LEXINGTON, Va. - It was a strong start for the Virginia Military Institute wrestling team, which hosted No. 24 University of Tennessee at Chattanooga. But the visiting Mocs got a roll late and won the final Southern Conference match of the 2014 season 37-3.
Prior to the match, the team, under the direction of interim head coach Chris Skretkowicz and assistant coaches Ben Sprunger and Alex Radsky, honored two seniors, Andrew Embree and Ted Gottwald. Both are first classman in the Corps of Cadets, while Embree is a redshirt junior athletically and will graduate in May with the Class of 2014. Earlier in the academic year, Gottwald won the Keydet Club’s Three-Legged Stool Award, given annually to a first classman who best exemplifies the three ideals of VMI: military, academics and athletics.
The first four bouts of the afternoon match at The Thunderdome were all decisions, including an 8-6 victory for VMI’s Shabaka Johns at 149 pounds, but Chattanooga, which is the three-time defending Southern Conference champion, won the final six matches of the day at Cocke Hall, all with bonus points.
Johns trailed 4-2 at the end of the first period as his opponent, Austin Sams, scored two takedowns, but the Keydet got a pair of escapes to keep the score close. Sams took bottom in the second period and worked an escape to snag a 5-2 lead. Johns brought the Moc to the mat 20 seconds later to pull within striking distance, 5-4 in favor of Sams. Johns was hit with an illegal hold in the final 30 seconds of the second period, putting Sams up 6-4 heading into the third.
Despite trailing, the third period belonged to Johns as he chose to start on bottom and got an escape just five seconds into the fresh period to make it a one-point, 6-5 match with Sams leading. After over a minute of neutral wrestling, Johns logged a takedown with 39 seconds to go, gaining a 7-6 lead. Johns rode out the remainder of the time, eclipsing the one-minute time needed for a riding point to take the decision 8-6.
Emmitt Kelly’s 141 pound match was a heartbreaker. The Keydet held a 2-1 lead at the end of the first period, thanks to a takedown and an escape from his opponent Mike Pongracz. The score favored the Moc after the second after Pongracz logged an escape and takedown while Kelly was held off the board.
Trailing 4-2, Kelly opted for a neutral start in the third period, scoring a takedown with just 15 seconds on the clock to tie the bout 4-4 and it looked to be headed for overtime. But Pongracz wriggled free of Kelly’s grip with just two seconds on the clock to earn a 5-4 win.
Freshman Michael Flora was tasked with the challenge of grappling Nick Soto, currently ranked 16th in country at 133 pounds. Flora came firing, taking Soto to the mat near the midway point of the first period, while also rolling Soto faceup and scoring three near-fall points. Soto was hit with an illegal hold penalty after hitting a reversal to make the score 6-2 in favor of Flora at the end of the first three minutes.
The second period saw Soto tie the match at 6-6 after starting on bottom and getting another reversal and two near-fall points. Flora took neutral to begin the third, but Soto scored a takedown and another two nearfall points, added to over three and a half minutes of riding time for an 11-6 victory.
The Keydets struggled over the final six bouts however, which saw two Mocs ranked in the top 20 nationally score a major decision and a win by fall at 165 pounds and heavyweight.
VMI is idle until March 8 when it heads to Buies Creek, N.C. for the 2014 Southern Conference Championships, hosted by Campbell University. Action begins at the John W. Pope Jr. Convocation Center at 9 a.m.
Ticket prices have been set at $15 for general admission, $10 for youth (10 and younger) and a rate of $8 for groups of 10 or more.
For more information on tickets for the 2014 Southern Conference Wrestling Championship, visit GoCamels.com or call the Campbell Athletics Ticket Office at 910-893-1459.
Saturday Feb. 22, 2014 - VMI vs. Chattanooga - The Thunderdome (Cocke Hall) - Lexington, Va.
Chattanooga 37, VMI 3
Wt. Winner (School) Decision Type Loser (School) Bout Score (Running Score (VMI-UTC)
125: Byron Smith (UTC) DEC Dalton Henderson (VMI) 13-9 (0-3)
133: #16 Nick Soto (UTC) DEC Michael Flora (VMI) 11-6 (0-6)
141: Mike Pongracz (UTC) DEC Emmitt Kelly (VMI) 5-4 (0-9)
149: Shabaka Johns (VMI) DEC Austin Sams (UTC) 8-6 (3-9)
157: Alex Hudson (UTC) MAJ DEC Ted Gottwald 14-1 (3-13)
165: No. 13/8 Corey Mock (UTC) MAJ DEC Mark Darr (VMI) 8-0 (3-17)
174: Levi Clemons (UTC) WBF Jake Koch (VMI) 2:02 (3-23)
184: John Lampe (UTC) MAJ DEC Hardy Hendren (VMI) 20-8 (3-27)
197: Scottie Boykin (UTC) MAJ DEC Andrew Embree (VMI) 12-2 (3-31)
285: #20 Dawson Peck (UTC) WBF Juan Adams (VMI) 3:20 (3-37)