By Chandler Morrison, Chattanooga, Tenn., The wrestling team dropped a close 19-16 decision saturday as they wel- comed Pac-12 powerhouse Stanford to Chattanooga.
In a contest that came down to the last match, the fans at Maclellan Gym were on edge with the possibility that UTC could pull off the upset against a power-five opponent. Ultimately, the Mocs would fall, but according to head coach Heath Eslinger, neither team was at their peak this early in the season.
“We had some guys out of the line- up for various reasons,” Eslinger said. “They had some guys out of the lineup for various reason, so I don’t think you saw either team’s best. That’s the way it goes. We had our chance to win, and we missed it, so we have to figure out a way to get better.”
The Mocs, though, did not walk away without individual victories as they split the ten matches with the Cardinal and came away with a win in a match against nationally ranked wrestlers.
As No. 20 ranked Jared Johnson, Jefferson City, Mo., took the mat with Stanford’s 13th-ranked Nathan But- ler in the 285-pound weight class, it seemed as though the Mocs were again underdogs based on rankings alone. Johnson, though, would battle in a close affair as he almost pinned Butler in the second period before ultimately taking the 4-2 victory in the final match of the midday affair.
“That’s a great win for Jared,” Es- linger said. “It’s a signature win for him. We’re alright. I don’t like to lose, but three-year-olds don’t like to lose. The question is what are we going to do about it. Great win for him, though.”
Also tied up in a close match was Alonzo Allen, Conyers, Ga., who would lose the first spar of the day, 4-3, in the 125-pound weight class. After a great escape in the second period, it seemed as if Allen was destined to take the victory, but ultimately, his opponent, Conner Schram, took over near the end with some crucial moves that gave him the extra point to win it.
“I don’t think [Allen] ran out of gas,” Eslinger said. “I think he ran out of emotions. You’ve got to manage that. His gas tank is his gas tank, but you’ve got to manage it. You only get tired when you let that guy wrestle his match. We wrestled our match, and halfway through it, we let him wrestle his match and it cost us. We have to wrestle our match the entire time.”
The Cardinal would go on a three-match streak before hitting the heavier weights where Chattanooga had two nationally ranked wrestlers who both got wins in their respective matches including 20th-ranked John- son and 14th-ranked Scottie Boykin who won by five against Stanford’s Michael Sojka in the 197-pound weight class.
Cleveland, Tenn., native Chris Debien, though, might have had the upset of the day in the 133-pound weight class, defeating Stanford soph- omore Mason Pengilly in the his first collegiate match, 8-3. Penally fought hard and kept the match family even through the second period before Debien stepped up in the third to earn five unanswered points.
“It’s big for Debien to start out with a big win as a true freshman,” Eslinger said. “He’s a stud, and he does the right things, and he’s going to continue to get better. He’s young, but chronologically, he’s very mature in his wrestling, in his life, and his ac- ademics. Chronological age doesn’t mean a lot. Not in college athletics. Not in life.”
After a successful rebound at the Hokie Open in Blacksburg, Va. on Sunday in which four Mocs placed, the Mocs will be back on the mats at Maclellan Gym on Nov. 14 against Cumberland and Southeastern University.