3rd Season Column 18: Shuffle down to Scuffle-Town

This week about 2 dozen teams will be testing the wrestling waters by the Tennessee River, converging on Chattanooga for the Southern Scuffle. They’ll come from Fargo, North Dakota, Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, Palo Alto, California, Raleigh, North Carolina, New Brunswick, NJ, and Stillwater, Oklahoma. They’ll represent every Division 1 wrestling conference in the country. The host team, the UTC Mocs, and the Southern Conference in ALL its glory (save two) shall be there. The two day treat Jan. 1st and 2nd will both answer and pose a myriad of questions as the college wrestling season springboards from the last, best in season event to the heart of the dual meet season. The Southern Scuffle presented by Compound Clothing is a full family treat in a city just the right size for a few days of top flight food, fun, nature, history, art and sports entertainment. So what’s to know? Well, pilgrim, glad you asked. Looks like theres some teams thinking they got a good shot at winning the whole darn thing….

CONTENDERS: A FANTASTIC 5 They come from 4 different conferences and they’ll log nearly 5100 miles cumulatively just to arrive at the Scenic City. So what happens when Oklahoma State, Pittsburgh, Rutgers, NC State and Stanford all roll up on the rolled out mats in McKenzie Arena? GOOD things, man, good things. Let’s start with that #straightouttaStillwater crew. The Oklahoma State Cowboys are a Southern Scuffle staple, God bless ’em, and Coach John Smith is looking at a real shot or 6 at yet another Tournament title. With Coach JS and company, that’s like another gold bar in the Shahs treasure room(a), but this one will take some extra-heavy lifting to lug back home. Minus current USA #1 57KG Daton Fix (taking an Olympic Redshirt year) and plus a BUNCH of young’uns and no established heavyweight, the ‘Pokes will be pressed hard in this event. Still, they’ll take those 5 #1 pre seeds(b) and run with them, thank you very much. Looks like OK. St. will lean heavily on their big guns to produce up to par and maybe manufacture a couple unexpected podium spots in addition. That would do it indeed. You should be VERY excited to see the senior season debut of one Joe Smith, son of Coach John, #1 pre-seed at 174LB. Joseph, or Joe, has been nothing if not extremely flexible for the Cowboys in his 2XAA career, and hes due for a healthy, properly filled out weight class final season. Also cheer on one Boo Lewallen, who’s sandwiched an AA season for OK. St. in between 1 shortened and 2 injury ended campaigns. A redshirt junior thanks to a medical hardship year, Boo is the Scuffles top pre-seed at 149.(b) Cowboy Up! How far? Going to say all the way here, IF health holds. There is hot breath on their spurs, though, and it’s of a predatory nature. NC State and Pittsburgh come to the Scuffle at the same time for the first time in some time. About 2015 for Coach Pat Popolizio and co., when their 10 strong Packs effort was highlighted by then RS Jr 157LB Tommy Gantts 3rd place showing. The same Scuffle saw Pitts double tough Max Thomusseit, along with Tyler Wilps, Mikey Racciato, and Edgar Bright, all find their way to the podium. Thomusseit had a brutal Scuffle Finals match with eventual 2X National Champ Gabe Dean of Cornell, Maxs only loss till the NCAAs. Wilps would follow his Scuffle 4th place showing with a run all the way to the National Championship Finals. So what to expect from the Panthers and the WolfPack this time around? There are 7 Top 8 pre-seeds for the #AmericanWerewolves, as NC State is affectionately known in this column. And thats without nationally ranked 133LB Jarrett Trombley, healing up back home in Raleigh to prepare for the seasons 2nd half. The Brothers HIDE-lay, Hayden at 157 and Trent at 184, are top seeded at the Scuffle, and Tariq “the Freak” Wilson sits #2 at 141. They, along with #3 seed 197LB Nick Reenan and the Bullard brothers, Thomas at 165 and Daniel at 174, will have to wrestle at least to their seeds for State to sniff the top of the podium. 