Friday, March 09, 2012
- by B.B. Branton
The NCAAs are all about guts and heart and fight and who wants its more. The winner is not always the most talented wrestler.
-- UTC wrestler Dean Pavlou on wrestling at the NCAA Championship
The clock in the Tennessee at Chattanooga wrestling room Thursday afternoon showed eight days and 16 hours and change until the opening whistle of the start of the 82nd annual NCAA D-I Wrestling Championship next Thursday in St. Louis
With 22,000 dedicated and rabid wrestling fans watching and cheering at Scottrade Center, 330 D-I talented wrestlers battle for the title of NCAA champion in 10 weight classes.
And UTC coach Heath Eslinger has five Mocs in the hunt.
Five excited wrestlers – Nick Soto (133), Dean Pavlou (149), Daniel Waddell (157), Brandon Wright (165) and Levi Clemons (174) – in the mix, ready to don the UTC blue and gold singlets.
“The five of us are ready to go and we all believe we have a chance to do something special at the NCAAs,” said UTC junior Dean Pavlou.
“Wrestling in the NCAAs for the first time two years ago was the biggest stage I had ever been on,” said the two-time Southern Conference champion.
The former two-time state champ from Bradley Central went two and out, losing to eventual fifth place finisher Torsten Gillespie (Edinboro), 10-0, and then pinned by Glenn Shober (Navy) in the wrestlebacks.
“Fifteen thousand screaming fans and I was a little star struck with the whole thing and I had this foggy feeling,” stated Pavlou who faces No.6 Tyler Nauman (Pittsburgh) in the round of 32 next Thursday.
But Pavlou believes 2012 will be different.
“I lost in the Southern Conference finals a year ago and have focused for an entire year on making it back to the NCAAs.
“I have trained eight years for this. I am focused and prepared and while this is a special moment it is also just another seven minute match.”
While Pavlou will have another shot at the NCAAs next year this is it for fifth year senior Brandon Wright.
“Eleven days and we will see who is the best,” said Wright the two-time SoCon champ who also went two and out in 2011. “The key is knowing that our coaches have us ready and we are peaking at the right time.”
15-Year War: According to coach Eslinger the NCAAs are the end of a 15 year war for many of the wrestlers.
“A lot of these guys in the tournament have been wrestling since grammar school, so it’s been a long grind and this is the last battle. We will see who is ready.”
Wright went on to say, “Others might just show up, but we are excited knowing that the NCAAs are a huge, huge deal and anything can happen.”
If winning the Southern Conference last weekend is any indication of Wright’s focus, then he should make some noise next week.
The former Houston High School (Memphis) two-time state champion upset 15th ranked and defending SoCon champion Kyle Blevins (Appalachian State), 3-2, in double overtime, in the finals.
Wright opens with David Cheza of Michigan State, while Blevins (34-6), who received an at-large bid, meets No.6 Michael Evans of Iowa in the round of 32.
A win by Wright in the opener will most likely put him against No.1 seed and 2011 NCAA runner-up David Taylor of Penn State in the round of 16.
What's Next: For Pavlou, he has his senior year to look forward to … the two-time national scholar athlete (3.61 GPA) is an Exercise Science major and would like to work in the corporate fitness world and possibly coach wrestling.
For Wright, he graduates in May – 3.3 GPA and three-time national scholar athlete – and will work for his father’s company – Wright Construction – in Memphis.
If possible, he would like to open a Wright Construction Company branch in the Scenic City … “I have made some Iifelong friendships while at UTC and would love to live in Chattanooga one day.”
149 – Dean Pavlou (Jr., 20-9) faces No.6 Tyler Nauman (Pittsburgh, Sr., 27-5) ... Pavlou has won five in a row and 9 of the last 10 headed into the NCAAs ... NCAA qualifier as a freshman by winning the SoCon title also at 149 ... Nauman is a four-time Eastern Wrestling League champ, the first in Pitt wrestling history to do so ... a 2010 NCAA All-American (5th) ... never lost an EWL dual match of conference tournament match.
165 – Brandon Wright (Sr., 21-9) meets David Cheza (Michigan State, Sr., 15-10) ... The Wright-Cheza winner faces the No. David Taylor-Corey Lear winner on Thursday night ... Taylor is 27-0 and was NCAA runner-up in 2011 at 38-1 as a freshman .. .. Wright has won six in a row and 13 of last 15 ... Cheza finished 8th in the Big 10 tournament ... was a 2011 NCAA qualifier.
Saturday: A look at Nick Soto, Daniel Waddell and Levi Clemons