UTC Wrestlers Honor Jim Morgan Today

UTC Hosts The Citadel at 2 p.m. at Big Mac

Sunday, January 27, 2013 - by B.B. Branton

“Good morning Coach Morgan.”

“It’s a big day in the Morgan household as many of your boys are coming back to Big Mac to honor you.

The Mocs and coach Heath Eslinger need your support today as they have a tough match with The Citadel at 2 p.m. at Maclellan Gym.

A familiar voice you say, but can’t quite put your finger on it ?

Yep, that’s me  .

.. over here, where I was for years ... on your right – sometimes, left – shoulder.

Your faithful and oft-used towel.

You’ve worn out a few of us over the years at UTC and Baylor, but I’m the godfather of them all.

I was there for your first college match (vs. Carson-Newman, Nov.22, 1968) and watched from a distance (you retired me a few years hence) as you and the Mocs won your last SoCon title in 1983.

Coming from McCallie, you brought in great local talent and gave perennial power Auburn and coach Swede Umbach all they could handle with Southern champions Glasser, Faires and Gross.

 I was there in 1974 when you smiled as Bill Burnside was your first All-American, followed by some kid from Hixson named Batten who won three national championships and even graced the cover of the NCAA wrestling guide.

Then I traveled to the NCAAs as you and the Mocs took the program from a solid Southern team to one who stood toe-to-toe with the best in the D-II land with three top 10 finishes and seven guys who won national championships or were All-Americans.

You know the names – Batten, Burnside and Brennan … Kavelage and Jackson … Weeks and Big Ziggy and more.

I was there to wipe the sweat and even some tears away after close wins and tough losses.

Never one to back off from wrestling the best, you brought in Kentucky for a 1976 Tuesday  night Big Mac sellout. We both fretted and  sweated and you twisted and tossed me around from shoulder to shoulder all the while admonishing the Mocs in arguably the most exciting home match ever although our Mocs fell, 22-18.

I listened intently as you coached your boys to the school’s first Southern crown later that season. And together we listened to the lame excuses from the officials for taking away a team point for “excessive celebration” and losing the Southern championship by one point.

While the numbers are impressive - 16 years, 209 wins, 9 All-Americans, 6 SoCon titles, 3 NCAA D-II top 10 finishes and a good showing at D-I ( 14th) I – it still about the boys your helped turn into men.

This afternoon I’ll be right there as, together, we see old friends and hear the old war stories one more time.

So throw me over your right shoulder and let’s get there early as the old Mocs cheer on the young Mocs and win another one for the Blue and Gold in Big Mac.

And as the young and old rise as one to honor the Legends and a Legendary Coach, let’s you and I wave back and say thanks for the memories, never, never quit and always look to shoot the half.”


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

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