17 total Werewolves are coming, including 4, count em, 4 heavyweights. EACH with a winning record, but all unseeded. Interesting. For Pitt, also with 7 seeds, it starts and ends with top seeds Micky Phillippi, 133LB, and Demetrius “Meech” Thomas, 285LB. Bookend titles could boost #pinzbugh close to the top, but middlemen Taleb Rahmani, Jake Wentzel, and Gregg Harvey (157, 165, and 174 respectively) will have to add to the profit margin for a Panther pose at the summit. And no, we did not forget Über-tough sophomore 184LB Nino Bonaccorsi. That he is seeded 3rd here speaks to the top end talent at the weight class in Chattanooga. Pitt and NC St. are, obviously, the only schools besides OK. St. to have multiple top seeds. That unaccounted-for #1? Stanfords 165LB super frosh Shane Griffith. Coach Jason Borelli and Stanford have 4 Scuffle title contenders in Griffith, fellow freshman superstar Real Woods at 141, 149LB 2nd seed Requir van der Merwe, and 2019 Scuffle finalist and defending PAC 12 champ Nathan Traxler. The wild card for the Cardinal(c) is @TheBlackCard, senior star 125LB Gabe Townsell. The 2X NCAA qualifier is a USA Freestyle and Greco Roman star in addition to his college exploits, and if Scuffle pre-seeds hold, he will face OK Sts. top seeded Nick Piccininni in the semis. Can the self professed “blast doubles, good raps and Jesus” mat star take down the top seed? Sure. Will he? Probably not, but if not, Stanfords gonna want Gabe climbing that backside of the tournament wall. They’ll NEED him on that wall.(d) Big points from the 5 top 4 seeded Stanford wrestlers could have the defending PAC 12 tournament champs close to or equaling last years 4th place finish. And if either David Showunmi or Trevor Rasmussen get the Hvwt. situation settled, hmmm. That 5th contender? They’re a team coming to the Scuffle for the first time. They do their thing in the toughest D1 conference in the country, the Big 10. Last year they crowned 2 National Champs, their first ones ever. While “those guys” aren’t making the trip, “these guys”(e) are, and they are coming in hungry. Rutgers has looked more balanced this year than last seasons superstar led team. They are undefeated on the dual meet season at 6-0, and finished top 5 at the very tough Navy Classic. The Scarlet Knights have 6 seeded wrestlers and probably feel 141LB JoJo Aragona and Hvwt. Christian Colucci should have made 8.[update-Colucci is out, an unspecified injury; this from the always reliable and occasionally acerbic James Kratch of NJ Advance Media. Thank you James.) Youth up front and experience at the back end of the lineup has Rutgers rolling despite the absence of graduated Champ Anthony Ashnault and senior and fellow titlist Nick Suriano, taking an Olympic Redshirt season. Despite that you could say the season so far has a better than Triple A rating. As in first letter, last name on the first four out on the mat for Rutgers. That would be 125LB Nick Aguilar, 133LB Sammy Alvarez, the afore mentioned Aragona, and 149LB Gerard Angelo. All in their first year of starting, all freshmen or rs freshmen. The headlines truly do write themselves sometimes. #2 seed 174LB Joe Grello is an unpleasant handful for anybody, and #6 seed 197LB Jordan Pagano is 9-2 and looking every bit the BIG10 upper weight he is. So how does Rutgers make their first Scenic City stop successful? Be as good as expected and get unexpected (by seed, NOT by the Scribe, just saying) points from Aragona and maybe some others. Do that, and you done good, Coach Goodale and crew. Good enough to take a title back to Jersey? Maybe.

A SCRIBENOTES SUMMARY OF THE TOURNAMENT

What to make of the season so far for the Scuffles host team, the Scribes beloved UTC Mocs? Well, they have shown resilience, with a 39 point loss followed by a 47 point win. They’ve wrestled multiple Top 10 teams with closer than expected individual match scores, though the team results have been fairly lopsided at times. Just 2 Mocs come seeded into their own tournament, 149LB Tanner Smith and 184LB Matt Waddell. Both started elsewhere, Smith at the assassinated Eastern Michigan program, and Waddell at Oklahoma. Perhaps the Mocs best shot at a high podium finish is unseeded Fabian Gutierrez at 125. What UTC really needs is about a 60/40% win/loss ratio in matches decided by 1-2 points to call the tournament a success.

