5th season Column 37: Cold Front, Hot Duals Nationwide; and So Cool, So Hot, SoCon

[EDITORS NOTE: The Atlantic Coast Conference ruled the NC ST-VT match a cancelation. Conference policy is that without a reschedule, to award a forfeit. Apparently VT requested a reschedule and was denied. The remainder of the column remains, to the best of the authors knowledge, accurate.]

From North Carolina to Michigan and from the East Coast to the West the weather turned cold as conference dual season heated up.

It’s been a busy second half start to January and suprises have been abundant. Arizona State took their Top 10 ranking to the East Coast and dropped back to back matches to Pittsburgh and Princeton. They will reset at home this weekend and Monday with PAC 12 matches against Cal St. Bakersfield and Cal Poly. The Sun Devils will be short AA Hvywt. Cohlton Schulz, who’s abusing foreigners in Zagreb for Team USA Greco. Bigger question is can the Sun Devils solidify their 174lb and 184lb roster spots. 3 Sun Devils, Schultz, 165lb AA Anthony Valencia, and 157lb AA Jacori Teemer [PAC 12 wrestler of the week] are all undefeated. 125lb AA Brandon Courtney, last years finalist, and 149lb AA Kyle Parco have just 1 loss each. 133lb AA Michael McGee is more than ready.That star power will serve the Sun Devils well come tournament time, but some uneven performances elsewhere have cost ASU in duals. And may yet.

Stanford’s stunning resurrection continues as the Cardinal bumped Little Rock 22-18 without four starters and coming off quarantine. Rob Kolls crew has the rest of their PAC 12 schedule jammed between the 4th and 20th of February after a Jan. 29th date with Menlo College.

ACC action begins with a vengeance Friday night the 21st as Virginia Tech visits NC State. Folks, this one is every bit as big as Penn States same day contest at Michigan and with just about as many ranked versus ranked wrestler matchups. Two very intriguing tussles in the WolfPack-Hokies matchup: NC ST 2XAA 149lb Tariq “The Freak” Wilson vs. VTs 2021 Junior World medalist Bryce “Bomber” Andonian, and at 174, 2019 NCAA and 2018 World Junior Champ Mekhi Lewis of Tech faces the Packs 4X AA Hayden Hidlay. Between the four: 6 All American honors, 7 individual ACC titles, 12 trips to the NCAAs, and nada a matchup between them in college till Friday night. EVERY single match in this dual will be wrestled at maximum intensity. One more note-the winner of this dual has captured the ACC regular season title 6 years running.

Pitt may have something to say about that. The Panthers have used a brutal non conference schedule to prepare themselves for an ACC title run and NCAA success. Ohio State, Michigan and Lehigh mark the Panthers 3 dual defeats but there’s been a lot more success. Double digit wins over tough squads from Buffalo, Maryland, and Army West Point. A tournament team title at the Matmen Open, where the Panthers had eight placewinners and one titlist, 157lb Elijah Cleary. The Panthers forward progress was on clear display at the Open and in the Arizona State win. Friday Top 25 Virginia comes to #Pinzburgh with two undefeated wrestlers, 165lb Justin McCoy and Under-23 World Bronze Medalist 197lb Jay Aiello. It was a one point win for the ‘Hoos over the Panthers in Charlottesville last season. McCoy will be across the mat from Pitts 165lb National finalist Jake Wentzel. Aiello will see 197lb National finalist Nino Bonnacorsi. Each team boasts 7 ranked wrestlers.

Its Blue on Blue violence in Chapel Hill as North Carolina hosts Duke in their 97th mat matchup. Most have gone the Tar Heels way but Duke Coach Glen Lanham has a full squad this season. Not predicting a Blue Devils team triumph, just another ACC big time throwdown. Will take this time to reiterate a preseason prediction or two, though. The ACC will put 3 teams in the top 15 at the NCAAs and the state of North Carolina will have 5 or 6 squads in the top 30 when the music stops in Detroit.

The SoCon is stepping up to that prediction with stellar efforts by Campbell and App State this year. The Mountaineers ran off 6 straight wins over in state rival Duke in a 22-12 win. Friday App State hosts conference foe VMI and PAC 12 affiliate member Little Rock in a tri-meet, a good test for all three squads. JohnMark Bentleys Mountaineers are led by 149lb AA Johnathan Millner, [SoCon wrestler of the week] one of six ranked App State grapplers. The team sits #22 overall and will be favored in every dual the rest of the way. Their own Appalachian Open, depending on the field, may provide the only opportunity for ranking improvement until the post season tournament.

The Camels were missing all star Josh Heil but still made the finals of last weeks Chippewa Challenge. Not saying the undefeated Heils presence would have flipped the 19-15 loss from host Central Michigan to a Camels win but…..hmm. 4 Camels ran the table at the Challenge. 125lb All Overlooked and Underrated team member Korbin Meink, 133lb Dominic Zaccone, 174lb Austin Murphy, and 184lb Caleb Hopkins were perfecto for the Humpsters on the day. The word is now out on smooth, strong, athletic Camels Hvywt. Taye Ghadiali, who took CMU 2XAA Hvywt. Matt Stencel to OT in the events final match. Bakersfield and American, both rebounding teams with dynamic new coaches, brought great effort with results to follow for this season and beyond.

In other SoCon news UTC was competitive but came up short at the Virginia Duals, dropping 10 and 5 point matches to Maryland and Kent State before being overwhelmed by a powerful South Dakota State squad. The Mocs came away with some key individual wins in countable matches against Virginia, and will be back in action next weekend against Gardner Webb and defending conference champ Campbell. It’s still the lightweight show for the Mocs and they’ll need full roster effort for the SoCon run.

Kudos to Gardner-Webb for toughing out a difficult trip home after their road win over Bellarmine in Louisville. Road and restaurant closures forced an unplanned overnight and a grocery store run for dinner. Just made the 24-15 win sweeter. They traveled to Lexington, Virginia to dual VMI Thursday.

The Keydets of Jim Gibson are slowly making their roster younger and better, finding their progress match by match. While they had just two wins against Frank Beasleys fired up George Mason Patriots in a 31-8 setback, four Keydets fell by a total of only 9 points. Big gun 197lb Tyler Mousaw continued a quality return with a gritty decision win while 184lb Zach Brown rolled to a tech fall victory.

Andy Lausiers Davidson Wildcats turned the corner into the seasons second half with their first win, a 20-18 defeat of Franklin and Marshall. Senior stars 133lb Kyle Gorant and 285lb Mitchell Trigg, linchpins from Coach Lausiers first recruiting class, had key wins. From 157 through 174 Bryce Sanderlin, Jayden Hardrick and Anthony Spera did their things with 3 straight decision victories. Finally, Finlay Holston at 197 set the stage for #BiggTrigg heroics when FH shut out his F&M foe 4-0. This Friday it’s a road match with Bellarmine, Sunday an away contest with Ohio.

Both the Citadel and Presbyterian have been dealing with Covid-19 issues, affecting both home and road matches. Ryan LeBlancs Bulldogs are set to return to action the 23rd against Campbell, while Presbyterian has missed conference matches with Campbell, Bellarmine and VMI. On their official schedule they’re not set for action again till February 13th versus UTC.

Bellarmines Season 2, SoCon style, has been a challenge. At 1-11 they have been at times competitive and at times not as much. Coach Ned Shuck sees individual progress as a main marker for this year. Devan Hendricks, Cole Nance and Erick Beck have 30 wins between them. The Knights enter a schedule stretch that just may give them an opportunity to steal a win or two before their season ends. They will not be eligible for post season yet due to their changing classification, so look for a hard charge from the Knights these last six weeks.

Random Stuff

BIG win for the Cleveland State Vikings as they row above .500 with an 18-15 win over hotter than a pepper sprout Clarion. CSU is now 2-1 in the MAC, 5-4 overall. All Overlooked and Underrated 184lb team member DeAndre Nasser gritted out an OT win in the victory. CSU also announced a new funding effort, The Vikings Weight Class Champions Wrestling Scholarship Funding Campaign. Hope they can find an acronym in there as well as some donors. Seriously, call that double drop of CSU news a WIN, WIN for sure.

As mentioned earlier undefeated Michigan hosts undefeated Penn State Friday. Quite frankly it could be anything from a criteria decided match to a 20 plus point win for either team.

SHOUT OUT to Chris Bonos Wisconsin Badgers, who beat Brandon Eggums Minnesota Gophers 21-15. It was Wiskys first win over Da Gophers on the road in 10 years. It was not a rout as a Wisconsin story over excitedly proclaimed. But it was a victory. This Friday they host Nebraska. Wear white and Jump around!

See you sometime soon!

Ted Carreras

Season 5 Column 36: Mt. Pleasant Values on a Sunday

The Chippewa Challenge brings Head Coach Tom Borellis talented group of coaching disciples together from around the country in a family reunion so special they’re selling tickets to it.

They’re coming from Washington, D.C. They’re coming from Buies Creek, North Carolina. They’re coming from Bakersfield, California. The American University Eagles, the Campbell Camels, and the CSUB Roadrunners are all headed to Mt. Pleasant, Michigan, this Sunday. It’s the Chippewa Challenge and there is little doubt that the decades long Director of Chippewas wrestling fortunes, Head Coach Tom Borelli, sees this event through a special lens. “I look at this weekend as maybe an opportunity to have a homecoming for wrestling. You know we have a homecoming for football. This might be a homecoming for a lot of guys who are caught up in their own lives. I understand that. Maybe they have children and they’re caught up in the day to day, but it might be an opportunity for them to come back (and really) to see some of their friends. To see some of the alums and kind of have that homecoming for wrestling.” A few years back several Oklahoma State alum led wrestling teams ran a quad meet that moved between campuses but it petered out after a few iterations. The author feels this event may work out better. Its point of generation could prove to be the reason. Again, Coach Borelli: “Well, it started out talking to my son, Jason (Head Coach at American, prior to that 13 years at Stanford). He kind of started me thinking about the idea. (Jason said) you guys should probably get us all together for a quad.” OK, let’s just take a look at THAT, folks. A brand new event, involving four teams from four different conferences, literally from every geographic region in the US, smack dab in conference dual season. Sure, NO problem. And apparently it wasn’t. “I decided to contact all three of those guys. They said it would be great. Scotti (Sentes, Head Coach, Campbell, the SoCon) was real excited. Luke (Smith, Head Coach, CSUB, the PAC-12 Conference) was real excited. They all agreed and we decided to call it the Chippewa Challenge.” Who wouldn’t be jacked to come back to that place where you spread your wings as an athlete and a man, finding success in both venues? That’s a truism for not just the head coaches of the four involved schools but many of their staff as well. Campbell assistant Wynn Michalak was a 197lb monster for the Chippewas, winning 4 MAC titles, 3 Conference wrestler of the Year awards, and 3AA honors. Both Chippewa assistants, Ben Bennett and Colin Heffernan, wrestled at CMU. Bennett is Borellis and CMUs only 4X AA, while Heffernan was a three time NCAA qualifier and two time team captain. As for the head coaches Mt. Pleasant roots, well, they’re deep and varied.

