3rd Season, Column 25; Its the Title, not the Tarheel State; Princeton scratches their Ivy Itch; Medium Notes on the Big Boys; ‘Cue the Local Angle; and SoCon News

RALEIGH, BUIES CREEK, CHAPEL HILL AND BOONE STAKE CLAIMS AS WRESTLINGS SOUTHERN EPICENTER

Have there ever been headier moments in the state of North Carolinas college wrestling history? One might have to look far to find this many teams reaching this level of success the same season. In the span of about 10 days Campbell, NC State, App State and UNC locked down regular season conference titles or runner up positions in the SoCon and the ACC. Cary Kolats Camels beat App State 20-13. Against the Mountaineers the score was 16-13 heading into the last match. Coach Kolat mentioned in a post match interview(1) that the Camels knew, with a loss, the teams were headed to a contest decided by criteria. Nationally ranked 133LB Noah Gonser, the senior transfer from the assassinated Eastern Michigan program, made sure that didn’t happen. His 11-2 major decision win over defending conference champion Codi Russell locked down the 9th win of the season for the Camels. Kolats crew got a second MD victory from 184LB Andrew Morgan to help offset the Mountaineers Matt Zovitovskis MD over scrappy Matt Dallara. Even bigger, the Camels took both of the matches decided by 1 point. 5 of Campbells wrestlers are unbeaten in conference action. After the 38-6 weekend win over VMI Campbell will finish with no worse than a tie for first. They’ll finish first as they will send Davidson to their 6th straight defeat to close the regular season for both teams. Campell will be 11-2 this year having only lost to Top 10 ranked Pitt and Top 5 ranked Arizona State. And the team Campbell beat out for this years crown? Appalachian State is 8-3 and a prohibitive favorite over VMI in the Mountaineers last dual. Top 15 Campbell, Top 10 UNC and Top 5 NC ST are the only teams to beat the Mountaineers this year. Only the undefeated WolfPack won by double digits over App State, and for the 2nd straight year the ‘Eers will host the SoCon tournament. Meanwhile, the Tar Heels secured their place in the ACC silver seat, rebounding from their loss to NC ST by toppling fellow Top 10 conference foe Pitt. At 13-2 UNC faces 2 formidable foes to finish the regular season. The conference road match against Virginia, followed by a two days later meeting with Arizona State, is a brutal run to the finish for Coach Coleman Scotts Tar Heels. Except that NO ONE in Carolina Blue feels like this season will end anywhere short of the Tar Heels highest national finish in a quarter century. UNC is young with only 157LB AC Headlee leaving after this year. The final 4th of this Fab 4, NC State, sits on the precipice of team history. They are 14-0 with 3 straight Top 10 wins. Unless the meteor hits or the coronavirus ravages Raleigh, the WolfPack will make swift work of Duke and finish as one of just 2 unbeaten teams in the country. Special times indeed for “The Title State”.

WHEELBARROW, SCRIPT GET FLIPPED AMONGST THE IVY

The unvarnished truth, a 92 match win streak, and an 18 year record were all broken a short week or so back as Chris Ayres Princeton Tigers short circuited the Iron Giant of the Ivy League. Princeton’s 19-13 triumph over Rob Kolls mighty Cornell squad broke the Big Reds near double decade on the Ivy League wrestling title and an unbeaten streak nearly 100 league contests long. It also validated, in its own way, BOTH coaches unwavering dedication to the sport and their athletes. Ayres decade long plus struggles to raise the Tigers from far below wrestlings Mendoza line to League Championship and Top 10 status deserves more than news stories.(2) Somebody somewhere needs to make a damn movie or a 3 act play out of this saga, folks. Or both. While Princetons future is unwritten but appears very shiny and the past is a pain filled lesson their present can barely fit under the National Christmas Tree. The Tigers have tangled with superpowers OK ST and Iowa and held their own as well as anyone and better than most. It’s going to get even better now that 3X AA Matt “MK Ultra” Kolodzik is out of his Olympic redshirt and on course for a 149LB title run. Thought here remains that that weight class is UNCs Austin O’Connors to lose, but Kolodzik may just alter that reality. As to the coach on the opposite side of this year’s epic Ivy League showdown, note this…how many coaches would assist 4 out their 10 starters in passing on the same season for pursuit of potential Olympic glory? Cornells Rob Koll did just that with this years squad. Más kudos to the wrestling CEO of Ithaca, both doing what’s best for his team of young stallions and betting on BIG returns next year.

MEDIUM NOTES ON THE BIG BOYS

Iowa is unbeaten. They won the BIG10 regular season title with a close win against Penn State and far far far away wins over everybody else. After winning the title Coach Brands gave them t-shirts and they kept moving forward. Their team trainer said they were her team and she was proud of them. Maybe one of them is. Her team, that is. If they get married their kids will probably be Iowa wrestlers, don’t you think?