Wheres last years breakout squad, the Iowa State Cyclones? Mostly back home in Ames as Coach Kevin Dresser and crew are sending only 3 of their starters, 15 wrestlers overall, to the Scuffle. 165LB Chase Straw, 197LB Joel Shapiro, and All Overlooked and Underrated 285LB Gannon Gremmel. Coach KD said the decision was about getting these 3 the type of competition that will sharpen them. AND for getting the rest of the ISU starters some rest up, heal up, and weight management time. The Cyclones are staring at an 8 duals in 22 days January stretch, and that would stretch any teams capacity.

Sad to note the absence of the Duke Blue Devils, who chose South Beach over the Scenic City. Que lastima, Coach Lanham, posiblemente next year?

Lock Haven heads down for the 3rd straight year but the first time in this run without 2X AA and former Scuffle finalist Chance Marsteller. Also gone, hvwt. star Thomas “Hit Man” Haines. The Bald Eagles do have 5 top 8 seeds but none higher than returning AA 141LB Kyle Shoop, seeded 4th. Lock Haven was stunned by Clarion last time out, losing by 4. They had a great showing at the Navy Classic though, finishing 4th, and beat the Midshipmen by 4 in a dual meet. They have 5, not 4, Redshirt Senior or senior starters. Shoop is one of them and hes led the nation in tech falls 2 years straight. Also in his last go-round, all Over-looked and Underrated 174LB Jared Siegrist. Last year Lock Haven was 4 points out of 5th at the Scuffle, and you’d like to think such an experienced squad could replicate that.

Last year Northern Colorado had a finalist at 125, Rico Montoya. This years best Bears bet to wrestle for a title? Probably 149LB freshman star Andrew “Boo” Alirez, the unbeaten true freshman star from the Bears hometown Greeley, CO, High School. Northern Colorado has 5 seeded Top 8, including their last 3 out. That includes junior 184LB Alan Clothier, who wrestled last at the Scuffle as an Appalachian State Mountaineer. He may see his “replacement”, talented freshman Julian Gorring, somewhere in the 2 days of competition.

About those Mountaineers….they have two Top 8 seeds in 157LB Matt Zovitovski and 285LB Cary Miller. 149LB Jonathan Millner should have been seeded, and could easily place. Zovitovskis a been there, done that kind of guy for App State, placing twice at the Scuffle and also qualifying twice for Nationals. He should equal both and cap a 100 win career this year. Millers the defending conference Hvwt Champ and looks to both place at the Scuffle for the first time and secure a 2nd trip to the NCAAs.

Of the 41 athletes on the Navy wrestling roster, only 5 are seniors. Only 1, 174LB team captain Spencer Carey, starts. Carey is seeded 3rd. Teammates 165LB Tanner Skidgel and 141LB Cody Trybus are seeded 2nd and 7th, respectively. Navy fought their way to a 4th place podium finish last year, their 15th Scuffle appearance. Only two placewinners out of 5 return, though, Skidgel and 125LB Aslan Kilic, and Kilics been bumped by Logan Treaster. Freshman 197LB Jacob Koser leads the team in wins with 8. Navys had 3 weeks to tune up, so they should arrive rested. Its a young Midshipman team coming to Chattanooga, and one that needs some seasoning. They might be a bit overmatched at the Scuffle and the EIWAs this year, but Coach Joel Sharratt will have them ready and willing. The able may take another years seasoning.

Air Force has had some off time as well, last wrestling at the CKLV. The Falcons opened the 2019-2020 campaign with a great showing at the Mountaineer Invite and a Top 10 finish at the Navy Classic. Nearly a dozen wrestlers on AFAs massive roster boast double digit win totals, and 3 Falcons are landing in Chattanooga as top 8 seeds. 125LB Sidney Flores, 141LB Lenny Petersen, and 285LB Kayne Hutchison are good bets to score some points, and don’t be suprised to see both Flores and Hutchison battling for a podium placement on day 2.

Cal St. Bakersfield had a great Top 10 showing at last years Scuffle, and Coach Manny Riveras BakersfieldBoyz truly bring a West Coast style to Chattanooga. The Roadrunners entire 31 man roster lists California as their home state. They were Cali proud in a big way in 2019 as well, taking the Golden States unofficial College wrestling title. The ‘Runners swept Stanford, Cal Poly, Fresno St. and Cal Baptist. CSU-B had a fair showing at their own RoadRunner Open this year with 4 top 3 finishes but no champs. They are also coming in well rested as the ‘Runners last mat action was the CKLV first weekend of December. 133LB Chance Rich and 149LB Russell Rohlfing are both seeded 4th in their respective weight classes. 197LB Dominic Ducharme, a suprise 2019 National qualifier at 184, could make a bit of noise as well.