Jason Borelli (American University, the E.I.W.A.) is the penultimate coaches son, a multiple athletic and academic award winner for father Tom from 2002-2006. The younger Borelli, now in his first season at American, (1) compiled a remarkable first HC stop to a career. In 13 seasons he led the Stanford Cardinal to 122 victories, the most by any coach (of wrestling) (2) in school history. Totally revamping both the roster and the direction of his new squad J. Borelli has had typical 1st season challenges, cross country relocation with young children notwithstanding. The Eagles have suffered two tough losses by a combined 5 points and are 1-5 so far in duals. They’ve scored an upset win over Duke. Heavyweight Isaac Righter took Silver at the Jonathan Kaloust Bearcat Open. The Eagles sent four wrestlers into the 5th place matches at the tough Navy Classic and they all finished in odd numbers. Freshman 125lb Max Leete followed suite at the Reno Tournament of Championships, finishing 5th with a 5-1 record. A-U is scrapping and while overmatched by the likes of Rutgers and Virginia they are becoming competitive. Coach Borelli is well, excited: “The opportunity to compete in the Chippewa Challenge is very exciting and very important to us….Any time you have an opportunity to wrestle great teams and great individuals you want to take advantage of it to see where you are.” And there’s more to it than just the competition. “We get a chance to expose our team to a program that we think that we can become. You look at CMU and what they have done over the last 25 years or so. Numerous Top 20 and Top 10 finishes, All Americans year after year.” It’s that consistency of greatness from Tom Borellis teams that has Jason excited, and hopeful, for his squads direction. “It’s great to come and see that and to have everyone in our program experience that.” And, you can’t really put a price on being able to, and to be welcome, when you go home again. “It’s exciting to be back in my home town. To be in the environment, around the community and the people that have played such a big part in my life and helped get me where I am.” For the Borellis, Mt. Pleasant goes straight to the heart. “My wife and I are both proud alumni. We love this place and so to come back here and be reminded of where it all started and where we came from, it’s really special. We are very excited about it.” THAT, folks, is family.

Luke Smith (CSUB, the PAC-12 Conference) (3) brings a well traveled troupe of RoadRunners to his original college wrestling nest where he terrorized the MAC as 125lb “Lightning” Luke Smith. A four time NCAA qualifier, Smith graduated in 2008 and has coached at his alma mater, Old Dominion and Eastern Michigan. This season, his 3rd as Head Coach at CSUB, has been beset by cancellations, postponements, and last-minute rearrangements. Tournament efforts have produced four champs and 15 podium spots spread over 5 events. Their matches with Northern Colorado and Little Rock were canceled. To make up for the missing events, CSUB worked a last minute invite to Reno and grabbed a dual meet with monstrous Iowa State. Smith’s troops were smooth at the Reno event, finishing 7th, but proved a Pecos Bill like effort was beyond their reach against the Cyclones. S’OK, there will be no loose feathers on their approach and landing in Mt. Pleasant. Whether or no star AA candidate 133lb Chance Rich competes is as yet unknown. Still, look for this columns All Overlooked and Underrated Team member 141lb Angelo Martinoni to make beautiful wrestling music Sunday. Ditto for gritty 174lb Albert Urias.

Scotti Sentes (Campbell, the SoCon) has the preseason Southern Conference favorites headed to the Challenge. The Camels have won three straight SoCon tournaments, two regular season titles and tied for a third. Sentes, in his 2nd season as Head Coach, helped shepherd in this spectacular success as a Campbell assistant for four years prior to taking the top spot. Like the RoadRunners the Camels have had schedule challenges. Two conference matches, with Gardner-Webb and Presbyterian, have been postponed while a big cross conference brouhaha with the Ohio Bobcats was canceled outright. Campbell is 4-2, and those two defeats equal half the number of losses in the past three years combined. Those losses BTW, to Arizona State, Pitt, Virginia Tech, and a fired up UTC squad, ALL on the road. Campbell has moved the needle on its National rating scale. They started as “scheduled win”, moved to “toss-up” then “don’t schedule, not worth it”. The last and most important nudge to “quality out of conference opponent” is a big deal for a non Power 5 Conference team, and the Camels are running with it. They made a strategic move to recruit Nationwide and significantly upgraded their facilities. Their roster often bulges with 40 plus athletes. Another significant marker in a schools ascendancy is both its attractiveness to transfers and where its departing athletes go. As to the former, wrestlers from NC State and Rutgers are on the Camels 2022 roster while ex-Camels are finding success at Lock Haven and Iowa State. Current Camels stars? Grad students 149lb Josh Heil and 197lb Chris Kober, along with sophomore heavyweight Taye Ghadiali, now stand a combined 26-5. As to thoughts from the head Camel, well, Coach Sentes was to the point in his latest newsletter. “This (event) means a lot to every coach involved as we all wrestled under…Coach Borelli.” Sentes, a shining light in Florida as a five time finalist, four time state champ for Riverdale High, was a 2X AA for Borelli, finishing in 2013. “Admittedly, there has been some friendly trash talk from all programs involved,” Sentes notes. Ya think?

For the host Chippewas the Challenge would be the 5th major in-season event CMU wrestled in but, when the Midlands canceled, that number dropped to four. A conference matchup with NIU has been postponed as well and rescheduling that meet looks challenging. The Chippewas are 2-2 with just 4 event champs but an eye opening 31 overall placewinners between the Michigan State Open, Journeymen Classic, and the Cleveland State Open. 141lb Dresden Simon, 149lb Corbyn Munson and 157lb Johnny Lovett are 27-10, very good but not quite great. This column expects and continues to believe in greatness for Lovett, an All Overlooked and Underrated team member. Greatness is a plateau reached regularly these past few seasons by super senior heavyweight Matt Stencel, a 2X AA, four time MAC champ and 113 match winner. In an unusual season he’s just 4-3, with two losses to Lehighs 2XAA Jordan Wood and one to Iowas 2XAA Tony Cassioppi. Heard Godzilla has an open date, Matt. Seriously, Stencel sits in the same boat as Wood. Both are super seniors with a chance to become their respective conferences first ever five time champs. Hopefully the injury loss to Cassioppi last time out isn’t a lingering issue for Stencel.

Folks, there’s a quick look at what can only be hoped will become an annual affair, becoming bigger and bigger as the Tom Borelli coaching tree continues to branch out. Good luck to all involved, stay healthy, score points and all you fans, remember….everyone wants to win. Please treat those who will next time the same as those who win Sunday.

See you sometime soon!

Ted Carreras

(1) American University President Sylvia Burwell was seen recently on a run rocking an Eagles Wrestling shirt. Game recognize game.

(2) Sport qualifier necessary, as Stanford is home to a number of incredible coaches, including the most successful Womans Basketball Coach of all time, Tara Vanderveer. An outstanding supporter of wrestling, BTW. Just stand to the side when you meet her, though, or she may blast double your sorry *ss. And laugh.

(3) Bakersfield, Cal Poly & Little Rock are conditional/provisional/sorta-kinda PAC 12 schools for wrestling purposes. Because….lots of reasons and no small amount of necessity.

[Special thanks to all the coaches mentioned and especially to Andy Sneddon of CMU and Karen Angell of American University.👍👏]

Season 5 Column 35: Virginia Duals; historic event, new format

The Virginia Duals shift format but still feature lots of high level competition.

The 42nd Virginia Duals sets up as basically a two day 4 dual format this year starting Friday the 14th. Virginia, Maryland, Oklahoma, Lock Haven, Kent St. and UTC will each wrestle Friday and, except Lock Haven, Saturday as well. Everybody has something to gain and lose from the field and the format so kudos to ALL the schools who stepped up for this years edition.

The Sooners come off a double digit break of days since they (and everybody else so far this year) were thumped by Oklahoma State. The Sooners face Lock Haven, Kent State, Virginia and Maryland. Lou Rossellis defending BIG 12 Co-Champs have had a very good season. They shined at the Michigan St. Open where they started the season with six finalists and three champs. The Sooners have been absolute road warriors with only 1 competition at home so far. They took seven out of 10 matches from a tough West Virginia team in Morgantown and 8 from Northern Colorado in Greeley. They’ve only lost to the Cowboys and Arizona State and shined again in Las Vegas at the CKLV. There, OU just missed the Top 10 while short two starters and seeing one, star 149lb Mitch Moore, go down after leading 13-2 in the consolation semi-finals. Unfortunately, he is still out. O-U may very well feature an adjusted lineup with recent Northern Colorado transfer Mosha Schwartz going at 141 and 2X AA Dom Demas sliding up to fill Moores slot at 149. AA 197lb Jake Woodley, underrated 184lb Darrien Roberts, and high flying 174lb Anthony Mantanona are a formidable upper weight combo for the Sooners.