Penn State lost 2 close matches, to Iowa and Arizona State. They had far far far away wins over everybody else also, except Ohio State and Nebraska. Lots of late season lineup changes for Penn State. Whether they help change Penn States silver status back to the usual Gold this coming post season isn’t a black and white or a blue and white matter. More like Black and Gold.

Nebraska only lost to Iowa by 20. This year, most teams lost to Iowa by 30, or 40. They lost to Penn State by 2 and should have won. Now they’ve won 5 straight. If they beat Minnesota they’ll finish the regular season in the Top 5. If Isaiah White has two healthy ankles and the team has 1 healthy heavyweight they will finish Top 5 in the Nation.

The Ohio State University wears more Black than Scarlet and Gray lately. All those nifty new unis dont guarantee any more Gold for their wearers, or their team. Maybe they need another Gas Tank or two to keep them on the road to the podium in Minneapolis.

NC State-see the first paragraph. The #AmericanWerewolves are looking for a pack member to stand out at 149 and step up at 197. Everywhere else, look out. This entire team returns next season. How do you better unbeaten? The Pack will hunt that answer next year.

Arizona State said this year would be their year 5 years ago when the Sun Devils invited the nations best recruiting class to Tempe. Those young men were smart and accepted. Those young men are smarter, better, and seniors now. Catch Jason Bryant’s long form interview with 3XAA, 2X National Champ Zahid Valencia for some fun Sun Devils stuff. This year JBs pretty much the only one having any kind of fun when the Sun Devils come to town. ASU is 14-1, won the PAC 12 regular season title and they’ll win the tournament. That’s fun, Sun Devils style. AND you can wear shorts on their campus in season. OUTDOORS.

UNC-see the first paragraph. The Tar Heels are in negotiations to rent a spot in the Top 15 with an option to buy Top 10. Some heavy hitters from Tempe are bringing a deal to Chapel Hill that may be too pricey this year, but the market is volatile. Expect Carolina blue to be a dominant shade of that color as long as Coleman Scott and co. are stirring the paint pots.

Oklahoma State won the Southern Scuffle by 7 over NC State. They won The Bedlam dual against in-state, in-conference, under the skin rival Oklahoma twice. They beat MAC Champ Missouri and Top 10 ranked Pitt by 20. They beat last years Big 12 conference runner up Iowa State by double digits. They’re 13-2. They’ll have multiple All Americans and should finish Top 10 in the nation. In other words, a down year in Stillwater.

Wisconsins 2020 season looks a lot like Wisconsins 2019 season. Last year they started 6-0. Same thing this year. Last year they opened BIG 10 competition with a loss. Same thing this year. Last year they had a mid season losing streak. Same thing this year. What’s different? A double digit win season. Transfers Seth Gross and Johnny Sebastian in action. A half dozen talented freshmen and redshirt freshman getting their shots early, often, and with success. Back to back Top 4 finishes at the Midlands highlighted by a titlist, Gross. Different as in better. BIG 10 tournament and NCAA Championships performances better? Most definitely. How much better? Measurably. And unless your name is Chris Bono,(3) Jon Reader, Matt McDonough, or a few other select folks, you, like the Scribe, aren’t close enough to measure Buckys improvements either.(4)

Pitts been in the Top 10 most of this season. They will finish 3rd or 4th in the ACC this year in the regular season and in the tournament and are a Top 15 threat at Nationals. The ACC is improving faster than any other conference. It’s easier to improve 6 teams than it is 12, 14, 15, or 17, but you still have to do the work. Coach Keith Gavin and his staff are. #Pinzburgh.

VA Tech, with their 3 point road loss to NC State, the career-ending injury status of Brent Moore, and absence of defending National champion Mekhi Lewis to Olympic redshirt status, has slipped a bit. Or have they? They face fellow Top 10 team Pitt on the road for 3rd place in the ACC. Win or lose Coach Tony Robies crew will send at least half the team to Minneapolis. Expect multiple All Americans from #dadirtybirdz and a bigger, badder, faster flock flying in for a podium perch in 2021.

Northern Iowas season was predicted down to a “T” in an earlier column this year. The only absence in accuracy is a sad one, as 2018 AA 197LB Jacob “Hog” Holschlags career may be over. Healthy, he was a lock for AA status and double digit points at Nationals. UNI was a Top 10 lock with him. Without him, with a bitter 2 point road loss to in state Big 12 rival Iowa State, and with a road trip season finale at tough Wisconsin looming, things look just a bit off in Cedar Falls. But not by much. Look for 5 to 7 Panthers advancing through the Big 12 Tournament to Nationals. About that Wisconsin match-how much cash money would you pay to see the dual if it included a Schwab-Bono no ref, no time limit, steel cage lumberjack chain submission match? Seriously, where’s Vince McMahon when you need him?

