Moc Wrestlers Stay Focused For NCAAs

Saturday, March 10, 2012 - by B.B. Branton

It’s just another seven minute match.

  Or is it?

It’s the NCAA Wrestling Championship. The Super Bowl, the World Series and the Daytona 500 of wrestling rolled into three days of … as any red-blooded baby boomer sports nut can recite .. “the thrill of victory and the agony of defeat.”

“By the time some of us walk on the mat for our first match next Thursday, some high seeds will have lost,” said Tennessee at Chattanooga senior Daniel Waddell, making his second trip to the NCAAs. “And by Friday morning, some of those high seeds will be out of the tournament with two losses.”

Five UTC wrestlers head to St. Louis next week for the 82nd annual NCAA D-I Wrestling Championship at the Scottrade Center, March 15-17.

Nick Soto (Fr., 133), Dean Pavlou (Jr., 149), Daniel Waddell (Sr., 157), Brandon Wright (Sr., 165) and Levi Clemons (So., 174) will carry the UTC banner and hopefully make some noise.

“We want to do something special in St. Louis to show the rest of the nation that wrestlers from Chattanooga and other schools in the Southern Conference can step on the mat and stay with anyone,” said Clemons.

None of the Mocs are seeded and all but Wright face a top-six seed first thing Thursday.

“I am the underdog going in and that’s okay,” said Pavlou who looks to improve on his “two and out” performance as a redshirt freshman in 2010.

There will be upsets – and the Mocs want to be in that scenario – and the favorites who do dominate or escape with one-point wins.

Unknowns who become household names and make history during those “it’s just another seven minute match” and become the answers to trivia questions a decade down the road.

“I am excited to see all the great fans from Iowa and Minnesota, but at the same time we have a job to do and we have to stay focused on our match and our goals,” stated Clemons who knows something about winning on a big stage – albeit at the prep level – with two Florida state high school championships and Cadet (Greco-Roman) and Schoolboy Freestyle national championships on his resume.''

Clemons round of 32 opponent has a big-time prep pedigree as freshman Logan Storley (Minnesota, 23-6) can match Clemons resume and then some. Six-time high school state champion in South Dakota ... 2011 Jr. Hodge Award ... 2009 Fargo Freestyle National Champion ... 2008 USA Folkstyle National Champion.

“You do have to focus on the task at hand and your match and block out all the possible distractions, yet you can feed off the excitement of 22,000 screaming wrestling fans and use it to your advantage,” said Waddell.

7-Minute War: “The biggest difference between high school and college is that every match is a seven minute grind,” said Clemons who was 6-13 as a freshman.“You have to be in a mind set to go hard every second for all three periods.

“I got pinned a lot last year (6 of 13 losses were via fall) as a freshman as I wasn’t mentally ready to go hard for three periods.”

He stayed in Chattanooga last summer and worked out with teammates to better his mental and physical approach to the sport.

Clemons is 21-14 entering the NCAAs and has been pinned five times, but stuck seven guys as opposed to registering only one fall as a freshman.

The work in the off-season came into play as Clemons rallied to win 9-7 in overtime to take third in the SoCon tournament last weekend and then got the call from the NCAAs on Wednesday to pack his bags for St. Louis when another NCAA qualifier pulled out at 174.

Live in a Bubble: While Pavlou, Waddell and Wright are making their second trip, it’s the first time for Soto and Clemons.

“I have talked with Cody Cleveland (former UTC wrestler) and he told me the year he was an All-American (2008) he did his best to live in a bubble for three days,” said Soto. “Avoid the distractions and go in to the tournament with blinders on like a horse in a horse race.”

Secretariat comes to mind as a four-legged creature to emulate.

And the NCAA tourney is the stretch run for many wrestlers as 330 guys in singlets are sprinting to the finish line a week from today.

First Round Matches:

133 -  Nick Soto (Fr., 25-6) opens with No.4 Bernard Futrell (Illinois, Jr., 27-6).  

149 - Dean Pavlou (Jr., 20-9) faces No.6 Tyler Nauman (Pittsburgh, Sr., 27-5).

157 - Daniel Waddell (Sr., 21-9) opens with No.6 James Fleming (Clarion, 27-2)

165 - Brandon Wright (Sr., 21-9) meets David Cheza (Michigan State, Sr., 15-10).

174 - Levi Clemons (So., 21-14) meets No.4 Logan Storley (Minnesota, Fr., 23-6)

 contact B.B. Branton at william.branton@comcast.net


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