Virginia is 3-2 so far, showing strong promise at the early-season Mat Town Open. The Cavaliers had 7 top two finishes and four champs. There was a bit of Virginia on Virginia violence at that event as both the 141 and 157 weight classes saw 4 ‘Hoos each in action. After falling to defending SoCon regular season and tournament champ Campbell, the Cavaliers were set to compete at the Midlands. When Northwestern chose to cancel that, a tri meet was scheduled. Or something like that was decided. In any case Virginia split that tri-meet by beating SIUE and dropping an 18-16 heartbreaker to Northwestern. Notable: the return of 197lb Jay Aiello, who won 3 matches, including an extra bout, on the day. Aeillo was freshly back from a Bronze medal performance for the USA at the Under-23 World Championships. Most recently UVA had 4 wrestlers place at the Franklin & Marshal Open. The Cavaliers will be nothing if not tested when they face Chattanooga, Lock Haven, Kent State and Oklahoma.

UTC has had a dual filled first half, going 3-5 and then putting two wrestlers on the podium at the Southern Scuffle. Moc front-end hammers 125lb Fabian Gutierrez and 133lb Brayden Palmer finished 6th and 3rd respectively at the Chattanooga event. Add in freshman 149lb Noah Castillo at 8-3 and UTCs top 3 lightweights are a combined 28-11. Good things were expected of Gutierrez and except for an as yet unsolved issue in the form of West Virginia AA Killian Cardinale (half of Gutierrezs losses this year) the 6th year senior sparkplug has delivered. That so many victories would come from the 1st part of the Mocs lineup so far is a little suprising given last years performances by athletes manning the 157-197 classes. Combined those starters are 22-23 with an asterisk, or rather a question mark, in the form of 197lb NCAA qualifier Logan Andrew. The stat sheet still reads M.I.A. and presumed injured for the sophomore star. No one has had significant success at that weight or at 285, though junior Grayson Walthall and freshman Matthias Ervin have shown desire commensurate with their size. In Walthalls case, perhaps even a bit more so. Newly added NIU transfer upperweight Nicholas Benton [SHOUT OUT, Miramar, FL, Somerset Academy] may provide assistance. The Mocs will need all hands, new and old, on deck as they drew Virginia and BIG 10 up and coming power Maryland for day one competition. UTC will see Kent State on Saturday if not one more foe. The brackets are online @ VirginiaDuals.MatTalkOnline. Sadly, HOF Broadcaster Jason Bryant will not be in attendance due to Covid protocols.

Lock Haven is putting in a 1 day appearance at the Duals, stepping up to take on Oklahoma and Virginia. What looks like a previously scheduled Saturday tri-meet with Bloomsburg and Cal Baptist at Bloomsburg will occupy the Bald Eagles on day two. BIG, BIG ups to Scott Moore and company for taking on the tournament this week with little to no notice. In case you didn’t know why this little school has such bigtime wrestling chops AND isn’t concerned about who’s on the other side of the mat, look no further than their staff. There’s Moore, in his 9th season mentoring athletic stars after his own 2xAA career, making the podium for both Penn State and Virginia. There’s JUCO National champ and 6th year assistant Nate Carr Jr., from perhaps the most famous multi-generational American wrestling family. Also pitching in is former Lock Haven AA and NCAA finalist Ronnie Perry, while former Pitt star heavyweight Ryan Solomon helps tune up the big Eagles.

Maryland, said this column long ago, was a sand trap for the career of dynamic Missouri Assistant wrestling coach Alex Clemsen. Well, the now BHHHC (1) of the Terrapins jumped into the hazard with 100% conviction and is fast becoming the ant bear at the bottom of the BIG 10 funnel. His Terps are grabbing unsuspecting foes ranked and unranked alike, building their resume with a pile of drained bodies and emptied dreams. Rarely has the author been more grateful to be so incorrect. Maryland is 3-3 and has standouts in graduate students 184lb Kyle Cochran and 197lb Jaxon Smith, along with rs. senior 285 Zach Schrader. Their haul so far this year; 5 tournament podium spots in 6 tries, including a Southern Scuffle title for Cochran and a 36-10 combined record. Forget the blowout loss last time out to Penn State, promise you the Terrapins have. This is a forward focused squad, folks, and they are growing better. Kent State and UTC are in front of Maryland Friday with a 6 p.m. Saturday showdown with the Sooners. Their match with the powerful Penn Quakers was kiboshed due to Covid-19 protocols within Penns program. The bet here is if an extra match materializes Saturday the Terps will take it.

Kent State is locked in for four matches in this, their 19th overall appearance at the Virginia Duals. They meet Maryland and Oklahoma Friday, then face UTC and Virginia Saturday. Only four schools have won more than 40 times at the Duals, and the Golden Flashes are one of those four. Kent State competed in five tournaments in the seasons 1st half, a run that started with 3 in a row on consecutive November weekends. Across the 5 events Kent State snagged 20 podium spots highlighted by multiple Silver medal finishes. Even better, the award-winning performances were spread among multiple weight classes. 141lb Louis Newell, the Pitt transfer, snagged 2nd at the Clarion Open. 8 Flashes found their spot at the App State invite as 174lb Michael Ferree was 2nd and 184lb Colin McCracken took 3rd. At the Navy Classic it was 125lb Jake Ferri and 149lb Kody Komara grabbing Silver. It was Ferri flying the Flashes flag (2) at the CKLV. McCracken took 2nd at the CSU Open where 285lb Flashes Jacob Cover and Brady Chrisman fought it out for 3rd with Cover coming out on top.

See you quite soon!

Ted Carreras

(1) Bald Headed Hero Head Coach. An acronym coined by the author to raise awareness on the direct relationship between Alopecia [or the Yul Brynner look] and wrestling coaching greatness.

2. Cringe-level alliteration is one of many perks when the author is the editor.

Season 5 Column 34: What went down in ScuffleTown

Two days of dynamic competition saw BIG 12 teams take the top two spots, 5 in the Top 10, at the Southern Scuffle.

The Missouri Tigers Veni, Vidi and Vici’d their way to a Southern Scuffle title, putting 5 wrestlers in the finals. a 20 plus point first day lead was a nice start for Brian Smith’s crew. Then, 141lb Alan Hart, 149lb Josh Edmond, 165lb Keegan O’Toole, 174lb Peyton Mocco, and 197lb Rocky Elam blew up the team race. Every Tiger semi finalist advanced to the championship round with O’Toole and Mocco getting back to back pins. After that points avalanche it was, as Rick Bragg once wrote, all over but the shoutin (1). To put some impressive cherries on top of that Scuffle shake, 4 more Mizzou men raced up the backside of the brackets to earn 4 more podium spots. Yowzers. 125lb Noah Surtin, upset in the semis, took 4th. 133lb Trey Crawford finished 5th. Both Mizzou men at 157lb burned bright as starter Jarrett Jacques finished 3rd and 3XAA Brock Mauller, currently redshirting, took 5th. Finally, 184lb Jeremiah Kent, also the victim of a semi suprise (maybe) pushed through to finish fourth. If you’re counting, that’s a Tiger scoring points in every weight class and LOTS in all but one of them. Formula for success, #TigerStyle.

The Bison of North Dakota State, as noted in Part 2 of the Scuffle preview, were coming in hot to Chattanooga. Boy, did they ever stay that way. While only 1 of the Bisons 3 semifinalists advanced to the championship round, Head Coach Roger Kish and crew just swung the herd around to the tournaments backside. There NDSU scored in every weight class except at 125 and 141. Since stud 141lb Dylan Drogemueller did not wrestle that can be overlooked. Leader of the Herds efforts this weekend, 157lb Jared Franek, 2X National qualifier and now Southern Scuffle champ. The “Franimal” turned them every which way but loose, winning by 1 and 2 points, working a 6-0 shutout, and slamming home a 26 second pin to start his championship run. He capped it with a 6-3 victory over #4 seed Chase Saldate of Michigan State. Heroes for the Herd were everywhere. Biggest Bison Brandon Metz secured 2nd place for NDSU in day ones last match, and while nobody was catching Missouri, the Bison took that runner up spot and ran away with it. Metz muscled his way to 3rd. 149lb Gaven Sax and 174lb Austin Brenner took 4th. Defending BIG 12 165lb champ Luke Weber suprisingly suffered two losses but fought back for 5th, and 184lb D.J. Parker ended his run in 8th place. NDSU has now finished 5th and 2nd at their last two Scuffles. While conference rival Missouri tuned them up in a dual meet earlier this season keep a sharp eye on this herd of Bison. Their 4 BIG 12 duals in 10 days stretch starts the 14th in Orem against Utah Valley. From there it’s Wyoming, Northern Iowa and Iowa State. ALL on the road. YO, Bison, GO.

Like that classic Jimmy Cagney Cold War comedy, it was simple as 1,2,3 for Michigan State. They took individual Gold, Silver and Bronzes, in addition to a 5th place, as the Spartans finished 3rd in only their 2nd trip to Chattanooga and 1st in quite some time. Michigan State may also have been the only team with 4 or more wrestlers who performed above their pre-seeds. The only Spartan exception, 133lb Rayvon Foley. You can’t do better than first and Foley did that thing, shutting out Minnesotas Aaron Nagao. Foley was saddled with an extra pigtail round match and needed six Ws, not five, for a title. No esta problema. Score those wins a major decision, tech fall, tech fall, then 9-3 and 10-5 wins before his shutout Finals victory. Foley, a 2020 U.S. Senior Freestyle All American and 2019 collegiate AA at 125 for the Spartans, was one of eight MSU wrestlers in the race to place on day two. 157lb Chase Saldates 2nd place finish will fit in next to his Michigan State Open crown. ALWAYS sweet to get a title in front of the home crowd. 197lb Cameron Caffey was pre-seeded fourth but decided 3rd suited him better, getting the best of a resurgent SDSU Jackrabbit Tanner Sloan. 184lb Lane Malcziewski pinned and majored his way into the quarters where he dropped an epic O/T match. Resetting on the backside he picked up two more wins before an injury default loss to Virginia Tech AA Hunter Bolen, finally getting a forfeit win for 5th.

