Sunday was a great day for Chattanooga wrestling for a number of reasons.
First off, they pounded the Gardner-Webb Bulldogs by a 37-5 final as they closed out their home season at Maclellan Gym.
Secondly, the Mocs were able to honor eight seniors in their final home appearance and at the same time, erase the bitter taste that had been in their mouths since last Sunday when they lost a heart-breaking 18-16 match to arch-rival Appalachian State.
And last, but certainly not least, Sunday’s win evened Chattanooga’s overall record to 7-7 and improved their SoCon mark to 5-1 while awarding likable coach Heath Eslinger with his 100th career victory as the Mocs coach in nine seasons at the helm.
The Bulldogs are now 1-10 overall and 1-4 in conference action.
They aren’t competing on the same level as Chattanooga and nobody really expected this match to be close.
Tyler Marinelli was the only Bulldog who won and it was a second-period technical fall at 157 pounds that got Garner-Webb within 17-5.
The Mocs then finished the match on a high note with two regular decisions, two major decisions and a pin from heavyweight Connor Tolley to put a little icing on the cake for the winners.
“That was a pretty good match as that’s what we should do,” said Eslinger, now 53-5 in conference matches and 100-61 overall.
“I thought we were a little flat in places, but nothing we can’t fix. I thought Roman (Boylen) and Connor (Tolley) both did really well, but I just told them before the match to enjoy the little things. The biggest key is always to score more points than the other guy.
“We have to keep our energy level up and we have to stay focused emotionally as we still have several weeks of key matches ahead,” he said in between receiving handshakes and hugs for reaching the century mark in wins.
And just how significant is 100 wins here in Chattanooga?
“I think the biggest thing is resilience. If someone had told me when I first started that I would win a 100 matches, I would have said I wouldn’t be here that long, but I’ve enjoyed the relationships I’ve developed. I’m grateful to a lot of outstanding people who have helped me get to this point and I’ve also had a lot of great wrestlers who got the job done,” he added.
Gardner-Webb coach Daniel Elliott didn’t dodge any bullets with his post-match comments.
“It was real obvious that Chattanooga was ready to go and we weren’t,” he said after exiting the Bulldog dressing room.
“They were by far the better team today, but I think we’re better than that final score might indicate. They just wanted it more. They punched us and we didn’t punch back as we just weren’t ready to fight.
“I’m real proud of Tyler (Marinelli), who is our best wrestler and seems to do everything right,” Elliott nodded.
Alonzo Allen got the easiest team points of the day for the Mocs with a forfeit at 125. Chris Debien made it 9-0 with a 7-1 decision at 133 before Michael Pongracz and Boylen extended the lead to 17-0 with back-to-back major decisions.
Marinelli snapped the streak with his technical fall in 4:36 as he improved to 21-6 overall and 4-1 in SoCon matches with his win.
Chad Pyke and Justin Lampe then got the Mocs back on track with regular decisions at 165 and 174 before Bryce Carr and Scottie Boykin posted impressive major decisions as the lead stretched to 31-5.
Tolley was in a tight match with Lathan Bumgarner and was ahead 5-2 when the Chattanooga junior caught the Bulldog freshman in a bad move and pinned him with 13 seconds left in the second period.
Those eight seniors honored before the match included manager Jay Hennebaul, wrestlers Cody Hill, Dylan Forzani, Pongracz, Pyke, Lampe, Carr and Boykin.
The Mocs will wrap up their regular season with a match against Campbell next Saturday afternoon before going to Charleston, S.C. for the SoCon Tournament on March 3.
The season then concludes with the NCAA tournament in Cleveland, Ohio on March 15-17.
CHATTANOOGA 37, GARDNER-WEBB 5
125 – Alonzo Allen (UTC) won by forfeit;
133 – Chris Debien (UTC) dec. Philip Anderson, 7-1;
141 – Michael Pongracz (UTC) major dec. Denton Spencer, 12-0;
149 – Roman Boylen (UTC) major dec. Joby Armenta, 14-4;
157 – Tyler Marinelli (GW) won by technical fall over Dylan Forzani, 4:36;
165 – Chad Pyke (UTC) dec. Brett Stein, 6-4;
174 – Justin Lampe (UTC) dec. Christian Maroni, 5-3;
184 – Bryce Carr (UTC) major dec. Cole Graves, 16-6;
197 – Scottie Boykin (UTC) major dec. Anthony Perrine, 16-3;
285 – Connor Tolley (UTC) pinned Lathan Bumgarner, 3:47.
(email John Hunt at firstname.lastname@example.org)