A FINAL PRE SCUFFLE SKETCH-TEAMS, THEMES, AND DREAMS
College wrestling puts a bow on 2018 as nearly every Division 1 team heads to a big time neutral site event this weekend and early next. The Ken Kraft Midlands in Chicago, the Southern Scuffle in Chattanooga, and the South Beach Duals in Southeast Florida give everyone from wrestling junkies to the most casual of sports fans a weeks worth of opportunity to learn, appreciate and enjoy the greatest sport. The Midlands and the South Beach Wrestling Experience are getting tons of play across all the major media platforms, and deservedly so. This Midlands is the 56th edition of the Northwestern hosted, Iowa dominated show that may or may not return to its long time previous site. Change is hard, but reading between the lines leads the Scribe to feel that the keep it on campus boat has left the harbor. Extensive Midlands coverage is everywhere, and so is the leadup to the new kid on the competition block. The South Beach Duals were decried in a last year column as a potentially messy mid season experiment. So, what happened? The hard work and long-term visions of Missouris Brian Smith and Cornells Rob Koll, (along with Nandos blessings, of course…you DO look mahvelous down by the beach, dahling, you TRULY do) seem to have born full fruit. 16 top teams are down South FL way this time around for some high quality duals and high energy training and fun in the sun. Good for them, good for FL wrestling, and bad for the Scribes bank account, as the author promised a (very small, working stiff level) contribution if the Duals caught on. The author will not lie, the check isn’t in the mail…yet. In due time, gentlemen, in due time. Now go make weight, make waves, and make yourselves at home. Nando will surely approve.
This column will now indulge its authors love affair with Chattanooga, The Southern Scuffle presented by Compound Clothing, and all things UTC wrestling and the teams coming to downtown Chatt-town this January 1st and 2nd.
FLY, FALCONS, FLY
Air Force heads to the Scenic City with some strong first half of the season showings. The Falcons of Coach Sam Barber placed 8 wrestlers at the UNK Open and the Navy Classic combined. A notable AFA athletic performance at the UNK was turned in by the Academies Marcus Amico. A highlighted wrestler in an earlier column, Amico took his first tournament title in style with 3 bonus point wins. Two of AFAs best, Alec Opsal and Sr. Co-captain Alex Mossing, gritted out tough performances at the Cliff Keen with both bowing out in the blood round, just missing a top 8 showing. A highlight of the Academies BIG 12 conference 23-14 home loss to North Dakota State: Sr. Co captain Anthony Mclaughlin moving to 7-0 on the season with an OT win at 197 over NDSUs double tough Cordell Eaton. These two are now 2-2 against each other with potentially 2 to 4 more matches this season to decide whos better! The Falcons honored the US Gold medal 2017 Freestyle wrestling team and the Silver medal squad from this season at the match. Perhaps all that excitement led to the penalty point against AFA during the NDSU match? Que sopresa, AFA. Ah, no es importante. The men from Colorado Springs will bring their best effort and best behavior to Chattanooga for the Scuffle. They ALWAYS do, and we are always grateful.
SOCONS FINEST SHOW UP TO SHOW OUT
The UTC Mocs, host squad for the Scuffle, are in the midst of a feeling-out first season under dynamic new head coach Kyle Ruschell. So far, the “K.R. Initiative” has Mocs up and down the lineup scrapping as if their roster spots depended on it. They do. Witness the war at 125 where the Mocs 3 year starter and lone returning NCAA qualifier, Alonzo Allen, is tooth and nail with soph. Fabian Gutierrez for the starting spot. Look for one, or both, to place. 133lb Jake Huffine embodies the new look Mocs, along with vets 184lb Dominic Lampe, 141lb Chris Debien, and tough as nails little big hvwt. Connor Tolley. These guys and the rest of the Mocs will be bringing it to the mats in Chatt town….everybody going hard all the time, every time, for the spot, for the win, for the dual, for the tournament, FOR THE CITY!
Appalachian State hit the start of the season with 4 top 25 ranked wrestlers and 3 consecutive Southern Conference regular season titles. Then, the season hit back with a brutal opening to the schedule that included 4 top 20 teams. Dios Mio, but a toughened, battle tested bunch of Mountaineers head to Chattanooga with a SoCon wrestler of the month (Sr. 197lb Randall Diabe, a 2017-18 season NCAA qualifier), 4 Conference wrestler of the week awards (Diabe, twice, 157lb Angel Najar, and 165lb first year starter, Sr. Michael Elliott, leading the team in wins this season with 13) and a multi-year run of progressive improvement. It’s not just NCST, Duke and UNC raising wrestling levels and eyebrows down Carolina way, you know. And don’t forget about Davidson and Gardner Webb. We didn’t. And, as for that #theCreekisRising crew of Cary Kolat and company, well, the Campbell Camels had their preview in an earlier column. They didn’t quite have the Cliff Keen showing they wanted, but that just made them hungrier. And, boy, if you think Camels drink a lot when they’re thirsty, don’t be in biting distance when the hunger pangs hit. #RollHumps, roll.