Minnesota only brought 8 wrestlers, with Gable Steveson and Brayton Lee not present. Most squads would most likely fair poorly minus an Olympic champ with 3 AA awards and a 2X AA with a win earlier this season over the eventual Scuffle champ. Minnesota, not so much. The eight Gophers who showed up were in 8th place after day one. Then they reeled in App State, West Virginia, South Dakota State and Cornell to finish fourth, a half point ahead of the Big Red. Patrick McKee, like 2017 Gopher Scuffle champ Ethan “backpack” Lizak, owned the 125lb class. A hellacious showdown between McKee and West Virginia AA Killian Cardinale, undefeated this yr, sadly did not occur when Cardinale forfeited out of the finals. Gopher 133lb Aaron Nagao had an impressive run highlighted by a big semifinal upset victory over #2 seed and 2x SoCon champ Codi Russell of App State. Nagao also knocked off 3rd seed Kellyn March of NDSU and stuck ostensible Missouri 133lb starter Trey Crawford in 56 seconds. Not too bad for a redshirt freshman backup who’s down a weight class from his rostered listing. Another up and coming Minnesota star is 165lb Cael Carlson. The heritage Gopher (2) is now four for four for tournaments this year. He took third at the Scuffle in a loaded weight class. He was 3rd at the Bison Open, 5th at the Daktronics, and 2nd at the UNI open earlier this season. Carlson’s 11-4 quarterfinal loss to eventual Scuffle champ, #3 in the nation undefeated Keegan O’toole of Missouri, had a lopsided score but was contested ferociously. Folks, those boys GOOOOD. You knew that about O’Toole. The author and you are getting up to speed on Cael C. Also good, 174lb Bailee O’Reilly storming up the tournaments backside with four straight wins to take 3rd. 184lb Isaiah Salazar and 197lb Garrett Joles finished 6th and 8th respectively. So far this season only mighty Oklahoma State has crimped Minnesota’s style and when this group/herd/pack/drove of Gophers puts their 40, uh, 20 best feet forward, look out.

Cornell took the “we want to find out about these guys” approach to the Scuffle. Like Minnesota, NC State and Oklahoma State the Big Red left the biggest of their big guns at the home armory. Didn’t stop them from snagging a Top 5 finish albeit without any champs and only two finalists. Cornell’s 184lb Jonathan Loew and 285lb Lewis Fernandes both made the finals and 6 Big Red wrestlers climbed the Chattanooga podium. Like Minnesota, Cornell had 8 wrestlers looking to advance on day two, holding 5th as a team and eventually finishing there. Kudos out to 141lb Josh Saunders for winning 3 straight on the backside after a 1st round loss, eventually taking 8th. 174lb Andrew Berreyesa did that one step better, also losing in round 1 but rebounding for a 7th place finish. 157lb Hunter Richard surely emerges from his 4th place finish as the primary challenger to starter Colton Yapoujian to the dismay of all “All Name Team” compilers everywhere. At 125 Greg Diakomihalis had a fine for any freshman not named Diakomihalis 7th place finish. The view from the early preseason to now on Cornell, from this viewpoint, has NOT changed. This team in full is fully capable of challenging for a Top 8 finish. Where in there is a matter for health, the brackets and several great/crap/lightning/ molasses speed calls to decide.

Rounding out the Top 10 were South Dakota State (1 champ, their first, 174lb Cade Devos, 3 placers) West Virginia (0 champs, 2 finalists, 4 placers) Appalachian State (0 champs, 4 placers) Duke (1 champ, 149lb Josh Finesilver, 2 placers) and Northern Colorado (0 champs, 3 placers). GREAT job by 197lb Alan Clothier, the Kansas native who is now a four time Scuffle placewinner! He was an App St. Mountaineer, for years now he’s been a Northern Colorado Bear. Man KNOWS how to climb things.

Scuffle All Missing in Action Team

This was a BIG get together folks, with pre tourney action showing some weight classes with more than 50 entries. It’s not suprising a few wrestlers didn’t hit the mats. Still, these fine athletes were surely missed.

133-Chance Rich of Cal St Bakersfield has battled a “lower body injury” all season, missing a hyped 1st match dual showdown with Michigan buzzsaw Dylan Ragusin. Chirping ensued. Rich also stepped away from the CKLV after an opening round win and wasn’t available to defend his #2 seed here. At this point every wrestling fan just wants him to be healthy. If that takes till a “Last Chance” event, ok. The post-season will be richer with him. (3)

141-NDSUs Dylan Drogemueller was 8-2 and had a great shot at placing even in a loaded 141lb field, but he was taken off the seed chart prior to the brackets being released. Why, not sure. His presence would have had no effect on the final team standings, but you have to hope DoubleD (4) will be good to go again soon.

149-A big M.I.A. here was AA Jonathan Millner of App State, the #2 pre seed. It was known prior to seed release that #1 Jaden Abas wasn’t coming, but Millners absence prevented several potential high level inter-conference showdowns. Millner, the SoCons only 2021 All American, and Campbells Josh Heil can help themselves ONLY by sweeping their dual meet and conference matches against each other. Split two high quality contests, a quite likely occurrence, and they will BOTH drop in the rankings. Sadly, you can book that.

174-Appalachian States Thomas Flitz and Drexels Mickey O’Malley, both seeded, didn’t break a Scuffle sweat. A source outside the App. St. program said Flitz was a medical issue scratch, depriving the SoCon title contender a great chance to improve his national standing. O’Malley, ranked #15 nationally at 10-2, was seeded 3rd.

197-Michail Foy of Minnesota, pre-seeded 5th, is a transfer who had already placed at two events and would have added serious pizzaz to a loaded group. In addition, though it was known they would be absent, fans were sad to not see NCAA qualifier Logan Andrew of UTC or App States Mason Fiscella competing. Fiscella suffered an apparently gruesome “event” in the dual with Bellarmine, with source information indicating a season-ending torn meniscus injury. Personal knowledge: they can really hurt! The Mocs Andrew has not seen action yet this year. Injury is strongly suspected but uncomfirmed.

The Scuffle through the SoCon Lens

What is there to say except thank you? When you are, rightly or wrongly, perceived as the 7th out of seven Division One wrestling conferences you look for any and all ways to adjust that perception. The Southern Scuffle presented by Compound Sportswear with multi media presentation by FloWrestling has been THE significant regular season marker for the SoCon. It starts at the conference office where Athletic Director Dr. Jim Schaus is a cross media proponent of the sport. It comes from the athletic departments of all nine SoCon schools who have taken varied steps to advance awareness, appreciation, and financial viability for the sport. More than one or two, we will say with certainty, well in advance of the efforts given by more than 1 or 2 dozen so called “major” athletic departments/communities. It comes from the coaches, the staffs, and the athletes who perceive a deep and inherently honorable opportunity to pursue academic and athletic excellence at these nine institutions. The alumni are enthused, the fan base expectant, the observers and commentators, writers and broadcasters grateful for how this conference presents itself through this sport AND this event.

That’s the briefest of recaps on the Southern Scuffle, folks. Hope you enjoyed the three part preview and this summary. See you sometime soon!

Ted Carreras

(1) The Pulitzer Prize winning author, who helped usher in the “Age of the Memoir” in modern American writing, uses this phrase for the title of his life story.

(2) Carlsons father Chad and Uncle Carl wore the Gophers singlet back in the day, cousins Colton and All American Clay rep the SDSU Jackrabbits currently. HAVE to add the following small note: Cael lettered 11 times between wrestling, track and cross country while making the honor roll EVERY.SINGLE.QUARTER. at Willmar (MN) High. Go Cardinals!

(3) If the Scribe didn’t write it, you probably would have, right?

(4) Drogemuellers rich family wrestling heritage and lots of good Bison stuff can be found in this seasons column 16.

Season 5 Column 33: Shuffle Down to ScuffleTown, Part 3

A tournament event in a city with nearly 200 years of eventful moments, The Southern Scuffle presented by Compound Clothing brings fans from across the country to Chattanooga. They come for the sites, the history, the food and the fun that comes with cheering on top level collegiate wrestling. Heres some last minute notes on a number of teams as you settle in to enjoy the Scuffle in person or from a distance.

UTC, the host team for the Scuffle, is another squad looking to hit full speed with the Scuffle as a springboard. They’ve been victorious, oh-so-close competitive and not as much coming into this weekend. Two Mocs snagged seeds for the Scuffle, super senior 125lb Fabian Gutierrez and 184lb Matthew Waddell. Gutierrez will look to avenge his only loss of the season so far as Scuffle top seed AA Killian Cardinale of West Virginia controlled the Moc in a 7-1 defeat not two weeks ago. Waddell has barely seen action, much like fellow NCAA qualifier, 165lb SoCon champ Drew Nicholson. The Mocs 4th national qualifier from last season, stud freshman 197lb Logan Andrew, has been out all season. So, who’s been leading the charge? The lightweights, where all 5 Mocs from 125 to 157 have winning records. UTC will go with 2 wrestlers at 174 and 285 but it looks for now that 197 will await Andrew’s return.

The Citadel has made significant strides under 2nd year Head Coach Ryan LeBlanc. Two Bulldogs are seeded, but one who isn’t, 165lb Selwyn Porter, has been a handful this season. Porter swapped weight classes with senior Dazjon “Cheese” Casto, with Casto dropping to 157 and Porter bumping to 165. They’re a combined 18-6. Along with defending SoCon Hvwt. champ Mike McAleavey (13-5) this “Trio of Terror” has helped the Bulldogs to great showings at both the Navy Classic (7th, 3 finalists) and 4th at their own Citadel Open, where all three made the semis and Porter brought, or rather kept home, the 165lb title. A big feather in big man McAleaveys cap was a 7th place finish at the brutal CKLV first weekend of December. The Bulldogs have had just two duals since, a close loss to Bloomsburg and a tough defeat by Duke, so the Citadel should be rested and ready. 15 Bulldogs will be in action with two wrestlers each at 125, 141, 157, 174, and 285.

Coach Glen Lanhams Duke squad has wrestled with a near-full roster (26) and renewed zest this season, back at the Scuffle with two top seeds. 149lb Josh Finesilver, 16-1, and at 174 Matt Finesilver, 17-0 and easily the least talked about undefeated wrestler in the country. Maybe he just renders observers speechless. If the Finesilver name rings bells, it should. 4 of them started and starred for the Blue Devils in 2019, and this is the last go-round for the Greenwood, CO grappling group. Also coming in with double digit win totals, 157lb Wade Unger and 197lb Kaden Russell, the co-ACC wrestler of the week. A dozen Blue Devils will hit the mats in Chattanooga and don’t be suprised if Duke snags a top 15 finish.

