By Chandler Morrison, Staff Writer —
Chattanooga wrestling is used to its experienced veterans placing high at its annual Southern Scuffle tournament, but three veterans in particular, seniors Scottie Boykin Murfreesboro, Tennessee, Bryce Carr, Dublin, Georgia, and Chad Pyke, McDonough, Georgia, took unusual paths on the road to this year’s Southern Scuffle.
And even though all three of them wrestled in 2017’s Southern Scuffle, you may not have recognized two of them or their singlets at McKenzie Arena a year ago, at least at first sight.
Lurking in the shadows of his team’s roster during the 2016-17 season as a redshirt, Boykin competed in the Southern Scuffle unattached to Chattanooga. Being unattached from UTC’s roster meant that he was independent with no coaches allowed in his corner, and that his wins, losses, pins, and decisions didn’t count toward the Mocs’ team points in the tournament.
“I’m a family guy, so I like it when we’re in their corner,” Head Coach Heath Eslinger said. “I like it when we’re there battling for him. I’m glad he’s back from his redshirt this season.”
In fact at last year’s tournament, Boykin wasn’t even in a Mocs uniform in the midst of a de facto home match with roughly 3,000 fans in attendance.
“Last year, I had the flu, and I was redshirting,” Boykin explained. “I honestly felt like I was wrestling for nothing. I was wearing a singlet from home. No coach in the corner. You can’t challenge. You feel alone out there, isolated with all these people out here.”
The feeling for Boykin this time around though, as he finished 5th in the last Southern Scuffle of his college wrestling career, was much different.
“This year, I had that Power C on,” Boykin continued. “I had the whole crowd cheering for me. I just felt like I had a lot to wrestle for this time around. It gave me a lot of meaning. I was feeling kind of down this morning, feeling a little sorry for myself, but I had so much support today.”
Before finishing third in the Scuffle for the second straight year, Carr won a NJCAA National Championship at Darton State, curving around the traditional four-year route to spend his last two years wrestling at Chattanooga.
“Junior college really just opened my eyes up,” Carr said. “It made me really be thankful for being here at UTC. Honestly, junior college is tough. Being on your own and training on your own pretty much, and then coming here, you have a Scottie Boykin and a Chad Pyke to train alongside you. I’m just thankful and blessed for that.
Pyke didn’t finish at a podium in this year’s Scuffle, but he, like Boykin, wore a different singlet this time last year. Pyke transferred from NC State—where he placed 7th in the last year’s Southern Scuffle—to Chattanooga in the offseason to pursue a graduate degree and wrestle under the Power C.
“It’s awesome when these guys mesh in the locker room like that,” Eslinger added. “Because you all have one vision. We’re all driving to the same place. We might take turns driving. We might sit in different seats, but we’re all headed to the same place.”
And though there might be a few detours along the way, Chattanooga wrestling continues to impress on a national stage. For such an unorthodox, at times, wrestling program, it’s fitting that some of its leaders are anything but ordinary.