophomore Josh Statum battled Tyler Hutchens to a 6-3 decision at 133, giving the Mocs a 13-3 advantage.
Senior T.J. Hannah was inserted into the lineup at 141 and delivered a 9-7 decision over David Yost. Hannah scored a takedown and an escape early in the first period and stayed one step ahead of his opponent the entire match. It was Hannah’s only dual meet action of the season.
“T.J. doesn’t get an opportunity much, be we gave him one tonight,” said Bono. “We talk about it all the time, when you get your chance, you have to take it and run. He certainly did tonight and I couldn’t be happier for him.”
The rout was on for the rest of the match, starting with a major decision (15-5) by freshman Dan Waddell over Joseph Munno at 149. Junior Joey Knox scored a technical fall (24-6, 5:19) over Joel Hutchens at 157.
The Mocs ended the evening with three straight first period pins. Senior Seth Garvin made quick work of his last match at MacLellan, pinning Kyle Elgert in 1:24. Garvin leads the team with 21 wins and seven pins on the year. He also posted a perfect 5-0 mark in SoCon action.
“Garvin was wrestling with a little bit of emotion tonight,” added Bono. “He competed hard tonight and went out there and got the fall. It was very important for him to have a good performance going into the conference tournament and I am proud of him.”
Freshman Jason McCroskey pinned Andrew Szymborski at the 1:27 mark of the first period. He also posted a perfect 5-0 mark in league action and improves to 19-10 overall. Freshman Tyler Roberson scored his first period pin over Vincent Gallo 1:25 into the match. He also snapped a personal four-match losing streak for his first career fall.
It was also the last home match for senior Kyle McKee. McKee was unable to compete tonight due to a season-ending neck injury he suffered earlier in the year.
“It was sad the McKee had to have season-ending surgery on his neck injury, but the kid gave his all during his career,” complimented Bono. “I am proud of him for his effort and dedication to the program throughout him time at UTC.”
Chattanooga finishes the year with a 5-0 record in SoCon action, extending their conference winning streak to 25 matches. The last loss to a SoCon opponent was a 13-27 setback at the Citadel on Feb. 14, 2004. Head coach Chris Bono, in his third season at UTC, is now 15-0 in SoCon matches in his career and 40-17 overall.
The Mocs will now get ready for the Sothern Conference Tournament on March 7 in Charleston, S.C. The NCAA Championships are set for March 19-21 in St. Louis, Mo.