Drexel took a close loss to Duke last time on the mat as the Dragons also dropped a scale biter to host Maryland that day. Still, there’s serious upper class talent on this team. The Dragons, unlike many of their literary brethren, are strong in the middle. 157lb Parker Kropman, 165lb Evan Barczak, and 174lb Mickey O’Malley come in a combined 31-9. 184lb Brian McLaughlin will leave Chattanooga with a double digit win total for the year, and 125lb Antonio Mininno will excite the crowd one way or another.

The presence of Michigan State is a rarity both at the Scuffle and in this column, as the majority of coverage here is aimed at non BIG 10 schools. Exception enthusiastically granted to Roger Chandlers Spartans who exhibited excellent judgement in bypassing the (eventually canceled) Midlands for a much more well rounded field of competition in Chattanooga. That NO DAMN way was going to get ITS plug pulled. Just sayin. The undefeated (5-0) Spartans have 5 nationally ranked wrestlers, and four of them are seeded in the top 5 in Chattanooga. Rayvon Foley, a former All American at 125, is 13-1 and top seed at 133. 157lb Chase Saldate is also 13-1. 165lb Caleb Fish, 184lb Layne Malczewski, and 197lb Cameron Caffey are 34-9 between them. The Spartans are taking straight aim at the podium in Chattanooga with reps at every weight, 14 wrestlers overall. Michigan State opened its 118th season picking up a pair of titles at their own tough MSU Open. Then they earned two more individual crowns and the team title at the Navy Classic, besting 12 quality squads. The Spartans will challenge for the Scuffle crown.

It’s tough to judge exactly where Northern Colorado is coming into the Scuffle. The Bears have been off the mat since Dec. 5th when 141lb Andrew Alirez fought a classic Finals match against South Dakota States AA Clay Carlson at the CKLV. It was the highest finish ever by a Northern Colorado wrestler at the Las Vegas event. The Bears had 3 others make the 2nd day at that event, and no one will be suprised if they equal that this weekend. Alirez is seeded second and seems likely to have a rematch with Carlson in the finals Sunday night. A very interesting story is 197lb Alan Clothier. He can become a four time Scuffle placewinner with a top eight finish. Clothier started his career at Appalachian State, making the podium in 2018 and 2019 as a Mountaineer. He transfered to Northern Colorado and took 7th in Chattanooga in 2020. Clothier and 149lb Chris Sandoval both snagged top 8 seeds for the Scuffle. Another fun Bears fact is the return of former 197lb, now hvwt, Jacob Seely. Seely lost significant parts of multiple seasons to injury but never a love of competition. Robert Winters Jr. has been holding down the big man spot so far this season, and while both are entered, it’s unlikely they’ll meet.

The Scuffle will welcome talented individuals from Virginia Tech, Minnesota, Little Rock, Maryland, North Carolina, Iowa, West Virginia and Oklahoma State in addition to the teams featured here the past three days. Enjoy yourselves, wrestling fans, and remember, EVERYONE wants to win. Be the fan who salutes those who do AND those who will at another time.

See you sometime soon!

Ted Carreras

Season 5 Column 32: Shuffle Down to ScuffleTown, Part 2

More and more schools are releasing participant lists and with both unexpected competitors and suprising no-shows it looks like the team title and almost all the weight class crowns are total toss ups on Scuffle Eve.

Theres possibly no team coming in to the Scuffle hotter than the crew from the coldest clime in D1 wrestling, the NDSU Bison out of Fargo, North Dakota. They’re 5-1 in duals and have earned 11 titles across four tournaments so far, with four 2nd place finishes and two thirds at their own Bison Open, the 50th BTW. The irrepressible Associate Head Coach for the Bison, Obe Blanc, notes the Bison are feeling it right about now. “We are excited to compete at the Scuffle to better position our athletes for high-level performances at the end of the year. Looking forward to a very accomplished field as we will see many of these athletes at the NCAA Tournament. Six [of our wrestlers] are ranked between the various polls.” One notable exception in NDSUs approach as compared to some squads; all six of the Bisons big guns will be in Chattanooga. Look for 133lb Kellyn March, 141lb Dylan Droegemuller, 157lb Jared Franek, defending 165lb Big 12 Champ Luke Weber, 197lb Owen Pentz, and burly Bison 285lb Brandon Metz to wreak the kind of havoc only a herd of BIZZZZON (1) in a closed in space can cause. Probably best to stay in your seats.

Cal St. Bakersfield has a real been there, done that, don’t mind if we do it again attitude about the Scuffle. They show up, they show out, and they leave with smiles and shiny stuff while leaving frowns on the faces of those with the “who WAS that team anyway?” attitude. Now firmly ensconced as the Head RoadRunner Coach Luke Smith has been shepherding his squad through a near 2 year run of challenges damn near equal to Californias weather situation or its tax code. Maybe not the tax code. Still, Smith and squad have persevered this season, competing at six tournaments including the CKLV, the Reno TOC and now the Scuffle. What are the whys and hows of that, Coach Smith? “I learned last year you need to get in matches when you can because you never know what’s going to happen. [This season] we originally were supposed to wrestle Little Rock the weekend of Reno. The dual got canceled the day we were heading there. We tried to reach every D1 school within a seven hour driving radius of Little Rock to no avail. Then we called Reno to see if we could still get in and are very grateful they allowed us to. I was very happy with how the team responded to being thrown that big curve ball.” Smith sees steady progress this year, always a sweet sight in a coaches eyes. “We have been wrestling better every event [and I’m] excited to see how we compete at the Scuffle.” You’ll be excited by this columns All Overlooked and Underrated 141lb RoadRunner, Angelo Martinoni. Truth be told, a 141lb RoadRunner of the feathered variety WOULD be exciting…and scary (2). Look for 11 total RoadRunners in action this weekend, 125lb Eddie Flores, 133lb Aaron Ibarra, Martinoni and Luis Ramos at 141, 149lb Josh Brown, 165lb Auggie Garcia, 174lb Albert Urias and 184lb Josh Loomer along with freshman 285lb Blake Andrews. Martinoni, Urias and Loomer, a 2020 PAC 12 champ, wrestled at the most recent Scuffle in 2020 where Martinoni took 6th. Two RoadRunners, 157lb Jonathan Viveros and 165lb Braden Smelser, will compete unattached.

The Bellarmine Knights are:

A squad in year two of D1 competition. Light on numbers and low on experience. Sending a squad to Chattanooga because, well, they can, and they intend to show they belong. Just ask Head Coach Ned Shuck. “The significance of us attending the Southern Scuffle is this. It is one of if not the toughest regular season available and it will be a great challenge for our guys. We’ve been challenged plenty in our duals this year but I want our guys to experience a [win and advance] tournament. It prepares us for our future in qualifying for and competing at the NCAA tournament. It will definitely be motivating for all to see the high level wrestling on a big production stage. We are excited for the challenge.” It will be a challenge for any currently rostered Knight to get more than 3 matches over the 2 day event but there’s always a first time.

Stanford is finally settling their roster and the Cardinal will be flying high come 2nd semester. Rob Kolls crew has been in Chattanooga since Tuesday, prepping and soaking in the Scenic City sites. 10 Stanford wrestlers will compete including 2020 All American 141lb Real Woods, cleared after forfeiting out of the Reno TOC on December 19th. Watch also for 133lb Jackson Disario, “down from 125, consistently outstanding, a two handed tick on top and stingy on his feet” according to Coach Koll in his latest newsletter. To get the true flavor of the multi-decade superstar Coach, just appreciate this quote from Koll about the 184 class. “We haven’t had any one wrestler healthy for more than one week at this weight class. I can say with great certainty that I am certain I don’t know who will be representing the Cardinal on any given day.” There’s more but you get it. Several Cardinal stars will be forced to sit out the Scuffle. Defending 165lb National Champ Shane Griffith is a no-go as is AA 149lb Jaden Abas. The Cardinal will look to Disario, 125lb Logan Ashton, 157lb Charlie Darracot, 174lb Tyler Eischens, 197lb Nick Stemmet, and 285lb Seamus O’Malley and Peter Ming to make progress towards national competitiveness.

Buffalo brings 15 wrestlers (no 184 or 285) to the Scuffle. The Bulls always schedule tough and stand at 5-5 but that’s deceiving. Three of their losses are to Michigan, Wisconsin and Clarion. There’s only 1 loss between those three teams, folks. The Bulls have a settled lineup, also, with 5 weight classes being held down by the same 5 wrestlers through all 10 duals. Four of them will be in Chattanooga. Two other weight classes have seen only 1 change. Consistency like that usually pays off and the Bulls will look to leverage it at the Scuffle. 165lb Noah Grover, 149lb John Arcieri and 141lb Ben Freeman, a Michigan transfer, lead the team with 30 wins between them.

Cornell passed on any team title chance when 2X National Champ Yianni Diakomihalis, Top 5 ranked Vito Arujau and Chris Foca, and award contenders Julian Ramirez and Jacob Cardenas were left off the Scuffle list. However, Cornell stars 157lb Hunter Richard and 285lb Brendan Furman get their first go of the season in Chattanooga. Half of Cornells starters will be in action, and the Big Red will land a high finish team wise but it’s difficult to see an individual Scuffle champ in their group.

NC State decided to go big and keep the small guys home as the Wolf Pack only entered wrestlers from 157lbs up. Multi year starters 165lb Thomas Bullard and 285lb Deionte Wilson could be tested by teammates as promising freshmen Donald Cates and Jake Null are entered alongside Bullard, although Null is rostered at 174. Both Owen Trephan and Tyrie Houghton will threaten Wilson, the scales and the podium as a veritable Cerberus of hvwts. hits the mats for Pat Popolizios WolfPack. While All Americans the Hidlay brothers, Hayden and Trent, along with podium threat Isaac Trumble remain in Raleigh along with all their lower weight starters, the Wolfpack could still find a Top 10 finish.

