By Wendy Jiang, Wrestling Beat Writer
The year is coming to an end, and all excitement is leading up to one of the greatest college wrestling tournaments to ring in another year: The Southern Scuffle.
The wrestling tournament is often called, “The Rose Bowl of Wrestling” in which it is played during the first and second days of the year. The tournament showcases 25 teams from across the country; many of the wrestlers who place in the scuffle are often ranked at the NCAA Wrestling Championships Tournament that takes place in March.
The 2019 Southern Scuffle is the 16th annual edition of the tournament and is hosted at the McKenzie Arena at the University of Tennessee at Chattanooga. However, UTC was not the founder of the tournament. The Southern Scuffle was previously held at the University of North Carolina Greensboro. Seven years ago, UNC dropped its wrestling program because the administrators believed that the funds could’ve been used in other parts of the athletic program. With the loss of the wrestling program came the loss of the only major college wrestling tournament in the South.
UTC’s very own, former coach, Heath Eslinger, then decided to pursue the scuffle and eventually acquired the tournament to be hosted at UTC. Some of the nationally ranked teams that attend the scuffle include: Penn State (defending NCAA Champions), N.C. State (4), Virginia Tech (7), Oklahoma State (13), Lehigh (15), Lock Haven (16) and Duke (22). This event features multiple individual national champions, many All-Americans and many who qualified for last year’s NCAA Tournament.
“This is my first time attending the Southern Scuffle,” said new UTC head coach Kyle Ruschell. “I know how good the Southern Scuffle is and how well it’s ran. There’s a lot of really good teams competing so I’m excited.”
In the 2018 Southern Scuffle, UTC finished 11th, the highest the Mocs has ever ranked in the tournament. Coach Ruschell hopes to expect the 2019 Mocs to live up to the expectation.
“In every dual meet and every tournament, I’m excited for our guys to compete. Every week they’re busting their butts in the wrestling room,” said Coach Ruschell. “That’s the time to reap the benefits. This is another opportunity to show how good our guys but also to grow and get better.”
Flowrestling will live stream every match of the tournament for the seventh year in a row. The Scuffle is also utilizing FloArena software which updates scores across various mats simultaneously. The event is built off the combined action of a group of people, such as Compound Sportswear, the Chattanooga Sports Committee and FloWrestling
“We’ve had a couple meetings here and there. My main focus is making sure teams arrive safely, but there is so much more that goes into it. From making sure the wrestling mats get here to Flow Wrestling live streaming the event. Administration has done a great job at handling the workers.”
The 2019 Scuffle attendance in Chattanooga is estimated to be between 2,800 and 3,300.
“I’m excited to see the Chattanooga crowd come out and support our wrestlers and wrestling in general,” expressed Coach Ruschell. “It’s a big event. 25 full teams and a few partial teams are coming to Chattanooga.”
The tournament will take place on January 1-2 at the McKenzie Arena. Tickets can be purchased online on GoMocs.com or by calling the UTC Ticket Office at (423) 266-MOCS (6627).