ASHEVILLE, NC (GoMocs.com)---The University of Tennessee at Chattanooga wrestling team won its 29th Southern Conference Tournament Championship in convincing fashion Saturday. The Mocs took home three individual titles and grabbed two more automatic bids to outdistance the field by 18.5 points at Kimmel Arena.
Chattanooga racked up 89 points, while Appalachian State was second with 70.5. The Citadel finished third with 62.0, followed by Gardner-Webb at 54.0.
It didn't look too good for UTC midway through today's action. The Mocs were in third place in the standings and only advanced four in the main draw following the semifinals.
However, Chattanooga dominated the consolation matches with five third-place finishes and rebuilt a solid lead heading into the finals. The Mocs added to that with three champs to secure their fifth-straight tournament crown.
“Right now we have five guys going to the NCAA's and another team title at the Southern Conference Tournament, so overall a good day,” stated head coach Heath Eslinger. “We had a rough patch there in the semis, but we battled back. They guys fought hard and it was a great character check for us.”
Senior Sean Boyle came into the event ranked No. 8 nationally at 125, and lived up to that billing. The transfer from Michigan scored major decisions in both his wins to advance to the NCAAs for the third time in his collegiate career.
After a first round bye, Boyle opened with a 10-2 win over Gardner-Webb's Cortez Starkes. He followed that with a 10-1 win over The Citadel's Joaquin Marquez in the finals.
Senior Nick Soto capped off an outstanding SoCon career with a near-perfect day for his fourth title. He scored two pins, earning the maximum amount of points for his team, to become the 16th four-time champ in SoCon history. He joins Charlie Buckshaw (1986-89), Bret Gustafson (1988, 1990-92) and Pat Murhphy (1980-83) as Chattanooga's only four-time champions.
Soto had a second period pin against Davidson's Anthony Elias and a first period fall in the finals over Appalachian State's Vito Pasone. Soto moves into a tie for fourth with Charlie Heard (1982-84) on UTC's all-time wins list with a career record of 113-36.
Sophomore Sean Mappes advanced to the NCAAs with his win at 174. He came in as the No. 4 seed, but marched through the field with three big wins.
Mappes opened with a dominating 19-3 tech fall over VMI's Mark Darr. He then pulled off an upset of SIUE's top-seeded Jake Residori (5-3) in the semifinals. That win avenged a loss suffered in the team dual on Feb. 22.
Mappes went against Appalachian State's second-seeded Forrest Przybysz in the finals. He lost to Przybysz in the dual on Feb. 8 and had another tight one tonight.
After an escape in the second period by Przybysz, the match was tied 2-2 going into the final frame. Mappes chose down and quickly got out for the point. He gave up a takedown, but flipped Przybysz with a reversal. Przybysz tied it again with a late escape, but Mappes won the match 6-5 on riding time.
Senior Shawn Greevy earned his first trip to the NCAA's with his third place finish at 149. That weight had three bids, and Greevy's perseverance in the wrestlebacks secured his ticket to the dance.
Sophomore Jared Johnson did the same thing at heavyweight. After falling to Appalachian State's Denzel Dejournette in the main draw, he fought his way back in the consolations. After Dejournette beat The Citadel's Joe Bexley in the finals, Johnson had a shot at a true second place match with Bexley for the league's second NCAA bid at heavyweight. He beat Bexley to give UTC five automatic bids to the NCAAs.
“You look at Sean Boyle, Sean Mappes and Nick Soto, those were all great victories,” added Eslinger. “Greevy punched his ticket because his body of work was good. Jared Johnson battled back to take that true second to earn his spot. I think all of those were good performances.”
“I think everybody in those consolation rounds deserve a lot of credit,” said Eslinger. “It is no fun when you are out and you know you can't win. We preach team and that was a team effort. Super-happy for the effort they gave in those two rounds.”
UTC now has two weeks to get ready for the NCAA Championships in St. Louis, Mo. Action takes place on March 19-21.
Final Team Scores 1. Chattanooga - 89.0 2. Appalachian State - 70.5 3. The Citadel - 62.0 4. Gardner-Webb - 54.0 5. Southern Illinois-Edwardsville - 38.5 6. Davidson - 29.5 7. VMI - 24.5