It takes a lot to feed a Tiger and Missouri must have been licking their collective chops when they saw the Scuffle field chock full of potential prey. Head Coach Brian Smith and his #TigerStyle crew, after dismantling a top flite Lehigh team to finish 3rd at the Collegiate Duals, are bringing a true ambush (3) of Tigers to Chattanooga. Nine out of Mizzous starters, 16 Tigers overall, will be ready and roaring Saturday morning. Bona fide National champion contender 165lb Keegan O’toole, Junior World Champ 197lb Rocky Elam, hot as a pepper sprout 125lb Noah Surtin, the BIG 12 wrestler of the week, on and on it goes. 184lb podium threat Jeremiah Kent will be ready. Even 3x AA Brock Mauller will compete, albeit unattached at 157. If you’re marking Missouri as a Scuffle title contender ink would be a viable choice.

South Dakota State is another team full of tournament experience, 6 so far with 12 finalists and 9 champs. All American 141lb Clay Carlson is undefeated and a threat to make the Scuffle and the National finals. His CKLV title was the first ever for an SDSU wrestler. As a team the Jacks are 4-1 in duals and are 2 deep in quality competitors at multiple weights. An interesting story is playing out at 197 where Nic Casperson, the Fresno State transfer up from 184, is keeping the starting spot warm and keeping it away from 3rd year star Tanner Sloan. Sloan had shoulder surgery and hasn’t yet seemed fully himself yet, and Casperson just keeps getting better. 165lb Tanner Cook pins to win with eight out of nine victories this year by fall. Note also two Jacks who went full feed this off season as 133lb Zach Price is now 149lb Zach Price, while Cade Devos went from 157 to 174 and is rocking it at 12-2. There’ll be a Jack for every weight class in Chattanooga and possibly more than one.

So, that’s a quick 2 part 2 day say hey to that fine wrestling institution, the Southern Scuffle. If late news arrives from host team UTC, the Citadel, Virginia Tech, or Drexel, it will be published for Saturday, as well as a thumbnail or two on any teams left out. In addition to all the coaches who volunteered their thoughts on the event and their respective teams, many thanks must go out to:

Bret Strelow, Appalachian State

Hailey Varga, Rider

Josh Manganello, Presbyterian

Daniel Sperl, Cal St. Bakersfield

Jason Hove, South Dakota State

Jonathan Fuller, Buffalo

See you sometime soon!

Ted Carreras

(1) The Zs are silent. Kidding.

(2) Scary like Yippee OH Ki YAY Mr. Falcon level scary. And you’d NEED a machine gun. Ho Ho Ho.

(3) Tigers in a group can be an ambush (larger) or a streak (smaller). Animal group names along with movie references and historical side notes are regular features provided here free of charge.

Season 5 Column 31: Shuffle down to ScuffleTown, Part 1

Many of D1s best teams descend, in full or in part, on Chattanooga this weekend to bolster their resumes and absorb some C style comfort. The Southern Scuffle presented by Compound Clothing boasts between four and five hundred wrestlers with only the 197lb class having less than 40 entrants*. This column, in deference to the outstanding multi day Scuffle coverage provided by Flo Wrestling, independent writer Steven Stonebraker, and other professionals, will be centered around some words from coaches and coordinators. Here’s part one with Coaches from around the country who are headed to that beautiful, little big city on a bend of the Tennessee River.

Appalachian State Head Coach JohnMark Bentleys Mountaineers 45-5 conference record is 5th best in the nation over the past seven seasons and last year they sent a team record 7 wrestlers to the NCAAs. Coach Bentley is keenly aware of the Scuffles significance to the SoCon in general and his Mountaineers in particular. “It provides [App State] wrestlers with the opportunity to see some of the best wrestlers in the country and, particularly, wrestlers they might face at the NCAA Tournament later in March. We always try to give our guys as many opportunities as possible to face the top guys in the country and the Scuffle is great being within a four hour drive.” One of this columns All Overlooked and Underrated stars is App State 174lb Thomas Flitz, who enters as the SoCon wrestler of the week. It’s not just Flitz, though, who’s under the radar on the Mountaineers roster, and Coach Bentley sees a trend there. “Honestly, we have a lot of guys I feel are overlooked in our program. It seems as though one bad match really penalizes our guys in the rankings but one big win doesn’t give them the same credit. It’s puzzling but our guys use it to motivate themselves. They just carry a chip on their shoulders like they always have something to prove. We have already been heavily tested this year with our first semester schedule. I feel like we have several guys who are capable of making some noise. Flitz is definitely capable of making some noise and shouldn’t be overlooked.” So, how can the Mountaineers make this a successful Scuffle trip? “Putting ourselves in as many opportunities as possible to see Top 10 wrestlers and win some of those matches. [Also] if we can have placers in a majority of the 10 weight classes, I think that would be a successful tournament.”

The Rider Broncs, unlike App State, are definitely taking the long road to Chattanooga, bringing old school Jerzey style wrestling swagger to the Scenic City. They walked into the newly merged Mid American Conference/Eastern Wrestling League a few years back like they owned the place, promptly putting together consecutive Top four tournament finishes to go along with a gaudy 16-5 dual meet record. Last time at the Scuffle, with a full and experienced roster, John Hangeys crew finished 8th as a team. This time the Broncs will be a little short on both bodies and experience. Why the limited first half schedule, Coach Hangey? “We designed the gap for two reasons. We have a very young team and they need to develop with some competitions and some training to make the necessary adjustments. Also after our dual with Central Michigan we were heading into our final exams and we chose not to schedule anything during that time. Plus, people are scared to wrestle us LOL!” And as to who’s repping the Broncs this weekend…”You’ll see the majority of our starting lineup at the Scuffle. Our 125, 133, 141, 174, 197 and 285 will all be there. We will be using the Scuffle to determine starters at some other weights, [specifically] 157 and 165, and our starters at 149 and 184 are injured.”

VMI is one of three teams from the great Commonwealth headed South and West this weekend. The Keydets, National power Virginia Tech from the ACC and those #BeUncommon George Mason University Patriots out of the MAC come in from Virginia with very different teams and expectations but similar desires. For VMI, according to Head Coach Jim Gibson, “It’s all about opportunity. Competing at a tournament of this level gives each of our guys an opportunity to go out and make a name for themselves. I want to see us take one match at a time, compete hard, and be gritty. If we can control the areas of the sport under our control winning and losing will take care of themselves. For us it’s about giving our guys a chance to go out and beat someone that on paper might be better than them.” The beautiful thorn in VMIs Scuffle participation, like the Citadels, Army, Navy and Air Force, is the currently not scheduled All Academy Championships. Will VMI be forced to leave the Scuffle if the Championships return? Gibson: “As of right now we are committed to the Southern Scuffle. With that being said, the college wrestling landscape is always changing, especially over the last year.”

The George Mason Patriots had a great first half with an incredibly young roster. So what’s the makeup of this young bunch, Coach Frank Beasley? “In duals we have had 12 freshmen, 3 sophomores, 1 junior and 1 senior see starting action. With several freshmen starting for us we are super young but excited about the progress they are making. They have already made an impact and we are excited to see where they end up this season. I think it also shows that GMUs future is very bright.” Tournament competition is different than the win or lose, one and done nature of duals. What’s harder with the type of team you’re bringing, Coach Beasley? “Duals are harder to prepare for with a young team. The young wrestlers have to be savvy as every point matters. There is less pressure in tournaments on the younger guys but in duals everyone has to pull their weight. When I have had veteran squads, I felt that duals were easier to prepare for. We could focus in on one match at a time and come up with a solid game plan in each bout.” So, who is bringing the #BeUncommon attitude to Chattanooga, Coach? “We are going to have five competitors this year. Alex Madrigal at 149, Avery Bassett at 157, Tyler Kocak at 165, Drew Dickson at 165, and Paul Pierce at 174, [who will wrestle] unattached.”

Davidson celebrates 100 years of wrestling this season and are celebrating the first crop of seniors under Andy Lausiers tutelage. The Wildcats have seen individual success so far this year and, like George Mason, are building for the future. Coach Lausier brought the Wildcats back to the Scuffle in 2020 after a decades absence, and its importance is not lost on him. “For Davidson, the Southern Scuffle is an opportunity to wrestle on one of the Nations biggest stages at the mid-point of the season. It is an incredible platform for our wrestlers to test themselves against some of the Nations best.” Unlike a number of coaches Lausiers eyes aren’t focused so much on settling roster spots or improving rankings. “Our staff is eager to see our wrestlers find tough ways to win tough matches. It may be a riding time point, one extra mat return, or an escape that makes the difference in outcomes at the Scuffle. We are looking for poise and discipline from our wrestlers.” With the Scuffle falling between almost every schools semester break, the training cycles for each teams athletes comes heavily into play in the results in Chattanooga. Lausier had this to say about that: “This is a challenge simply because our wrestlers just returned from a six day break at home. With that in mind we place a significant premium on weight control and staying competitively ready. We are also taking 15 wrestlers to the David Lehman Open at Franklin & Marshall so we have two groups in different training cycles. This is the time in the season when daily discipline and consistency really start making an impact.”

See you Friday!

Ted Carreras

*CANNOT say thank you enough to the FloWrestling crew, specifically J.D. Rader and Jon Kozak, Intermats Earl Smith and Rachel Gallardo, independent wordsmith Steve Stonebraker, and others, for making so much valuable information available in so many entertaining ways. Many of these fine folks will be on site this weekend, so if by the oddest chance you see them in a free moment, thank them for what they do.

Season 5, Column 30: Leroy Gardner names names & defines places, hometown throwdown in Humboldt, & they’re not the Nationals but they’re Nice

Concluding our feature on the University of the Ozarks, Head Wrestling Coach/Assistant A.D. Leroy Gardner breaks down his team, his school, their diversity and their success.

Your student body is high school sized with less than 1,000 students but it has attendees from over two dozen countries and offers 21 sports. How does the Presbyterian influence help in growing this diversity?