THOSE OTHER CAROLINA CREWS
While Andy Lausiers Wildcats hole up in Davidson for the holiday break, GWU is runnin on down to Chatt town. The Bulldogs are bringing undefeated sr star 157lb Tyler Marinelli and a superyoung squad to the Scuffle. How young? How about Tyler being the ONLY senior? 22 of these 23 Running Bulldogs will be back next season, stronger, faster, better. Thats a 6 million dollar promise. Somewhere, Steve Austin is smiling…and tanning.
THE LANHAM PLAN FOR LONG TERM SUCCESS
Duke wrestling doesn’t award athletic based scholarship money, but Coach Glen Lanhams team is rolling in silver nonetheless. Thats the Finesilver brothers, 4 of the 10 starters for the Blue Devils this season. Duke had a fine showing indeed at last years Scuffle, finishing in fifth place, led by now assistant coach Jacob Kaspers 2nd straight Scuffle 285lb title. Absolutely no team has to be more creative than Coach Lanhams bunch in terms of landing top-quality recruits. Fortunately, being Duke, they’re more than up to the task. Look for multiple Blue Devils to land on the podium in Chattanooga. The ACC (Atlantic Coast Conference) is setting the stage for a top 25 NCAA Championships showing by all 6 teams. A deep bow of appreciation to one of the TRUE professionals of wrestling writing, Mike Finn of W.I.N. magazine, for his great skill and gracious allowance of this link to his excellent feature on the four Finesilver brothers: https://www.win-magazine.com/2018/12/finesilvers-are-a-gem-of-a-family/
A VERY TOUGH BUNCH IS BACK
Virginia Tech has been absent from the Scuffle for too long, but the defending ACC Champs are one of four conference titlists taking aim at the podium in Chattanooga. Tech brings strength and experience throughout their lineup in this, Tony Robies second season as head coach after a decade plus as Kevin Dressers understudy. More than half the team should place top 8, and the final 5 from 165-285 could all finish top 4. What a Hokie-Hokie-Hokie High that would be.
THERE’S A STORM COMING….
The Scribe penned an impassioned plea to then-VT wrestling coach Kevin Dresser to stay in Blacksburg when KD was trying to decide wether to leave Tech for the sleeping giant that was Iowa State. Despite that effort, Dresser followed his heart, his big ambitions and his suddenly significantly bigger bank account to Ames to wake the China of college wrestling. And, while the boys from Beijing are currently still out front, that Cardinal and Gold Cyclone in the rear view mirror is way closer than it appears. ISU flat-out outworked in-state rival Iowa in a 1 point barnburner dual loss earlier this year and gave MAC stalwart Ohio University a near 30 point beatdown. Fully half the ISU roster could be podium bound at Chatt-town, and put early money on RS David Carr to do brave things. Yeah, he’s from THAT bloodline. His daddy? The man, the myth, the legend, 3x Iowa State national champion Nate Carr. Back in the day-day when Nate did his scowl prowl in the heat of practice grown-@ss men would look away as the call went out: “THROW HIM SOME MEAT!” #NateALWAYSate. His son and this team are young and hungry…
One of the suprise teams at last year’s Scuffle, Lock Haven, took their top 10 finish momentum from Chattanooga all the way to an outstanding 12-4 regular season, an EWL Conference title, and a national championship showing ahead of half of the Big10 teams. Graduated Sr. Ronnie Perry and now 6th year coach Scott Moore swept the PSAC and EWL wrestler and Coach of the year honors. Until 197lb star Tristan Sponseller followed his heart and swapped his headgear for a wedding band, everybody but Perry was due back for this season. And the Bald Eagles have lived up to their promise. Lock Haven opened this year with half of the top ranked wrestlers on the EWL preseason team. So far this season the haul for #therise has included a near dozen individual tournament crowns, 141lb Kyle Shoop breaking the all time team career tech fall record, and a team title at the Black Knight Invitational. What will 2019 bring for #therise? A top 5 Scuffle showing and a top 15 point total at the National Championships, perhaps.
ITS THE COLOR, NOT THE BIRD.