Iowa State has resurrected their season with a late in the year tongue lashing from Kevin Dresser and the aforementioned “Hilton magic” 2 point win over Northern Iowa. This columns All Overlooked and Underrated 285LB selection, Gannon “The Grim One” Gremmel, has done the thing for ISU all season long. He sewed up the win over UNI with a shutout victory over fast, athletic Carter Isley. As per the gracious, helpful, and resourceful Emily(5) at the Big 12 Offices in Irving, the conference does not recognize a regular season champ. Doubt that will stop the Cyclones from celebrating a bit should they finish the Big 12 slate 7-1 by breaking NDSUs 6 match win streak Sunday. There IS that little matter of a Saturday afternoon date in Columbia with old Big 8/Big 12 rival Missouri, though. Tigers AND Bison for Cyclones, oh my.

Minnesotas been streaking like a loon chasing love on Lake Superior. Or a couple of hungry Texas tourists to a table full of Abelskiver pancakes and Lingonberry jam.(6) Wins and losses have stacked up the Gophers fortunes one way and another since November, and they host Nebraska to end the BIG 10 dual meet season. It’s an 0-2 run to a finish line date with the Cornhuskers and Goldys coming off 20 and 30 point back to back beatdowns by Penn State and Iowa. Thanks SO much, BIG 10 schedule makers. Lose to Nebraska and Minnesota finishes 9-8, under .500 in conference action and limping into the BIG 10 Tournament. Not the preferred post season entrance nor the one expected after last years rebound campaign. Even pre season sure 285LB titlist-to-be Gable Steveson is not an über lock, though that’s more Michigan Hvwt Mason Parris (25-0) work than any fault on Gables part. That match didn’t happen when the teams met, regular season style. Parris was ready. Steveson, probably. More than likely.

SO COOL, SO HOT, SOCON….

The brutal regular season schedule for UTC: 8 Top 25 teams, with 2 in the Top 15 and 3 in the Top 10. That that produced an 0-7 non-conference mark so far is not suprising. Nor is the Mocs 3rd place regular season finish. This schedule was set to be the fire to forge the Mocs for a successful post season. After defeating the Citadel 39-9 UTC faces rebuilding BIG10 team Indiana and their homegrown dynamo of a coach, Angel Escobedo. Win that tough test and the Mocs will be as ready as possible for the one day expanded SoCon Tournament. 149LB Tanner Smith’s 22 wins leads the team, and the while only 4 starting Mocs have winning records, more than half will finish that way. If Mason Wallace can hold his new weight at 141 and finish strong, then 7 Mocs out of 10 will finish 2020 above .500 and 6 can return. Nary a peep all season about team Co Captain 141LB Chris Debiens season ending injury way back in November. How good it would be for him to want and be granted an extra year of eligibility. How unlikely, unfortunately, that is.

The Citadels loss to UTC was their 16th straight defeat by the Mocs, and the Bulldogs own just 3 wins in 43 tries vs. UTC. No matter. They can clinch a .500 season with a win over conference and military school rival VMI in the Bulldogs season ending match this weekend. Realistically only sophomore 165LB Dazjon “Cheese” Casto has a good shot at making it to the Nationals. Hes 21-11, but has dropped 2 consecutive conference matches. If hes seeded 4th, instead of 2nd or 3rd as deserved, he will have to wrestle 4 matches, winning 3, in about 8 hours, to even have a shot at making Nationals. OUCH. Such is the fate of those who face the top seed of a small tournament in the second round. To be fair, last time Casto and SoCon top 165LB Quentin Perez of Campbell tangled, it was a 1 point match. One more Citadel, sort of, note, its “bayar khürgeye”(7) to former Bulldogs AA Turtogtokh Luvsandorj, new Volunteer assistant Coach for Troy Nickersons crew at Northern Colorado.

VMI, who would politely acknowledge if not applaud this Citadel alumni accomplishment, are surely more focused on breaking their current 8 match losing streak. It all hinges on the 1 day, 2 team South Carolina showdown with the Citadel at noon, and a ride to Clinton for a 6 pm tangle with Presbyterian. The Keydets can win both, lose both, or split. The choice is theirs. Not so in the season ender the next day at App State. That’s a loss. The benefit of this scheduling is getting VMI star “Nasty” Neal Richards ready for a run at AA status, and toughening youngsters Job Chisko and Zach Brown to challenge for a SoCon podium spot. Seniors Chris Beck and Max Gallahan face an overabundance of talent and a dearth of available National qualifying spots for their weight classes. Que Lastima, but fortunately for ALL of us, the young men at these institutions are ALL big time winners in life. Glad they’re on our side!

