The Mocs wrestling team fielded a young squad for the 2019-20 season with eight sophomores typically in the starting lineup. Coach Kyle Ruschell put them through one of the toughest schedules in the nation, eventually qualifying three individuals for the 2020 NCAA Championships.
Unfortunately for those three Mocs, Fabian Gutierrez, Tanner Smith and Matthew Waddell, the COVID-19 pandemic forced the cancellation of the NCAA Tournament, denying them a chance to compete on the national stage.
Gutierrez, Smith and Waddell all finished second in their weight class at the 2020 Southern Conference Tournament and all three were ranked among NCAA competitors throughout the season. Gutierrez, a junior from Commerce City, Colo., posted a 17-9 overall record and was No. 25 in the final coaches’ ranking at 125 pounds. He also earned a spot on the All-SoCon team after going 6-0 in league duals.
Smith finished with a team-best 25-9 record and was No. 26 at 149 pounds. The sophomore from New Carlisle, Ohio, was set to make his second appearance at the NCAA Tournament. Waddell, a native of Gilmer, Ga., was 22-9 at 184 pounds. He finished the year ranked No. 24 in his weight class.
Other individual accolades include senior Rodney Jones, who earned All-SoCon honors at 197 pounds. He was 18-10 overall and 6-0 in league duals before finishing second at the SoCon Tournament.
Chattanooga posted a 7-9 overall record and finished third in the SoCon with a 4-2 league tally. The Mocs faced five ranked opponents in addition to three other teams from the ACC and Big 10. Chattanooga ended the year on a high note with a 26-10 win over Indiana. It was the Mocs first win over a Big 10 opponent since a 23-14 win over Michigan State on Nov. 15, 2014.
With the loss of just one starter to graduation, and a plethora of talented and experienced returning wrestlers, look for big things from UTC in 2021.