“I think the Presbyterians have a long history of welcoming and a pioneering spirit. I think that has shaped both the existence of this University and the spirit and culture here too. Three of our values that I think really bring to light both why and how we have the diversity we do have are service, justice and hospitality. We really have a space and place for people to grow and discover themselves, their values, and in their faith.”

Tell us who are some of your best wrestlers and which of them have pleasantly surprised the most so far.

“I think firstly the team overall; not so much suprising as grateful to see the maturity they’ve demonstrated. We had a busy Fall and will probably schedule differently in the future but the team has risen to the occasion. I think a suprise is Gabe Brandenburg, a freshman from Missouri. We knew he could become good but I think you never really know until they compete. He demonstrated some real grit in our first event down in Little Rock and that was impressive. I think we count immensely on Nathan Rankin, Jaylen York, Ndayambaje John and Kade McMahon with their experience and leadership. Nathan is the most decorated wrestler we’ve had, but I think that is not the most remarkable thing about him. He just is 100% committed to being his best in all he does, always. I enjoy every time he goes out. Some of the new additions that have been welcome are Jake Dado and Daniel Benoit. They both bring great wrestling experience with them but also really hold themselves to a high standard of human performance overall. Daniel has sworn in to become a Marine and Jake will do so shortly. They will both enter the USMC Platoon Leadership Course to become Officers of Marines upon graduation. Joaquin Bautista is making his way down to his weight class so we will be glad to see him there good to go. Freshman Cruz Partain has stepped into college wrestling with both feet at 197 and he is better each time he competes. It is a trial by fire a bit for young athletes in college and I have been impressed with his courage and heart. We have also added to the big man slot with Ka’Ron Lewis. He is coming back to health and has been working hard. I can highlight a lot of names but two I will end with are Airamis Mendoza and John Ward; two freshmen also committed to the process of becoming great.”

There’s a unique feature length story residing behind the fact that the highly decorated Strength and Conditioning Coach at the University is Suzanna Gardner, your wife. Would you or she share some of the details of how this relationship came to be and what it means for the athletes?

“Suzanna is a World Class Athlete. She has a 3rd Dan in Judo. She was the first woman to medal at the Asian Championships in Judo for her former home, Uzbekhistan. She was on their National team since she was 12 or 13. After her career was over she moved into Strength and Conditioning. In Katy, TX, we owned a 3,000 square foot facility for five years. Suzanna was our Director of Training and did all aspects of training for athletes of all types, non-athletes, senior citizens and more. When we came here she worked with our wrestling team since the beginning and a couple of other sports. The position was established and now she works with all our student-athletes in all our sports. I think the really exceptional piece is the combination of her level of understanding [being a high-performance athlete], her knowledge of combat and weight class driven sports and her attention to detail. She runs a very tight ship and ensures safety for our student-athletes first. Lastly I have seen the response from our Womens teams. It’s really impactful having someone who has achieved highly and works to be a role model for them while helping them become their best without limits. Really impactful.”

Where do you send your visitors for good food?

“My favorite in town is La Chiquita. It’s family owned and operated with wonderful food and great people.”

Last words, your words….why University of the Ozarks?

“Come find out are my last words, come find out why here. It’s a special place for special people. Everything we do here is making history.”

THANK YOU, Coach Gardner, Coach Trout, and SID Josh Peppas.

University of the Ozarks Schedule

Dec 18th Gator Boot Duals, Nashville UW-Eau Claire/Elmhurst/Concordia

Dec 29-30 Citrus Invite/Ft. Lauderdale

Jan 8 Carl Albert/Poteau, Oklahoma

Jan 15 Cliff Keen-Mike Duroe Invitational/Mt. Vernon, Iowa

Jan 29 Pete Wilson-Wheaton University Invitational/Wheaton, Illinois.

Feb 5 Southeast Conference Championships/Danville, Virginia

Feb 25-26 NCAA DIII Regionals/Dubuque, Iowa

Mar 11-12 National Championships/Cedar Rapids, Iowa

The Boyz are back in Town

Imagine, if you will, a small farm town situated in the center of rural America. Life there long has revolved around the land, the school yard and the church. A hard and rewarding lifestyle that lends itself to the hardest and most rewarding of sports. A town where two young men tested their mettle and rose to the top of their sport and, ultimately, their chosen professions. Now after decades of absence those two men and the warriors they lead find themselves on a collision course for mat supremacy in the very heart of……. . ….The Wrestling Zone. [1] Tony Ersland and the undefeated Purdue Boilermakers are matched against Kevin Dresser and the Iowa State Cyclones. In the Humboldt, Iowa, High School gym. Where both Dresser and Ersland won State championships wearing the colors of the Humboldt Wildcats. Where 1,000 or so [depending on how persuadable the Fire Marshall is] Midwest wrestling fanatics get to cheer on two of their favorite sons leading two of the best teams in wrestling against each other. A 2020, pandemic-postponed party rescheduled for Sunday the 19th, with multiple matchups between highly ranked athletes. Attending would be highly recommended had the event not sold out, through a lottery, sometime back. FloWrestling will livestream. Enjoy!

One Pool,Two Pool,Red Pool,Blue Pool

Though roster details and final matches haven’t been decided yet, it’s a certainty that North Florida is set to host some serious dual meet action this Monday and Tuesday the 20th and 21st. The Collegiate Duals were NEVER intended to settle who’s the Champ of D1 wrestling teams. They ARE going to provide fans with 2 full days of outstanding competition. Two teams from every D1 conference were invited. Choosing to battle it out in the beautiful Florida panhandle town of Niceville are Iowa, Penn State, Arizona State, NC State, Virginia Tech, Missouri, Cornell, Lehigh, Northern Iowa, Central Michigan, Hofstra, and Binghamton. The Bearcats get a special thank you for stepping in late when Oregon State had to cancel. Hofstra Coach Dennis Papadatos gave an informed opinion that some 35 of the competitors could very well be All Americans by seasons end and that the field in Florida will see as many as 5 eventual 2022 National Champs when all’s said and done in Detroit come the end of March.

Save a horse, ride a bus, Cowboys

By the time you read this the OK St. Cowboys will be wrapping up one heck of a road trip. John Smith’s bunch left Stillwater midweek for Colorado Springs and a Friday afternoon hoedown with Sam Barbers Air Force Falcons. Then they were set to make a 200 mile skip up to Laramie where the Winter, 7220 feet of elevation, and Mark Branchs brand of Cowboys were awaiting them. The tour concludes Monday with a stopover in Orem, to meet up with the Utah Valley Wolverines. Hope the 34 time National champs plan to fly to Chattanooga for the Scuffle if just to keep their frequent flyer miles up to snuff.

Nevada’s “other” wrestling event

Nearly 30 colleges will have some representation at this weekends Reno Tournament of Champions. A two day high school event precedes the college competition, a one day affair. American, Clarion, and Southeastern (Lakeland, FL) are making some of the longer hauls with most of the participating schools from the mid or far West.

See you sometime soon!

Ted Carreras

[1] A classic show from TVs Golden Age, the Twilight Zone premiered over 60 years ago. Its blend of horror, science fiction, sharp social commentary, fantasy and human drama was unmatched for decades. It remains one of the most acclaimed series of all time.

5th Season, Column 29: Gardner a Constant for the Ozarks Eagles

The University of the Ozarks has quietly been building a Division III power in Clarksville, Arkansas, one of the most beautiful parts of the country you may not have visited yet. No shame there, but your loss if that’s true. What’s also true to the mark is the unerring path Leroy Gardner has led the Eagles on since his arrival six years ago. Coach Gardner graciously agreed to giving a perspective on his team, his school, his life and how those three ingredients have blended perfectly in Clarksville. Here is the Eagles flock leader in his own words.

You come from the military and are a member of the U.S. Navy. Did that desire to serve lead you to wrestling to better your physical/mental strengths and abilities, or was it the other way around?

“I came upon serving in a really pragmatic way, to pay for graduate school, but it grew into one of the most meaningful things I have done in my life personally and professionally. I will say that being a member of an athletic team [and wrestling specifically] helped me value a shared mission and those I have the priviledge of working together with in service. I hope that some of the experiences I have had in wrestling have helped me be of value, too. I think they have. I knew that most often if I stuck to my preparation, work my process, then most of the time I can put probability on my side for success in whatever the mission is.”

Talk about the synergy between the Armed Services and wrestling.

“I think I touched on some of that [in the answer to] the previous question but with anything when you get well prepared, committed people all together giving their best towards a shared outcome or goal, things can get really cool in a hurry. I think you keep chasing those moments once you’ve experienced them. I think the purpose of working towards something bigger than oneself is a powerful experience. We can get that from wrestling in the best cases, and one can find that in the military too.”

University of the Ozarks is located in one of the most naturally beautiful areas of the United States with a very reasonable cost of living. How do you leverage these advantages in your outreach to prospective student-athletes? “

It is a special place here and the University is also. I think we’re looking for student-athletes that want to enjoy and appreciate those aspects of life in the Natural State. [We also] have many that didn’t know they could appreciate it until they arrived here to attend school. We really are glad when prospective student-athletes are able to visit in person to campus because we know how great it is in person. It is two-fold, making sure student-athletes know this opportunity exists here and letting them get a chance to see all there is to experience here.”

You are the Mens Coach, the Womens Coach, and the Assistant A.D. charged heavily with recruiting. Please explain how you balance these jobs.

“I can’t say that I do. [Handling] all of those aspects is possible because of our staff. Vinny [Barber, Assistant Head Coach] has been putting blood, sweat, and heart into this team for five years. Doyle [Trout, Assistant Mens Coach and former Wyoming wrestler] has been a great addition, joining basically right before Covid, and Charlotte [Fowler, Assistant Womens Coach and former Campbellsville AA] on the Womens side has been a real leader too. Their effort and work is the main reason the wheels run. The administrator work is new for me. I have a great appreciation now [as opposed to] the ignorance I had as a Coach to the constraints and challenges administrators face in shaping a great experience. Vinny and Doyle have the lead on the Mens recruiting and Charlotte is the face of our Womens recruiting. I value growing our people and [our assistants] want to be head coaches. That means getting a chance to touch all the areas of running a program. Our experience wouldn’t be possible without this team. They deserve the credit.