Gardner Webbs 5th win of the year was their 4th in a row, and it was a sweet double digit defeat of in state, in conference small school rival Davidson. The Runnin’ Bulldogs are 2 matches in 2 duals away from a winning record this year, quite a showing for Coach Daniel Elliott’s bunch. They wont beat mid level MAC powers Buffalo or Ohio on the road this weekend, but G-W looks about as good as they can get coming down the stretch. As has been the case all season RS Freshman 165LB RJ Mosley and 197/285LB “swing” big man Roderick Davis have led the dog pack. Mosley is in a tough but manageable wt. class come SoCon tournament time, especially if he can secure the 2nd or 3rd seed. Davis won’t make it to Nationals at 285, but he can make a case at 197 with a finals berth. The NC State transfer has the goods to challenge Campbells Chris Kober, and Davis hung tough with VMIs All Academy finalist Zach Brown in a 3 point loss. No ones beating UTCs Rodney Jones but…a true 2nd place at 197 has at least a long shot for an at large bid. Davis is NOT getting past nationally ranked heavies Jere Heino or Cary Miller, though. Period. 1st, 2nd, or 3rd. While only Mosleys guaranteed a winning record this year, the 2020 wrestling season is already in the plus column in Boiling Springs.

Davidson will finish the regular season with 3 wins and a 6 match losing streak. That’s 7 losses in a row less and 1 win more than 2019. Small steps in the right direction for the small NC school with the massive entrance requirements, cost, and in state/regional competition for talent. Freshman 125LB Cian Fischer is the only Wildcat with a realistic chance at a winning record either in conference or overall this year. A reset, easier non conference schedule, an expanded roster with upgraded talent and another full off season of progress could nudge these Cats towards respectability. Cats, especially wild ones, will do what they want. Lets see if Davidsons willing to grind yet another 8 months to start seeing some results. Their coaches, Andy Lausier, Joey Dance, and Chad Walsh, can and will get them there. Do they want to make the trip?

Presbyterians 1st trip around the block has been fairly impressive all things considered. They won a match and were competitive in one or two others. They could possibly upset VMI this weekend, but it would take a heroic home mat effort and a bit of a collapse on the Keydets part. Success in the 2020-2021 season should be measured by fielding a full team for every dual, planning two combined Mens and womens events to highlight their unique D1 status, and starting a home and home with the Little Rock Trojans. Some things are so obvious. Speaking of obvious, Director of Wrestling Mark Cody, will you use some of your connections to help connect Little Rock to the SoCon? Like they belong in the PAC 12? That union could have given Zsa Zsa Gabor “marriage of convenience” lessons.

‘CUE THE LOCAL ANGLE…

At that pretty special San Antonio pit stop for pit meats, fine sides, good salads and better customers the wrestling community of South TX dropped by Saturday and Sunday for a post Regional celebratory chowdown. Most prominent in numbers and enthusiasm were, again, those Purple clad Panthers from down Weslaco way. Coach Rolando Becerras sturdy crew are sending two to the TX State Tournament this year but everybody got a fine, full of good food and good luck sendoff. Revisit Coach Bs spot on honesty on the values our sport imports and the challenges of educating a small, deep South Texas community about wrestling in his interview in an earlier column this season. Then cheer on the Panthers! As to our local San Antonio mat stars, Johnson HS State qualifier 128LB Shyla Doolittle and family came by and regaled the Scribe with the Lady Jaguars Regional exploits. 95LB Ashlee Messer and 102LB Mikayla Herber will join Shyla at States, giving San Antonio Johnson a formidable lightweight presence. Look for these ladies to do brave things, and if you see Johnson Coach Lee Miller, please tell him we are now looking forward to a post States recap at the restaurant. Interview on him, dessert on us. If that’s U.I.L. kosher, of course. Next weeks column will feature a look see at many of the Region 4 stars headed to State, and hopefully an update from some if not most of our area coaches.

See you next week!

Ted Carreras

(1) Excellent post match audio/video from @gocamelswrestle on Twitter.

(2) Bill Evans from NJ Advance Media/NJ.com was the bomb-diggity descriptor for this epic match

(3) The Scribe has grown from casual to avid Chris Bono fan since first viewing him in his days starring for the Bolles School in Jacksonville.

(4) SOLID advice: do not, in any way, attempt to measure a badger. Even when they’re asleep. Because Badgers don’t sleep. They WAIT.

5. Ms. Emily made multiple calls and circled back to the Scribe with the goods in under a minute. Whatever they’re paying her, it’s not enough.

6. The Scribe and his lovely bride (2/15/90-the marriage date, not the birthday, dont get it twisted) viewed this and tasted that on a sojourn to MN late Spring 1997. RIP, Margit & Johannes, the marvelous Norwegian hosts at the now defunct Lindgrens B&B in Lutsen.

(7) Congratulations in Mongolian. Had to look it up.