Drexel, after a successful West Coast road trip, is bringing 14 Dragons down to Chatt-town, perhaps hoping for a Top 15 finish. That’s made more difficult by the absence of quality heavyweight Sean O’Malley, reasons not known. The 285LB O’Malley was seeded 6th. Younger, smaller brother Michael, who finished 7th last year at the Scuffle and comes in unseeded, will have to pick up the slack. The little, relatively speaking, O’Malley, Drexels lone returning Scuffle medalist, is one of 3 Dragons who’ve been nationally ranked most of the season. 157LB Parker Kropman and 165LB Ebed Jarrell are having fine seasons. Jarrell and 133LB Chandler Olson are both seeded 8th, and Jarrell, the #badmadreptile,(f) would enjoy equaling that. Besides nationals, the Scuffle was the only tournament Ebed didn’t place at last season.

SOCON SHOOTS FOR MORE SCUFFLE SUCCESS

6 total SoCon wrestlers enter the Scuffle as seeded athletes. Chattanooga, App State and wsuprising VMI have 2 each in the Top 8. The Keydets 174LB star Neal Richards and 285LB Chris Beck have had a good go of it so far, Beck more than expected, Richards, well, perhaps less. Beck and fellow SoCon Heavy Mike MacAleavey of the Citadel should win matches at the Scuffle. Ditto for Citadel 165LB Dazjon “Cheese” Casto, who came within 1 match of placing at the CKLV. Theres a trio of Davidson Wildcats who have points potential as well, 285LB Mitchell Trigg, Connor Fenn, whos been at both 197 and 184, and 133LB Kyle Gorant. Fenn, Hunter Costa and Noah Satterfield are the only senior Wildcats departing after this season. But, with only an 18 man roster, that’s a lot to lose. With Andy Lausier, Joey Dance and Chad Walsh coachin n ‘cruitin’ there will be a Wildcats uprising sometime soon. Just not this soon. Gardner-Webb can pretty much only go up from last years 23rd place, 8 points Scuffle showing. They’ll need multiple wins from multiple wrestlers to do so, though. 165LB RJ Mosley can deliver some, and 125LB Will Edmiston has shown flashes. Ditto for 197LB Roderick Davis. GW can get to a double digit point total with a total team effort, and 10 points or a more will be a very good showing. Hopefully they’re past the injuries and illness that plagued them in the seasons 1st half. The current conference tournament champ, Campbell, put their holiday week efforts into the Midlands, and it paid off with 1 finalist, 3 medal winners, and a 14th place showing. Down from last years Top 10 result, and a slight disappointment in 165LB Quentin Perez and 285LB Jere Heino not placing, but good work nonetheless. As to conference newcomer Presbyterian, the decision has been made to skip the Scuffle. Probably, for a first year team, a wise decision.

So there you have it, a fairly informative look see at the Southern Scuffle presented by Compound Clothing. SO much more to write but tempes fugit, so go if you can, and may all your Scuffle dreams end with your raised.

See you next week! Ted Carreras

a. Read about the gathered (some say stole) billions and billions of dollars in everything from ancient statuary to gold bars far too heavy for a young Norman Schwartzkopf to even budge, in the late generals amazing autobiography “It Doesn’t take a Hero.”

b. Thank you, Intermat, for early and accurate information as always.

c. The color, not the bird. Surely you knew that BY NOW.

d. Still think Jack Nicholson should have curb stomped that punk Tom Cruise in “A Few Good Men.” If not for Cruises 17 Scientology bodyguards, probably would have, too.

e. The Scribe retains Jerzeytalk birth rights. Monmouth Junction. A long time ago.

f. Hit the WAY BACK bad movie button for this nicknames inspiration, the grotesque, incredibly cheesy yet loveable Bat-Rat-Spider-Crab from the 1960 schlockfest The Angry Red Planet. Sometimes the mind just goes places.

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