By Eric Sisson, Chattanooga, Tenn., —The wrestling team took a break from conference play on Sunday as they hosted The Oklahoma Sooners in a packed Maclellan Gym.
Despite giving up an early advantage, the Mocs prevailed over the Sooners 19-16.
“Great match” head coach Heath Eslinger said. “A lot of fun for the fans, athletes, coaches, and everybody here. That is what sporting events are about. Kudos to the fans here in Chattanooga coming out in full force.”
Senior Sean Boyle, Lowell, Mass., gave the Mocs their first victory of the day in the 125 weight class by a score of 8-3.
After the Sooners gained the lead 4-3 after a major decision in the 133, UTC sophomore Michael Pongracz, Milford N.J., and Shawn Greevy a senior out of Mechanicsburg, Pa. gave the Mocs the lead once again at 9-4.
It was at this time the Sooners took control of the match by a score of 16-9 heading into the final three matches. Eslinger and his team knew that the match was far from over.
“It’s not over until the heavyweights are done,” Eslinger said.
Sophomore McCoy Newberg, Franklin, Tenn., started the comeback for UTC by earning a major decision in the 184 which drew the Mocs within just three points of the Sooners.
Scottie Boykin, a sophomore from Murfreesboro, Tenn., knew going into his match that he had to come away victorious to give his team a chance.
“I knew I had to win, but I wasn’t putting any pressure on myself,” Boykin said. “I knew I had to go out there and wrestle my match. I have been in this situation before.”
Boykin held his opponent scoreless the first two periods, but he couldn’t gain an advantage. After falling 1-0, Boykin tied the score with 45 seconds remaining in the final period. The score remained the same as the clock ticked to zero forcing overtime. Boykin, with the crowd behind him chanting his name, scored a takedown just 13 seconds into the overtime period which was enough to tie the team score at 16.
“I just had to be smart with what I did,” Boykin said. “I knew I could beat him. I just had to be smart and wait for my chance. The crowd played a big part. When the crowd is in it, I am more into it. I feed off of that energy.”
The heavyweight matchup ended up being a winner take all bout. Sophomore Jared Johnson, Jefferson City, Mo., jumped out to a quick 7-2 lead, but Sooner Ross Larson battled back to tie the score at nine with just over 40 seconds remaining.
Despite giving up the lead much like the team in the early going, Johnson would hold on giving him and the Mocs the win.
“It is a game of inches,” Eslinger said. “We say that when we lose, and we say that when we win. Sometimes it comes out in your favor, and we are ecstatic it came out in our favor today.”
The Mocs have now won nine matches in a row with one more remaining before beginning the SoCon Conference tournament. UTC looks to ride that momentum into the post-season.
“It is about winning,” Eslinger said about continuing the teams momentum into the postseason. “You have to get into the habit of winning. We have to be secure in our confidence that we are in the habit of winning.”
“It is definitely a big win” Boykin said. “We have been blowing through our conference. It is nice to get a good, tough look before we head into the conference and the national tournament.”