Is the ever so slightly tongue in cheek mantra of the decade plus Director of Stanford wrestling, Jason Borrelli. The Cardinal come Eastbound and Down with an unblemished dual meet record and a flock of high-flying freshmen. 141lb Real Woods, 165lb Shane Griffith, and 285lb RSfrosh Haydn Manley have had a fine first half of the season, with Griffith taking 2 tournament titles in his first year on The Farm. Thats what they call Stanford, reason unknown to the Scribe. Undefeated sr. Paul Fox at 157 and sophomore star 197lb Nathan Traxler aren’t exactly chopped liver, either. Fox won the Reno TOC while Traxler finished top 4 at the Cliff Keen. With Gabe Townsell set at 125 after Connor Schrams (column 1 this season) departure, the Cardinal will certainly land some podiun perches. On a personal note, enjoy Coach Borrellis longform interview on the “On the Mat” podcast, Episode 553, with National Wrestling Hall of Fame/Dan Gable Museum Director Kyle Klingman and co host Andy Hamilton of Trackwrestling.com. Guys, shorten those titles, please. One thing missed in that fine presentation: Coach B and gracious, lovely, patient wife* Jennas first two children are named Carter and Lincoln. The Scribe feels their next son should be, dare we hope, Teddy? That would be bully, just bully! The adjective, not the verb.
LIONS AND BOBCATS AND BEARS
That would be Columbia, Ohio University, and Binghamton, repping the EIWA and the MAC in Chatt town next week. Coach Zach Tanellis Columbia crew has a new/old light/middlewt. punch in their lineup with fr. 133lb Matt Kazimir and sr. 157lb Dan Reed. The Lions have wins over VMI and Northern Colorado and will contest every point in Chattanooga. Damn sharp unis, too. Ohio University is bringing 3 guys with tournament titles this season and a couple of the SoCons biggest scalps to the Scuffle. Joel Greenlees Bobcats dumped host Chattanooga and 3x SoCon champ App St in duals earlier this yr, but dropped a tough match to Campbell. Mario Guillen and Colt Yinger may have suprised with their tourney titles, but rock steady sr hvy. Zach Parker didnt. Zac took the Navy Classic hvt. Crown and has had a top 25 presence 3 yrs running. Whats the real suprise for the #bleedgreen crew: the number of times this season the star ltwt. duo of 125lb Shakur Laney and 141lb Cameron Kelly have been on the mat alongside big Zac. That would be exactly the same number of times as a dead man. Will it happen at the Scuffle? And as to the BearKats, check an earlier Scribe columnar preview of the boys from Binghamton and the trio of Deprez brothers suiting up and shaking things up this season. Coach Kyle Borshoff and yes, brother and assistant Coach Jasen are keeping good NY talent in state. So, whats the call on which band of brothers does best, the Deprezs of Binghamton or the Finesilvers of Duke? Call the odds 4 to 3 with a pushout.
PATRIOTS #BEUNCOMMON..BAD GRAMMAR, FAST IMPROVING TEAM
Frank Beasley walked willingly into a Virginia minefield when he grabbed the coaching reigns at George Mason less than 2 months before the start of last season. In 15 months, he has:
1. Reset the ENTIRE coaching staff
2. Put triple zeros on the scoreboard-NO drugs, NO alcohol, NO academic OR athletic indifference
3. Set the path for success for ALL involved in any way with the Patriots wrestling team, and
4. Got on his horse and rode forward, the Temuchin# way, NO looking back….
And they followed. Led by this quiet exemplar of a man and assistants Camden Eppert, Beau Donahue, and Mason Beckman, the Patriots are dead-set on not making waves but being the tsunami. In Chattanooga srs. 149lb Tejon Anthony and 285lb Matt Voss along with freshman star 157lb Kolby Ho will be major point earners and possibly podium bound. In years to come, George Mason plans to raise expectations from the ocean floor to the roof and beyond. @BEUNCOMMON…believe it.
Earlier columns have highlighted Drexel, the Citadel, Cal St Bakersfield, Navy, Rider, Northern Colorado, and Edinboro, all fine squads sending a full complement of athletes to Chattanooga. Wrestlers from Lehigh, UNC, NC St and Finger Lakes Wrestling Club, affiliated with Cornell, will be there as well.
So theres a thumbnail or two to get you ready for the Southern Scuffle. If you go, and you should, say hello to the UTC support staff who work SO hard to make this happen. “Chatt up” the locals, they’ll be happy to share stories and their knowledge of the Scenic Cities best. And give a tip o’ the hat to the pros on site, writing, broadcasting and announcing. They love wrestling, and, you just might start loving it too!
*wrestling wife: synonymous with gracious, lovely, patient, etc. AS IF.
#AK.A. Genghis Khan
See you next week!