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Preseason Preview: Pair of Top 10 stars should lead The Citadel to SoCon title
Editor’s Note: This is part of WIN’s preseason look at all ten NCAA Division I wrestling conference.
Qualifying Tournament for the NCAA:
March 9, 2013 @ Virginia Military Institute (VMI) in Lexington, Va.
Last Year’s Southern Conference Championship Finish in Chattanooga, Tenn.:
1. Chattanooga, 102; 2 (tie). Appalachian State and The Citadel, 72.5; 4. Campbell, 65; 5. VMI, 25.5; 6. Gardner-Webb, 21; 7. Davidson, 6.5.
Last Year’s SoCon Performance in the NCAA Tournament:
Four of the seven conference teams competed in last year’s Nationals: led by Appalachian State’s 21st place, thanks in large part to the SOCON’s two All-Americans as a conference in senior Austin Trotman (third at 184), and Kyle Blevins (fourth at 165). This finish was considered the No. 1 Memorable Moment among all sports of the North Carolina school in 2011-12. The other three SoCon schools which competed in the NCAAs were The Citadel (48th), Chattanooga (51st) and Campbell (59th). VMI, Gardner-Webb and Davidson did not qualify a wrestler to compete in St. Louis last March.
WIN’S 2012-13 SOCON TEAM RACE PREDICTION
1. The Citadel — For the first time in Citadel wrestling history, two Bulldogs are ranked in the top 10 nationally in WIN’s preseason poll in seniors Turtogtokh Luvsandorj (9th at 174) and Odie Delaney (10th at heavyweight). Both wrestlers won Southern Conference championships at their respective weight classes a season ago and competed at the 2012 NCAAs. Luvsandorj, a native of Ulaanbaatar, Mongolia, finished 31-10 in 2012 and upset No. 10 seed Te Edwards of Old Dominion in St. Louis. Delaney, a native of Santa Rosa Beach, Fla., has competed in three national tournaments and — after redshirting in 2011 — finished in the Round of 12 last March. Coach Rob Hjerling begins his 14th year with the Bulldogs.
2. Chattanooga — Three of five NCAA representatives return from last year’s Southern Conference team championship — the 26th in school history — for third-year coach Heath Eslinger. The most notable of last year’s Moc team is true sophomore Nick Soto, who qualified for his first NCAA with a 25-8 record at 133 pounds. Also returning with NCAA experience is 149-pound senior Dean Pavlou (20-11) and 174-pound junior Levi Clemons (20-16). Chattanooga should get some national attention the first of the year in 2013 when the school plays host to the Southern Scuffle (Jan. 1-2) when Penn State, Cornell, Minnesota and Oklahoma State are expected to compete.
3. Campbell — Coach Joe Boardwine, who is in his third year with the Camels after serving as an associate executive director with the NHSCA and head coach at Walsh-Jesuit High School in Ohio, sent one wrestler, 197-pound John Weakley, to last year’s NCAAs and is looking to find another national-level wrestler. Fortunately for Boardwine, he should be able to find someone among the five young wrestlers who were named to the Southern Conference’s All-Freshman team last year: 174-pound James Cook of Madera, Calif., 149-pound Mark Hartenstine of Easton, Pa., 157-pound Ryan Krecker of Nazareth, Pa., heavyweight Joe Nolan of Jackson, N.J., and 141-pound Joey Rizzolino of Easton, Pa.
4. Appalachian State — Both Austin Trotman and Kyle Blevins — the first ASU All-Americans since 2003 and the first pair since 1941 — have graduated; leaving coach JohnMark Bentley with no returning NCAA participants. Among the most notable freshmen is 125-pound Vito Pasone, a native of Wilkes-Barre, Pa., where he was a runner-up in the 2012 Pennsylvania state tournament and won last year’s NHSCA national championship. Meanwhile, 149-pound freshman Dylan Cottrell who posted 181 wins against just four losses in his high school career at Roane County in Spencer, W.Va., and was named O.W. in last year’s state championship.
5. VMI — The Keydets are hosting this year’s SoCon tournament and coach John Trudgeon, who became the VMI coach in 1985, hopes to send someone to this year’s Nationals after failing to do so in 2012. Among the most notable candidates are junior heavyweight Andrew Embree (20-6 last year) and 165-pound sophomore Carry Joseph (16-16).
6. Gardner-Webb — Senior Travis Porter, who finished third in last year’s SoCon tournament at 197 pounds, is considered the best bet among the Runnin’ Bulldogs to earn a spot in this year’s NCAAs. Last year, he finished 15-12 in the school’s first year in the Southern Conference, but was 24-16 two years ago when the native of Burton, Ohio, earned an NCAA berth after winning the NCAA Eastern Regional. Otherwise, the most notable story for Gardner-Webb is the promotion of Daniel Elliott as head coach, to replace Dick Wince, who retired after 22 seasons.
7. Davidson — After sending the first wrestler in 12 years to the NCAAs in 2010, when Alex Radsky won the school’s first SoCon championship in 41 years, coach Bob Patnesky hopes to find some magic this season. The only returning wrestler with a winning record last year was 184-pound junior Scott Patrick (12-3, with six pins) while two other returning wrestlers earned double-digit wins last year: 125-pound senior Matt Zarth (11-16) and 141-pound sophomore Kevin Birmingham (14-15).