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