Tell us why Division III Wrestling should be the first place for any prospective wrestler who is not a Top 100 prospect to look at.

“My personal experience, having only been a state qualifier in high school, and [wanting to continue] because I wasn’t ready to be done with wrestling is a common story that I wish was more commonly known. There were times I didn’t think I was going to be “good enough” but I knew they were going to have to lock me out of the facilities to get me to quit coming. I kept working, found very meaningful experiences, learned about myself, grew and had success too. I believe that those same experiences are available to every high school wrestler should they choose to give their best effort, attitude, and challenge themselves to improve their craft. I don’t think this is limited to the Top 100. Any wrestler that values both their academic and athletic experience and wants to work both without sacrifice to one or the other, well, Division III can offer that. It really is about where they can find the best fit for a really meaningful pursuit of their best”.

In our next column Coach Gardner breaks down this seasons Eagles squad and its leaders, the amazing diversity of University of the Ozarks, the special relationship he has with the schools acclaimed Strength and Conditioning Coach, and more.

Folks we’re still waiting on

Spencer Lee, the 3x Defending National Champ for Iowa, has been a 125lb cipher so far this season. Wrestling fans wailed and gnashed their teeth when a showdown 2 years in the making between Lee and Princetons Patrick Glory failed to occur in the Hawkeyes-Tigers dual earlier this year. Lee is listed as a possible go for Iowa at next Monday and Tuesdays Collegiate Duals in Niceville, FL.

Also a 125lb MIA, AA Killian Cardinale of West Virginia. Cardinale and Lee shared a match, a major decision win by Lee, at last years NCAAs.

Promising young 197lb Logan Andrew of UTC hasn’t been seen. Andrew made the NCAAs last year in college wrestlings most grown-@ss man class as a freshman. The Mocs keep team news close, so it’s simply hoped here that a ready and healthy Andrew will return soon. BTW, BIG congratulations to UTC Head Coach Kyle Ruschell and wife Allie on their first child. You two will want to back the next one up by a few months, Coach. It’ll be easier on everybody.

Former 133lb National champ, 2X AA Nick Suriano, formerly of Rutgers, formerly of Penn State, [1] is supposedly a 2nd semester go, this time for Michigan. Ditto for Michigan 2x AA Logan Massa who like Coach Ruschell is a proud new dad.

Rumors have former Central Michigan AA 125lb Drew Hildebrandt bolstering Penn States roster come 2nd semester. His presence on the Nittany Lions roster would be a huge boost for Penn States title hopes.

125lb Connor Brown, 133lb Matt Schmitt, and 149lb Brock Mauller have 10 seasons, six NCAA appearances, three All American awards and 111 wins against 14 defeats for the Missouri Tigers between them. What none of them have is mat time this year. Midwest wrestling sage and USA Wrestling writer/podcaster David Mirikitani, among others, suggests that will stay that way, with injuries and redshirt seasons being the reasons. That’s a WHOLE lotta talent on the bench.

Ethan Laird is a whole lotta talent on the bench all by his lonesome. The Rider University big man is redshirting this year after 4 years of starting. Plans are for him to be a full sized 285 in 2022. Wrestlestat and Rider both have him as having seen action this season, but freshman Dave Szuba has been reliably shouldering the big man load in tournaments and duals for the Broncs at 5-3 so far. Rider is coming to the Scuffle so perhaps there’s still a chance Coach Hangey and crew will turn both their big men loose in Chattanooga. Not likely, though.

141lb Real Woods is due to don the Stanford singlet this month. According to Coach Rob Koll the NCAA qualifier is returning from a hand injury. Whether that return is at the Reno Tournament of Champions or the Southern Scuffle wasn’t specified in Coach Kolls latest missive. One thing that was pointed out was the number of high level recruits who announced they’d follow Coach Koll to Stanford. Koll originally recruited them to Cornell, but he left when the Ivy League in general and the school in particular lost their collective minds during the Covid 19 pandemic. Similar to what the Cornell administration is doing now. That story is still unfolding so more later.

See you sometime soon!

Ted Carreras

  1. formerly Penn State, formerly Rutgers, but ALWAYS JERZEY.

Season 5, Column 28: A SoCon Scorecard from A’s to Incompletes

You could see it coming when the schedules hit the Internet. The last 3 weekends of December set up as a major step on the SoCons ladder climb to greater national prominence. Sure, the known conference stars have pretty much performed as expected. App. St. AA 149lb Jonathan Millner has two Tournament finals and a title in the first month of competition. The Citadels Trio of Terror, 165lb Selwyn Porter, 157lb Dazjon Casto, and 285lb Mike McAleavey are 27-10 with multiple podium placements between them. Campbell super seniors 149lb Josh Heil, 197lb Chris Kober, and young stud hvt. Taye Ghadiali are a combined 19-3 in limited action. As much as these individuals and teams have experienced success positives have been scarcer than perhaps anticipated for the SoCon. Outside looking in you might be wondering what about perennial conference power and column fav. UTC? Well, the Mocs have been the closest thing to M.I.A. that a wrestling team can be and still have a record. Again, a small part of that is by schedule design. However, it can’t be overlooked that multiple starters have not yet wrestled this season. SoCon Champ 165lb Drew Nicholson and 197lb NCAA qualifier Logan Andrew haven’t hit the mats yet. Few matches and fewer wins mark early efforts from returning starters Colton Landers, Franco Valdes, Weston Wichman, Carial Tartar, Grayson Walthall, and 2X NCAA qualifier Matthew Waddell. 125lb star Fabian Gutierrez has wrestled twice, won twice, and….? This columns been assured @faybeein_g and the Mocs are ready for a weekend jaunt to Illinois to face former conference foe SIUE and BIG 10 power Illinois. Win both or split and the Mocs will come home better off. Coach Kyle Ruschell and staff coordinated a quick season peek followed by a long break for a training cycle. This weekend in Illinois and a December 20th road trip to West Virginia for a tri meet with the Mountaineers and Cleveland State will both be stern tests. Hard to match the Mocs D1 opponents records so far this season, though. Clarion and Rutgers are a combined 13-1. Also not shying away from tough opening weeks Daniel Elliotts Gardner Webb Runnin Bulldogs hit a brick wall in Raleigh recently in a loss to mighty NC State. That AFTER a showdown with powerhouse Virginia Tech. The bunch from Boiling Springs have a gruesome four duals in nine days run starting with Michigan State the 11th and finishing on the 19th in a tri meet featuring Campbell, George Mason, and Ohio. Even though they’re all home matches for Gardner-Webb, that’s still worth a YO. Presbyterian, under new Coach Zach Shaeffer, has gone the complete opposite route. In tuning up the team for their appearance at the end of the month Midlands Tournament the Blue Hose have scheduled exactly nothing. This seems to have as much to do with Shaeffers late appointment as anything else. This weeks strong win over Truett-McConnell will be the only action the men see before the end of December. However, the powerhouse Presbyterian women’s team had six athletes go undefeated in a round robin with St. Andrew’s and Life University. The women will be front and center at months end as the Midlands, Americas oldest major D1 tournament, holds its first ever women’s event. There’s a first coming for Andy Lausiers Davidson Wildcats as well, though it may have to wait after the 1st of the year. Underdogs in every dual so far this season, Davidson came within 2 points of an upset over UTC. They picked up six podium spots so far this season at a pair of tournaments. They battled to the wire in half their matches against BIG 12 power West Virginia. A dual with new wrestling bestie George Mason University on the 19th probably isn’t the best chance for Davidson to get off the schnide. What progress they’ve made will be highlighted at the Scuffle and in the conference dual season after the 1st of the year. It’s been duals a’plenty for Ned Shucks Bellarmine crew here in year two, SoCon style for the Knights. Unfortunately, a season opening upset win over SIUE put Bellarmines progress on everybody’s radar. That, combined with a brutal schedule, has kept the Knights victory total in check, though not their growth. Pushing the pace, 2nd year Head Coach Shuck is sending some athletes to the Cleveland State Open while the starters will host Coach Joel Greenlees Ohio Bobcats, same day this Saturday. Don’t expect a Knights dual meet win but do plan on seeing both tournament progress and a strong home mat effort. THE big test of the seasons first half may come in the home meet with SoCon power App State on the 19th. Bellarmine will know exactly where they belong in the SoCon pecking order after that match. As to the Mountaineers, they have a 6 day stretch that would test the capacities of any team in the country. This Sunday John Mark Bentleys squad hosts NC State. At least half the matches will feature ranked wrestler versus ranked wrestler showdowns. Look for an All American war at 149 with App States Johnathan Millner matching up with NC States Tariq “the Freak” Wilson. Then on Friday the 17th it’s North Carolina Wars part two as Coleman Scott’s UNC Tar Heels come to Boone. Both App State and Campbell, conference front runners for three years straight, feature deep rosters not yet fully settled at every weight. The Mountaineers will look to the Southern Scuffle to help with final roster adjustments while Campbell heads to the Midlands. Scotti Sentes Camels are ironing out several weights, most notably 125 where Campbell has 3 Dl starters rostered with a combined 15-6 record and three NCAA trips between them. There’s that Gardner-Webb hosted tri meet with Ohio on the 19th before the Midlands trip, though. Looks like a couple of Camels wins for the road. VMI, on the other hand, plays host to end the holiday wrestling season, welcoming in West Virginia this Sunday. The Keydets best news so far in a 1-1 season has been the return of stud 197lb Tyler Mousaw, dinged up in the teams Wrestle-Offs preseason. VMI racked up 14 tournament spots between the Southeast Open and the Journeymen Classic. The big tourney news, though was Mousaws 4th place finish and Zach Browns 6th at the Navy Classic, a very tough 13 team throwdown. Don’t count the Keydets out in the match with the Mountaineers, West Virginia style. Coach Jim Gibsons crew may just steal a win from the BIG 12 bunch.

So that’s a quick look at the SoCons 1st half, and here’s freely admitted hope for even more in 2022.

See you sometime soon!

Ted Carreras