Penn State won its fourth Southern Scuffle title in as many years, distancing itself from the field during the second day of action at the University of Tennessee at Chattanooga. The Nittany Lions were followed by Oklahoma State (164.5), Minnesota (161.0), Cornell (114.5) and Missouri (102.5) in the top-5.
The Mocs finished 16th in the 34-team field that included 10 of the top-25 ranked programs in the nation. Junior Nick Soto led Chattanooga with a fourth place showing at 133 pounds, his second career top-4 finish at the Scuffle.
Soto started Day 2 in the quarterfinals against third-seeded David Thorn. Soto knocked off Thorn in 2012 on his way to finish second at the Scuffle as a freshman. This time around, Thorn had the upper hand, scoring a 10-2 major decision in the morning action.
Soto then went to work on the back draw, scoring three big wins. He defeated fifth-seed Shelton Mack of Pittsburg (8-2), Missouri’s Matt Manley (4-1) and Central Michigan’s fourth-seeded Joe Roth (6-5). He scored a takedown with 20 seconds left to secure the win against Roth.
That run put him in the third place match in the medal rounds tonight. Unfortunately, for him it was against Thorn for the second time. Thorn had Soto’s number this time around, scoring a 17-2 technical fall as the horn sounded. Despite the loss, it was a great two days of action for the Chattanooga junior.
“I am happy with today’s finish,” added Soto who is the reigning Southern Conference Wrestler of the Week. “You always want more but you just have to go out, wrestle your hardest and let the chips fall where they are going to fall.”
Cornell freshman Gabe Dean highlighted the individuals with the win of the tournament at 184 pounds. Seeded third and ranked No. 7 coming into the tournament, he knocked off Penn State’s top-ranked and No. 1 seeded senior Ed Ruth 7-4. He also scored a 2-1 win over Minnesota’s No. 4 Kevin Steinhaus in the semifinals, earning the Most Outstanding Wrestler Award from the coaches in attendance.
Ruth was one of seven top-ranked wrestlers competing at this year’s Scuffle, but was not the only No. 1 to get knocked off. Missouri’s Drake Houdasheldt, No. 3 at 149, pinned top-ranked Nick Dardanes of Minnesota to win the title.
Cornell’s Nahshon Garrett, who just took over the top spot at 125 yesterday, plowed through a tough field to win his first title. He defeated Penn State’s Nico Megaludis 6-4 in the finals.
Cowboy senior Jon Morrison defended his Scuffle title with a win 133. He was also elevated to No. 1 yesterday before defeating Penn State’s James Guilbon in the finals.
Freshman Zain Retherford put Penn State on the champions’ podium with his win at 141. Virginia’s Joseph Spisak scored an upset over top-seeded Chris Dardanes (5-2) in the semifinals. The finals were the first of two to go to extra time with Retherford scoring a takedown for a 6-4 victory.
Oklahoma State sophomore Alex Dieringer also needed overtime to win at 157. He defeated Kent State’s Ian Miller 2-1 in extra action. The eighth-ranked Miller got to the finals by defeating No. 6 Kyle Bradley of Missouri (8-3) in the quarters and Minnesota’s No. 3 Dylan Ness (Fall 0:45) in the semis.
Penn State senior David Taylor had a very impressive tournament, scoring bonus points in each of his five wins. He posted a 9-1 major decision over Oklahoma State’s second-ranked Tyler Caldwell to win his third Scuffle crown.
Senior Chris Perry was Oklahoma State’s third winner with his repeat performance at 197. The 2013 National Champion took out Penn State’s Matt Brown 4-0 in a rematch of last year’s NCAA finals.
Minnesota won the last two weight classes, beginning with Scott Schiller’s victory at 197. He defeated Iowa State’s Kyven Gadsen 6-3 in the finals. Two-time NCAA Champion and 2012 Scuffle winner Tony Nelson capped off the evening with a 1-0 win over N.C. State’s Nick Gwiazdowski at heavyweight.
The 2014 Southern Scuffle, presented by Defense Soap and Flips Wrestling, was a resounding success at the turnstiles. The two-day attendance total of 6,330 smashed last year’s record of 5,399. A new single-day record was set with 3,436 attending Day 2.
“I think things are bigger and better,” said UTC head coach Heath Eslinger. “There are so many people involved who make this event possible. The administration, wrestling fans that volunteer and the arena workers — it really takes a citywide effort to pull off an event of this caliber in this way. I think we pulled it off with excellence and we did it the right way.”
The Mocs are back in action Jan. 10-11 when they will travel to Hampton Virginia for the Hampton Duals. UTC’s final home match of the year is Sunday, Feb. 2 against Appalachian State at 2 p.m. in Maclellan Gym. Tickets for the SoCon showdown are on sale now on GoMocs.com or by calling the UTC Ticket Office at 423-266-MOCS (6627).